THE OLD-NEW SYNAGOGE AND THE JEWISH CEMETERY

The Old-New Synagogue (Hebrew altnai meaning provisional) is one of the few buildings to survive the slum clearance of the early 20th century which destroyed the famous ghetto, one of the oldest in Europe, which occupied the area around today's Paris Street. This synagogue was built in 1257 - 1280 in early Gothic style as a double nave hall with a five-part vault over two central pillars. The decorative vegetation on the architectural details betrays a mixture of classical and post-classical Gothic influences with elements deriving from the Burgundian-Cistercian current within Czech early Gothic. The entrance portal is especially interesting for its tympanum, which shows a vinestock and an Ark of the Torah (Aron hakodesh), symbolizing the Jewish nation and recalling the golden vinestock on the facade of the Jerusalem temple, according to the Old Testament and as quoted by Josephus Flavius in his Jewish Wars. In the 14th c. brick gable ends and some annexes were added to the early Gothic structure. The grill in the centre of the synagogue is also Gothic and the bronze chandeliers hanging above date variously from the 16th to the 19th c. Not far from the synagogue is the famous Jewish cemetery, laid out between the Pinkas and Klaus Synagogues. It was founded in the 15th c. and continuously enlarged until l787 , when a decree of Joseph II prohibited burial within the city centre. In the course of three centuries up to 20 000 gravestones came to occupy this restricted space, of which the oldest is that of Avigdor Kara from 1439. Even the outstanding personalities of the Jewish community were buried here, for example the wealthy financier to the court of Rudolph II and head of the community Mordechaj Maisel, who died in 1601 , and the famous creator of the Golem legend Rabbi Jehuda Low, who died in 1609. The State Jewish Museum holds its exhibitions in the surviving buildings of the former ghetto.