<h1>Month: November 2012
30November 2012

A worthy assessment of the area by both domestic and foreign experts resulted in the acquisition of historic monument preservation status. In 1963, the town was declared a Municipal Preserve, in 1989 the castle became a National Monument, and in 1992 the entire complex was included onto the list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Monuments.

The mighty complex of the castle is erected on the rock promontory which has been sculpted by the Vltava river on the southern side and by the  Polečnice stream on the northern side. The castle towers proudly above the refined Renaissance and Baroque burgher architecture of the town below. 

Like a precious pearl, the town of Český Krumlov is situated in a valley surrounded by Blansko Forest to the north and the undulating foothills of Šumava to the south and west.

The name of the castle Krumlov originated from the Latin expression castrum crumnau or in ancient German Crumbenowe. It reflects the configuration of the landscape, krumben ouwe, the place on the rugged meadow. The expression "Český" has been used in connection with Krumlov since the middle of the 15th century.

The historical development of the town is marked mainly by four aristocratic families: the Lords of Krumlov, the Rosenbergs, Eggenbergs and Schwarzenbergs.

The Czech noble family of the Lords of Krumlov originated as one of the branches of the Vítkovci family. The last member of Lords of Krumlov was Wok who died without descendants in the year 1302, and the Krumlov castle together with the contiguous surroundings fell upon the Rosenberg branch of the Vítkovci family. The Coat-of-arms of the Lords of Krumlov was represented by a green five-petalled rose in a silver field.

Perhaps the most significant marks are those of the family of the Rosenbergs (1302-1602).  The town lived through the greatest cultural and economical bloom during the Renaissance, under the rule of Wilhelm von Rosenberg.  Their symbol was that of a red five-petalled rose with a gold center in a silver field.

In the 17th century the Krumlov dominion passed onto  the Eggenberg family (1622-1719).  They built the first theatre in 1675 but interest in theatre declined after the death of Johann Christian I. von Eggenberg in 1710.  The family emblem is composed of a trio of ravens bearing a golden crown.

The German noble family of Schwarzenbergs was originally called the Lords of Seinsheim and their proper emblem was a shield with silver and blue stripes. After the conquest of Raab, the Turkish fortress, the emblem was enlarged in 1599 with the head of a Turk, his eyes being pecked out by a raven. 

During the second generation of the new owners, the princes of Schwarzenberg, interest in theatre culture rose again. During the reign of Josef Adam zu Schwarzenberg, the original Eggenberg theatre was rebuilt in 1765 along with a large-scale Baroque reconstruction of the rest of Krumlov castle.  

It was a few hours drive to get to Cesky Kremlov.  We walked through the grounds and headed to the museum.  Because of the time of the year, I was not expecting nice gardens or active fountains, however I was disappointed that none of the Castle rooms, cellars or buildings were open.  We would have to be satisfied with the castle museum.  A big creepy factor was the relic room.  How odd that someone would collect bones and keep them in their house.  In the end, seeing artifacts in cases is not that interesting.  The bulding itself, with thick walled structures and stone floors is what caught my eye.  It must cost a fortune to heat this place, which is probably why everything else is closed.  After the museum we stopped for lunch at this medieval restaurant.  Cool atmosphere and yes huge portions of porc was on the menu!

We had free time after lunch for walking around town to soak up some of the beautiful architecture and painted buildings. 

I did not intend on buying anything, but I discovered the most beautiful jewelry.  A green jagged semi transparent stone, which turned out to be meteorite.  One stone in particular, encased in silver caught my attention, and I ended up getting it, with some proding by Regan.  I am glad that I did, as it is unique to this area of the world, and I really like green, even though I do not have anything to wear that matches.

What we did not know when we booked this tour, is that everything, except the castle museum would be closed.  I was greatly disappointed, as I was really looking forward to visiting the baroque theatre, my main motivation for coming to Cesky Krumlov.  October would have been a much better month to travel to Prague, as so many more things would have been open.  Also, a day trip is really not enough, a few days spent here when everything is open would allow you to soak up the many layers of rich history that are present here.

