Španělská synagoga

( Spanish Synagogue (Prague) )

The Spanish Synagogue (Czech: Španělská synagoga, German: Spanische Synagoge, Hebrew: בית הכנסת הספרדי) is the newest synagogue in the area of the so-called Jewish Town; it was in fact built at the site of the presumably oldest synagogue, Old School (German: Altschul). The synagogue is built in Moorish Revival Style. Only a little park with a modern statue of Franz Kafka (by Jaroslav Róna) lies between it and the Church of the Holy Spirit. Today, the Spanish Synagogue is administered by the Jewish Museum in Prague.

 Altschul on the plan of Prague, 1769

The Spanish Synagogue is not the first synagogue at the site. Before it there stood probably the oldest synagogue in Prague Jewish Town, Altschul (Alte Schule, Old School, Old Synagogue). In the second half of 19th century, the capacity of the Altschul did not suffice. The modernist faction in the community, which renovated it in 1837 for the purpose of moderately reformed services, therefore decided to demolish the synagogue in 1867 and one year later it was replaced by the new, Spanish Synagogue. Its name presumably refers to the style in which it was built, Moorish Revival style, which was inspired by the art of Arabic period of Spanish history (this name was not always prevalent, in the beginnings it was usually called by German-speaking Jews Geistgasse-Tempel, i.e. Temple in Holy Spirit Street). The architectural plans were designed by Vojtěch Ignác Ullmann and Josef Niklas (an imposing interior decoration).

In 1935, a functionalistic building, designed by Karel Pecánek, was added to the synagogue. Until Second World War it served the Jewish Community as a hospital. The synagogue used the space of the new building as well; there was a vestibule and a winter oratory in it. Since 1935, the appearance of the synagogue has remained essentially unchanged.

During the Second World War, confiscated properties of Czech Jewish Communities were stored in the synagogue, e.g. the furniture from other synagogues. Ten years after the war, the synagogue was handed over to the Jewish Museum and in 1958–1959 it was completely restored inside. In the following year an exposition of synagogue textiles was opened there. In the 1970s the building became neglected and it was closed after 1982. The restoration started only after the Velvet revolution. Completely restored to its former beauty, the synagogue was re-opened with a ceremony in 1998.

Photographies by:
Chmee2 - CC BY-SA 3.0
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