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Old Jewish cemetery

Address

U starého hřbitova 39/1, 110 00 Praha-Praha 1, Česká republika
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Today it is the oldest unharmed Jewish cemetery as it survived the Nazi occupation unscathed. The cemetery was founded in the first half of the 15th century. The oldest tombstone, bearing the date of April 25th 1439, is that of Avigdor Kara, a scholar and poet who survived the pogrom of 1389 and wrote an elegy in memory of its victims.

The charm of the Prague Jewish cemetery lies not only in its age, but especially in the poetic grouping of its tombstones. Today in the cemetery we don’t see tombstones above individual graves as is customary. The present configuration of the tombstones is the result of past centuries when due to lack of space graves were dug in layers one above another. Up to 12 layers of graves can be counted in some places with a total of 12 000 stone tombstones, the last of which dates from 1787.

On the tombstones we can not only read the name of the deceased and his date of death, but we can also gain much interesting information about his life and that of the society he lived in. Many of the tombstones bear very poetic phrases, which aptly characterise whichever period the deceased person lived in. On many of the tombs we also find symbols of traditional tribes, which during biblical times belonged amongst the hierarchy of priests –for instance the family of Cohen’s who used to be priests in the temple. They are symbolised by hands spread out in the act of blessing. Another family who was privileged enough to serve in the temple was that of the Levites. Their symbol is that of a jug from which they used to pour water onto the hands of the priests during ceremonies. Other charming images are those symbolising the surnames of the deceased and they include pictures of animals, birds and plants. We can for instance spot a carp, stag, fox, lion, bear, wolf, cockerel, dove or rose. Quite unique are depictions of human figures.

Amongst the most famous tombstones is that of Mark Mordechaj Maisel, who lived in the years 1528-1601 and was the mayor of the Jewish Quarter. He was one of the most influential figures of his times and one synagogue as well as a main street running through the former Jewish ghetto bear his name. Other well-known tombs are of Renaissance scholars such as the astronomer and historian David Gans (1541-1613) or the astronomer, philosopher and doctor Josef del Mediga (1591-1655). Probably the most renowned and often visited tomb in the cemetery is that of Jehuda Löw ben Bezalel, better known as Rabbi Löw. He is best known as the creator of the legendary Golem, a man-made human being.
 

OPENING HOURS

Winter opening times 9 am - 4.30 pm
Summer opening times 9 am - 6 pm

The museum is open every day except Saturdays and Jewish holidays.

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