In the beginning of the 20th century the castle theatre was used only occasionally and was not open to the public. 

Only two records from 1903 and 1906 record the use of the theatre for social events.

All of the artistic and technical equipment of the theatre is located partly in the theatre itself and partly in the neighboring building, which is used as a theatre museum.

Proof of the rich theatre culture of the Český Krumlov castle is preserved in material objects (the theatre building, stage, orchestra pit, auditorium, stage machinery, fire fighting and signalization technology, technical props, etc.), in written pieces (librettos, partituras, particelas, notes), in literature (books about theatre art, about the repertoire, dances, ceremonies, festivals, construction and craftsmanship principles), in pictures and iconographic materials (examples of costumes, scenes, drafts, studies, portraits, with musical, dance and theatre subjects). This rich study material offers the possibility of the complex study of theatre history.

In the 20th century the theatre was used only for a short time from 1956 untill 1964 as a part of  the South Bohemian Theatre Festival. In 1966 the theatre buildings and equipment were declared to be in catastrophic condition. The state historical caretakers finally had good reasons to have the theatre closed for regular theatrical performances and to the public. Restoration work began and continues until now.  At present, we estimate that about 80% of all theatre inventory has been completed and restored. The introduction of trial visiting periods by the general public commenced in the autumn of 1997. 

View from the Roof of the Dancing Building

The food was expensive but the French cuisine tasted really nice, and no porc!  Unusual for me, but I had a drink with alcohol, with homemade syrup made with lavender.  It was yummy, although a bit sweet.  Had to wait for the ice to melt, but you probably should drink it that way. A bit disappointing though was the view from the dinning area. Only small oblong windows and depending on where you were sitting, you could not see much. When we were leaving, we noticed an adjacent section with bigger windows and nicer views.  Too bad that we did not notice on our way in.  Before leaving, we went on the roof and took our last photos of Prague's nightscape.  We did not stay long as it was windy and cold. The building portrays two people dancing hence the original name of the edifice: Fred and Ginger after the famous dance couple  Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The building soon became known as the 'dancing house'. Zagreb-born Czech architect Vlado Milunić describes the building as a dance performed after the Velvet Revolution.

The construction of the building in what is described as a deconstructionist style (the architects themselves consider the style 'new Baroque'),  created quite a stir since the modern building starkly contrasts with its surroundings, both in its architecture and in its use of materials. Opposition against the building continued even after it was completed in 1996 but eventually Prague citizens have come to accept and even appreciate the building.

An interesting chandelier got our attention.  How does it work?

29November 2012

This morning we went to a local cafe for breakfast.  Nice cheap food where the locals hang out.  Across the street was this church and market.  Regan loves markets as much as she loves puppets.  We hung out for a while and I bought some bath salts and a baboushka hat.The black hat had fake black and white fur around it and you can wrap it around you like a scarf.  Today was a miserable, cold and wet day.  The week started at +9 and it must be close to zero degrees today.  The rain just made it feel all the more cold.  I brought my pleather jacket, which was excellent for cuting the wind and protecting me from the rain - but it was not warm.  Today, I definitely could have worn a winter jacket.  

Art Museum

The Veletrzni Palace, part of the National Gallery of Prague, was once destined to outdo the Pompidou Center in Paris in sheer size and cultural power. The Museum's history dates back to 1796 when a group of prominent representatives of Bohemia patriotic aristocracy and enlightened middle-class intellectuals formed the Society of Patriotic Friends of the Arts and established the Academy of Fine Arts and the Picture Gallery.  In 1918 the Picture Gallery became a central art collection of the newly formed Czechoslovakia. In 1995 a new gallery dedicated to modern art opened in the refurbished Veletržní Palace. In Prague 7 sits a huge gem of a building, the Veletrzni Palace; constructed from the design of Oldrich Tyl and Josef Fuchs in the years 1925-1929, this massive building was used for trade fairs until 1951 after which it was home to several international companies. A heartbreaking fire destroyed it in 1974. Four vast floors, resembling a huge cruise ship, house a wonderfully impressive collection of 19th to 21st century European and Czech art.  The vast collection contains a large number of Czech and Slovak paintings and sculptures, including works by Gutfreund, Kupka, Fila, Benes and Bohumil Kubišta.

