Altneuschul in Prague

Type: Synagogues
Date: 1260s
Location or Findspot (Modern-Day Country): Czech Republic
Description: Prague's Altneuschul (Yiddish for Old-New Synagogue) is the world's oldest continuously operating synagogue. Built in the 1260s as the "New Shul," it became "Old" when others were built nearby.

At the center of the prayer hall is an elevated bema from which the Torah is read. The Torah is kept in a shrine on the east wall that has a carved tympanum identical to the one over the entrance door. The same artists worked on the nearby Franciscan convent of St. Agnes (now the National Gallery of Prague), just as the builders and carvers of the Friedberg Mikveh's leafy capitals worked at the local church.

A fifteenth-century vestibule on the south side that contains strongboxes for valuables replaced the thirteenth-century original. Low rooms were eventually added to the west and north sides of the synagogue. The latter is used by women attending services, who can hear it through narrow slits in the wall without being seen. Next to the synagogue is a crowded cemetery, with tombstones dating from 1439 to 1787.
Relevant Textbook Chapter(s): 9
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons; Navid Jamali; Flick; Adam S. Cohen; Linda Safran

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