Remuh Synagogue and Cemetery

ul. Szeroka 40, Kraków


A wealthy merchant, Isserlben Józef, obtained a permit for its construction from King Sigismund II Augustus himself. It was supposed to be a gift for his son, Moses Isserles, also known as Rema.

Rema performed the function of the rabbi of Kraków and the rector of the city's yeshiva (Talmudic school). He was an author of books concerning religion, philosophy, mysticism and natural science. He was the most prominent codifier of the so-called "Ashkenazi law" (the law of Central and Eastern European Jews). His halakha entitled ha-Mapah ("tablecloth") is still applied by orthodox Jews all over the world. Erected in 1556, supposedly as a wooden structure, it was soon consumed by a fire, but was rebuilt two years later from brick. The Renaissance character of the synagogue was unfavourably lost during later transformations and today it is hard to discern any traces of the style in which the building was raised. Visitor's attention is grabbed by enormous stone buttresses supporting this relatively small building. During World War II, the destroyed interior was turned into storage for corpse bags and the women's gallery was used as a warehouse for fire-fighting equipment. In the years 1958-1968, the synagogue was renovated and partly reconstructed.

Today, it is the only Jewish prayer house in which services are regularly held (each Friday and all Jewish holidays). In 1968, it was visited by the then Kraków Metropolitan, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, and in 1992 by the president of Israel, Chaim Herzog. The Remuh synagogue is neighboured by a cemetery of the same name, which is several years older, as the first burials were performed there in 1551. In Poland, Jewish cemeteries can only be found in Wrocław and Lublin. Initially, the entrance led through a gate in a wall on the side of Jakuba Street, which was later sealed up. After the annexation of Kazimierz to Kraków (1800), the Remuh Cemetery was closed down by the Austrian authorities, and the same fate was shared by all Kraków churchyards, which often lay close to compact residential developments. Before the last war, it was a neglected place, with only several dozen graves and the Nazis used it as a trash deposit.

When it was finally being tidied up and inventoried, it came as a surprise that a great surface of the cemetery was empty, without any traces of the removed graves. Consequently, excavation was carried out, which led a sensational discovery: around 700 gravestones were found dating back to a period between the second half of the 16th century and the first half of the 19th century, covered by a thick layer of dirt. Today, the area contains 711 gravestones, some of which are tombstones and free-standing slabs, called matzevahs. Fragments of the slabs which could not be restored were embedded in the wall on the side of Szeroka Street, forming the so-called wailing wall.

Translation: Summa Linguae

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