Loved this exhibit by Thomas Ott, a Swiss artist and comic book author.  Ott's stories and independent works are linked by the theme of classic horror. This is also reflected in the scratchboard technique that has made him famous.

František Kupka, was a Czech painter and graphic artist. He was a pioneer and co-founder of the early phases of the abstract art movement and Orphic cubism.

Because of the bad weather, today was a perfect day to spend inside.  We spent a few hours going through the three floors of the permanent collection, most of which were Czech artists.  Their international section was very small, which makes sense considering they were under communist rule until 1989 and outside influences were not encouraged.  They did have a gorgeous Klimt painting.

I have to admit that I really enjoyed this Exhibit and that I am a fan of Art Nouveau.  I appreciate the drawing skills and realism and how the graphic design can easily be transfered for commercial use.  Never made it to the Mucha Museum though.

David Cerny is arguably one of the most popular contemporary artists in the Czech Republic.  Of notable fame are his crawling babies (up a radio tower) and his large scale bronze babies with weird faces. 

In front of the Kafka Museum there are two bronze sculptures peeing into a receptable in the form of the Czech Republic.  What is interesting is that there is an electric mechanism driven by a couple of microprocessors that swivels the upper part of the body, while the penis moves up and down. The stream of water 'writes' quotes from famous Prague residents.  Visitors can interact with the sculptures by sending a SMS message to a number that is displayed.  The living statue then “writes” the text of the message before carrying on as before. 

The hanging Freud sculpture is interesting and the one that everyone misses... including me.  

I saw the fingers in Cesky Kremlov and the sculpture was attributed to Cerny. Interesting placement. it looked like it was holding up the building. 

Went to see this show at the Image Black Light Theatre.  The photos are stunning, but the dancers in the show did not stop for us to 'see the pictures'.   Also not all of the dancers were of equal talent.  This show has a lot of potential.  It could have been spectacular, but I was left  feeling a bit disappointed. 

Africania - Black Light Show

Went to see this show at the Image Black Light Theatre.  The photos are stunning, but the dancers in the show did not stop for us to 'see the pictures'.   Also not all of the dancers were of equal talent.  This show has a lot of potential.  It could have been spectacular, but I was left  feeling a bit disappointed.

28November 2012
Wenceslas was considered a martyr and a saint immediately after his death, in Bohemia and in England.  Within a few decades of Wenceslas's death four biographies of him were in circulation. These hagiographies had a powerful influence on the High Middle Ages conceptualization of the rex justus, or "righteous king", that is, a monarch whose power stems mainly from his great piety, as well as from his princely vigor.

Referring approvingly to these hagiographies, the chronicler Cosmas of Prague, writing in about the year 1119, states:

"But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched."

Several centuries later the legend was claimed as fact by Pope Pius II.

Although Wenceslas was, during his lifetime, only a duke, Holy Roman Emperor Otto I posthumously "conferred on the regal dignity and title" and that is why, in the legend and song, he is referred to as a "king".  The usual English spelling of Duke Wenceslas' name, Wenceslaus, is occasionally encountered in later textual variants of the carol.  Wenceslas is not to be confused with King Wenceslaus I of Bohemia (Wenceslaus I Premyslid), who lived more than three centuries later. An equestrian statue of Saint Wenceslas and other patrons of Bohemia (St. Adalbert, St. Ludmila, St. Prokop and St. Agnes of Bohemia) is located on Wenceslaus Square in Prague. His helmet and armour are on display inside Prague Castle. The hymn "Svatý Václave" (Saint Wenceslas) or "Saint Wenceslas Chorale " is one of the oldest known Czech songs in history. Its roots can be found in the 12th century and it still belongs to the most popular religious songs to this day. In 1918, in the beginning of the Czechoslovak state, the song was discussed as one of the possible choices for the national anthem. Since 2000, the feast day of Saint Wenceslas (September 28) is a public holiday in the Czech Republic, celebrated as Czech Statehood Day.

