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Old-New Synagogue

Built in 1270, Europe’s oldest active synagogue holds years of fascinating Jewish history.

TravelCurious Tip

Look out for the ancient red flag above the bimah, featuring the Star of David. In 1357 Charles IV, the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, allowed the Jews of Prague to have their own city flag.

Good things come in twelves

Originally called the New Synagogue, this holy place received its double moniker after other synagogues were built in Prague in the 16th century. It has survived nearly 750 years of turbulent history, and stands today in Prague’s Jewish Quarter as a powerful symbol of its ancient community.

The synagogue’s Gothic design is simple, elegant and deeply symbolic. As well as the oldest active synagogue in Europe, it is also the oldest with a double-nave design: its six vaulted bays each have two narrow lancet windows, totalling twelve in representation of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Above the entrance is a carved design of twelve vines with twelve bunches of grapes, again symbolising the Tribes. Two central pillars surround the bimah, from which the Torah is read: the bimah’s base also incorporates the twelve vines.


Home of Golem

One legend surrounding the synagogue’s origins is that its stones were transported by angels from the Second Temple of Jerusalem, which was demolished in 70 AD - on the condition that they be returned on the Messiah’s arrival, when a new temple is to be built there.

Even more famous, however, is the legend of the Golem of Prague. The Golem was an artificial man or ‘robot,’ a monster made of clay by Rabbi Jehud Loew ben Bezalel in the 16th century. The Rabbi created the Golem to defend Prague from antisemitic attacks; it required no rest or sustenance, only the removal of the shem, a tablet bearing a Hebrew inscription placed in its mouth, on Shabbat. One day he forgot to remove the shem, and the Golem went on a rampage; the Rabbi removed the shem, and immobilized the Golem forever. The synagogue’s genizah, a storage place in the attic - which is not accessible to the general public - is reported to hold the Golem’s remains.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Prague
Parizska Street
Expensive and exclusive, Parizska is the ultimate luxurious shopping destination.
Old Town Square
This medieval town square is the busiest and most beautiful in Prague.
Church of our Lady before Týn
An iconic feature of the city skyline, this church’s Gothic towers are an incredible spectacle.
Astronomical Clock
Mesmerising and beautiful, the Astronomical Clock has a unique way of announcing every hour.
Jewish Quarter
Formerly the Jewish Ghetto, this historic enclave is surrounded by the Old Town.
Jewish Museum
One of Europe's oldest museums of Jewish culture and heritage, comprising six distinct sites.

Related Tours

Jewish Quarter & Museum Private Walking Tour
In this three-hour walking tour, you will explore the long and fascinating history of Jewish people in Prague, dating from the tenth century, through the atrocities of World War II, up to the present day. Located in the heart of Prague’s Old Town, the Jewish Ghetto is a truly eye-opening journey into the heart of medieval European history. 

  • Explore Prague's Jewish Quarter, Josefov 
  • Visit the Gothic Old-New Synagogue
  • Pay your respects at the Old Jewish Cemetery 
  • Learn about the Jewish experience within Prague at the Jewish Museum
Medieval Prague

Your tour will include visits into the numerous synagogues open to the public, including Europe’s oldest working Jewish Temple- the Old-New Synagogue. Completed around 1270, the Old-New Synagogue is one of Prague’s earliest Gothic buildings and one of its most beautiful. You have to step down into it because it predates the raising of Staré Město’s street level in the medieval period, in order to guard against floods. 

Fueling Prague’s Unique Cultural Scene

You will also pay a visit to the Old Jewish Cemetery, which dates from the 15th century and offers a unique opportunity to gain a greater insight into the customs and burial rituals of medieval times. You will learn that as many as 100,000 bodies are buried in the cemetery, despite there only being 12,000 visible tombstones! 

Throughout your tour, you will gain a greater appreciation of the struggles the Jewish community has faced in central Europe and will understand how in the 19th century, Jewish hardship would eventually become woven into the intellectual movement of Prague. It is no surprise that authors native to Prague, including Franz Kafka, would become inspired by prevailing themes of suffering and hardship. Hopefully, by the end of this tour, you will feel better acquainted with the rich and complex history of the Jewish community in Europe, as well as with the fascinating forces behind Prague’s exciting cultural scene.
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