Old Synagogue

ul. Szeroka 24, Kraków


The oldest Kraków synagogue, probably built immediately after the forced exodus of Jews to Kazimierz (by the 1495 decree issued by King John Albert).

The initial brick-and-stone building, added on the east side to the defensive walls, was burnt down in 1557. Thanks to a permit obtained from King Sigismund II Augustus, the community was soon able to rebuild the temple. The works were directed by an architect from Florence, Matteo Gucci. After the reconstruction in 1570, a singer room was added (on the south side) along with a prayer section for women on the north side. The Gothic style of the building was preserved and enriched with Renaissance elements, such as a tall attic, semi-circular windows or Tuscan pillars inside. In the next centuries, the synagogue was repeatedly destroyed by fires and robbery in the time of war. Although it was renewed each time, it still underwent gradual degradation.

A complete reconstruction was conducted in 1888 (e.g. roof reconstruction) and in the years 1904-1913. In 1923, the terrain around the synagogue was lowered to the level from the 15th century and the reconstructed rooms over the front vestibule were adapted to contain a small museum devoted to the synagogue. After the damage caused by the Nazis in World War II (even the Gothic vaulting and Renaissance pillars were destroyed), in the years 1956-1959 the building was renovated, which restored the synagogue's former glory. At the same time, the Congregation of Mosaic Denomination handed over the monument to the Historical Museum of Kraków for the purpose of arranging a permanent exhibition concerning the history and culture of Krakow Jews. The Old Synagogue has served this purpose to this day. 

Inside, the double-naved and three-bay men's hall was partly covered with a reconstructed cross-ribbed vaulting, supported by reconstructed Tuscan pillars. The 16th-century stone Aron Kodesh (Torah ark) was preserved along with its rich, Mannerist coping. In the women's section it is worth noticing a barrel vault with stucco decoration.

Over centuries, as the main synagogue of Jews from Kazimierz, the Old Synagogue was a background of important events in the Polish history. It was here, for instance, that Tadeusz Kościuszko called for Jews to participate in the 1794 Uprising, and Rabbi Beer Meisels encouraged his congregation to support the struggle for independence during the Revolutions of 1848. Finally, it was here that the president of Poland, Ignacy Mościcki, was greeted during his visit to Kraków in 1927 (pictures of this ceremony can be viewed on the display inside the synagogue).

Translation: Summa Linguae

Date: 2016-02-18 Show ticket
News Publisher: Portal główny EN
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