Wencenles Square

Less a square than a boulevard, Wenceslas Square has the shape of a very long (750 m, total area 45,000 m²) rectangle, in a northwest–southeast direction. The street slopes upward to the southeast side. At that end, the street is dominated by the grand neoclassical Czech National Museum. The northwest end runs up against the border between the New Town and the Old Town.

The two obvious landmarks of Wenceslas Square are the  National Museum Building and the statue of Wenceslas. A more recent landmark is a bronze cross  set into the ground in front of the National Museum to honour both Palach and Zajíc who committed suicide by self-immolation as a political protest.

The square is named after Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia. It is part of the historic centre of Prague, a World Heritage Site.

Formerly known as Koňský trh (Horse Market), for its periodic accommodation of horse markets during the Middle Ages, it was renamed Svatováclavské náměstí (Saint Wenceslas square) in 1848 on the proposal of Karel Havlíček Borovský.

28November 2012
The evening at the restored Medieval Tavern was very entertaining.  I loved the music, especially the drummers and the ambiance was perfect. Most of the places in Old Town seem to have basements, a vestige of the Medieval era.  A city built on top of a city. I love the feel of them.

A historical show played out all around us: with swordsmen, jugglers and beautiful dancers in authentic costumes.  When it came to the fire dances, I thought for sure that some of the decor hanging from the beams would catch fire.  Everything seemed to be made of natural materials.  The dinner included various medieval and traditional Czech dishes.  I  opted for duck (which I did not like much) although porc knee was the speciality. The bit of goulash that was served to us was awful.  I am so glad that I never ordered it in a restaurant.

28November 2012

Main Gate

The main entrance is decorated with a Baroque gateway from the 18th century, holding a statue of St. Norbert. A statue of the same Saint is situated on a column in the middle of the courtyard.

You will wonder why some of my photos have bright blue skies while others are more grey, that is because I came to the Monastery twice with differing weather.  I could not use most of the photos I took on the blue sky day as the finger of my glove got into the picture and I did not notice.

Hladová zeď (The Hunger Wall) is a medieval defence wall beside the Monastery. It was built on Petřín Hill during 1360-1362 by order of Charles IV. The purpose of the construction was to strengthen the fortifications of Prague Castle and Malá Strana (Lesser Town) against any attack from the west or south. The adjective Hladová (hunger) appeared after a 1361 famine, when the construction of the wall provided livelihood for the city's poor. The term hladová zeď has become a Czech euphemism for useless public works.

The Monastery

After his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1138, Bishop of Olomouc Jindrich Zdík had the idea of establishing a monastery in Prague. With assistance from the Prague rulers and bishops, a monastery was set up in a place called Strahov, but failed to prosper. It was not until 1143, when Premonstratensians from the Rhineland arrived in Strahov, that the monastic community started to develop successfully.

The Premonstratensians built a wooden monastery and started building a Romanesque basilica. The choir was probably standing as early as 1149. After completing the basilica in 1182, work then started on the stone monastery buildings.  After a fire in 1258, the monastery complex was reconstructed. The monastery's material and spiritual development halted in 1420 when the Hussites plundered the abbey.

The period up until the end of the 16th century was a time of decline for the monastery, when it only just managed to eke out an existence. The monastery's possession took a turn for the better when Jan Lohelius arrived on the scene. In 1586 he is elected Strahov Abbot and starts renovating the monastery, literally and spiritually. He has the dilapidated church rebuilt, erected monastery workshops, reconstructed the prelature as well as the convent, and opened new gardens. By 1594, a twelve-member community of brothers is living in the monastery. When Lohelius is appointed Archbishop of Prague in 1612, .6 his place at the abbey is taken over by Kašpar Questenberg, who continues his work.

