ul. Szeroka 24
Standing on Szeroka Street Street, known not only as the stage of the final concert of the Jewish Culture Festival but also as the centuries-old centre of Jewish life in Kazimierz, is one of the oldest synagogues in Poland preserved in such a good condition.
Regular services were held in the Old Synagogue (Alta Shul) until 1941. It was built most probably soon after the forced exodus of Kraków Jews to Kazimierz (they were blamed for the fire of 1494, which devastated eight streets around Szczepański square). The original building was appended from the eastern side to the defensive walls of Kazimierz. 50 years later, the synagogue burned down, and its reconstruction, entrusted to Matteo Gucci, a builder and architect from Florence, included the addition of the cantors’ room (on the southern side), and a hall for women on the northern one. Although enriched with renaissance elements including the high parapet, windows culminating in semicircles, and Tuscan columns inside, the Gothic character of the synagogue has been retained. The premises together with a building added for the authorities of the commune provided for the religious and administrative centre of the Jewish community in Kazimierz. In the following centuries, the synagogue was repeatedly destroyed by fires and pillaging during the turmoil of wars. Each time it was renewed and rebuilt. In 1923, the land around the synagogue was brought down to the level of the 15th century, and a small synagogue museum was organised in the rooms over the front porch.
The renovation conducted in the 1950s after the destruction dealt by the Nazi Germans during the Second World War (including even the Gothic vaulting and renaissance columns) returned some of the former splendour to the synagogue. In 1959, the Jewish Congregation entrusted the historical structure to the Historical Museum of the City of Kraków (today: Museum of Krakow) to have a permanent exhibition on the history and culture of Kraków Jews arranged here.
The interiors of the oldest synagogue preserved in Kraków, standing in the heart of the former Jewish city, let us become familiar with the history and culture of Kraków’s Jews.
The interior of the oldest among Kraków synagogues, situated in the heart of the former Jewish city, has an exhibition presenting the history and culture of Kraków’s Jews. The Sabbath, the New Year, the Day of Atonement, Sukkot, Hanukkah, Purim, and Passover – the cycle of the key holidays in the Jewish calendar is presented in the main prayer hall of the Old Synagogue (Alta Schul) together with the ways and rites for celebrating them, and related objects, customs, and the traditional costume. The most important object in the rites observed by the Jews is the Torah: a scroll of parchment with the text of the Holy Scripture, stored in the Ark (Aron Kodesh) in the eastern wall of every synagogue. Presented at the exhibition are traditional utensils for storing and reading the Scripture. The space of the former Women’s Hall is taken up by a presentation devoted to private and family life. The museum also organises temporary exhibitions here devoted to various aspects of Jewish life in Kraków.
Tickets: regular PLN 14, concessions PLN 10, group PLN 10/9, family PLN 28, admission free on Monday
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