The reconstruction of the lower cloisters and the prelature is completed. The Hospital of St Elizabeth is set up in Pohooelec, a monastery brewery is built, the College of St Norbert is established in the New Prague Town as a place of study for the members of the order, and the church is reconstructed and extended westwards. One of Questenberg's greatest feats was to oversee the translation of the relics of the founder of the Premonstratensians, St Norbert, from Magdeburg to Strahov, where they still rest. Towards the end of the Thirty Years' War, the abbey is again sacked and plundered, this time by a Finnish regiment of the Swedish army. They stole many precious objects from the church as well as manuscripts and printed books from the library. Work starts on restoring the monastery after the war, and Abbot Franck rebuilds the damaged prelature and erects a new Hospital. Under Abbot Jeroným Hirnhaim, the library hall (today's Theological Hall) is completed in 1679. In the 18th century, work continues on rebuilding the monastery in the Baroque style: a new summer refectory is opened, the brewery is rebuilt, and the farmland around the monastery is reworked. War hit the monastery again in 1742 when bombardment by the French laid siege to Prague. After this episode, the original medieval structures are rebuilt in the Baroque style The last great piece of building work in the abbey complex is the construction of a new library hall (today's Philosophical Hall) under Abbot Václav Mayer. The monasterial buildings then essentially remained as they were until the 1950's, when the official activity of monasteries was halted by the Communist regime and in-depth archaeological research of the whole complex started. During this time, at least part of the Romanesque structure of the monastery was renewed in a very careful way. After the fall of communism in1989, when the abbey was returned to the Premonstratensians, costly reconstruction of the entire complex began and is still going on to this day.

Assumption of our Lady

The Basilica of Assumption of Our Lady was constructed as a triple-aisle Romanesque basilica, 56 m long and 22 m wide, with a transept and two prismatic towers. This design did not last long, because the church was rebuilt in Gothic style after a fire in 1258. The flat wooden ceiling was replaced by a dome and the Chapel of St. Ursula was added to the northern transept.

After being plundered by the Hussites and left to fall into disrepair for many years, Abbot Jan Lohelius started repairing and reconstructing the church in Renaissance style. Lohelius' successor, Abbot Kašpar Questenberg, had the basilica extended westwards and built a new façade. The Chapel of Our Lady of Passau was added to the southern transept.

In 1742, the basilica was severely damaged again, this time during the French bombardment of Prague. The building was given a Baroque overhaul under the leadership of Italian architect Anselmo Lurago, and the fruit of this project is today's church.

Today the basilica nave is 63 metres long, 10 metres wide, and 16 metres high. It ends in an apse, which hosts an altar of marble from Slivenec, made by Lauermann in 1768. There are ten side altars located at the pillars which separate the nave from the transepts. The sculptural work on the main altar was made by Ignác Platzer in 1768. Pictures by Liška, Willmann, and Palko adorn the ten side altars, devoted to the Nativity of Our Lord, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, St John Nepomuk, Mary Magdalene, the Conversion of St Paul, St Martin, St Anne, St Augustine, the Bohemian Patron Saints, and the Visitation.

The west side of the basilica ends in an organ loft, holding an organ built in 1774 by the Strahov Premonstratensian Lohel Oehlschlaegl. Mozart improvised on the organ when he visited Strahov in 1787.

The Chapel of Our Lady of Passau has been added to the basilica transept, and contains the tomb of General Pappenheim, a hero of the Thirty Years' War.

The vault of the church was painted in 1774 by Neunhertz, who created a cycle of frescoes there with motives of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Along the walls of the nave, in the cartouches by Palliardi, there are frescoes with scenes from the life of St Norbert by Neunhertz.

Philosophical Hall

During the last quarter of the 18th century, Abbot Václav Mayer decided to build new library rooms for the numerous additions to the library. For this purpose he had the Philosophical Hall built in the location of the original granary.

This hall was built by John Ignatius Palliardi, a naturalized Italian architect. The front wall was built as early as 1783, the interior made of walnut was brought from the abolished Premonstratensian monastery in Louka u Znojma. The dimensions of the future hall were adapted to the size of the shelves. The interior was installed in the period 1794 – 1797 by its original author, Jan Lahofer of Tasovice, and modified to early classicist style. The remarkable dimensions of the hall (length 32m, width 10m and height 14m) are emphasized by the monumental ceiling painting by F. Anton Maulbertsch of Vienna.

On  August 8, 1793, the Abbot started to discuss with F. A. Maulbertsch, whose murals he knew from Louka where Maulbertsch painted a fresco called “Spiritual Development of Mankind” on the library ceiling in 1776-78. The basic idea was to express how philosophies and sciences together with religion have been improving since the beginning of mankind.

As a guarantee of this search, Divine Providence is put in the middle of the mural, surrounded by virtues and vices. Development of Mankind starts with its dawning, which is combined with Old Testament motifs. In the center of the events there are tablets with the Ten Commandments and Moses, the Ark of the Covenant is behind them. Other figures pictured include Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, Salomon and David. On the left-hand side we see the development of the Greek civilization from the mythical times through the period of Alexander the Great all the way to the philosophers Socrates, Diogenes and Democritos. The evolution of science is illustrated on the right-hand side ( Aesculapos, Pythagoras, Socrates in prison).

There is a sign that says 'Wenceslaus secundus, hic primus'.  It tells us that the founder of the hall, Václav Mayer, was the second abbot to be named Václav, but the first Václav of the library.

Philosophical Hall

The opposite side is dominated by a scene from the New Testament, St. Paul's speech at Areopagus in Athens. Wenceslas, Patron Saint of Bohemia, stands in the right-hand corner, with a banner with the Eagle of St Wenceslas swaying in his left hand. The old woman on his right is his grandmother, St. Ludmila. Underneath him, among the four Fathers of the Church (Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, and Gregory) stands St. Methodius, who christianized the second Bishop of Prague, St. Adalbert. The last in the line, with an enlightened face and holding his abbot's croizer is the founder of the hall, Abbot Václav Mayer. To his right, are other Bohemian patron saints, St. John of Nepomuk and St. Norbert (founder of the Premonstratensian Order) are kneeling.

At the end of the 18th century and beginning of the 19th century, the library became famous in Europe. Numerous visits by important people have been recorded since 1792.

In 1812, the Austrian Princess and wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, Marie Louise, donated to the Strahov Library many books, a Viennese set of porcelain, and, most significantly, a four-volume work about the first Louvre museum. When this exclusive publication had been completed, Napoleon is said to have ordered the whole print run to be destroyed, and kept just three or four complete series. He was afraid that his reputation would be ruined by the fact that the work listed the origin of a whole number of exhibits, stolen particularly in Italy. This book gift was stored in a special high cabinet overlooking the other furniture in the hall.

Opposite the entrance doors, on the other side of the hall, there is a bust of the Strahov librarian and archivist Prior Cyril Straka, who made a substantial contribution in cataloguing and in the process of making the library and archival materials available to the public, primarily in the first quarter of the 20th century. He was also one of the foremost experts on Czech bookbinding. It was Straka who named the two halls after traditional separate philosophical and theological study subjects. In addition to philosophy, which originally included all the sciences, we can also find works from other disciplines which were taught at universities: philosophy; astronomy, mathematics, history, philology, etc. There are more than 33,000 volumes in this hall.

Theological Hall

The Theological Hall was built under Abbot Jeroným Hirnhaim (1671-1679). The architect was a Prague burgher of Italian origin, Giovanni Domennico Orsi, whose Italian school is evident in the stucco cartouches. The Baroque concept of the library is demonstrated by the shelves; unlike the Romanesque treasury system or the Gothic desk system, the books were stored upright. Above the shelves, there are gilded wooded carved decorations with wooden cartouches. This was a rudimentary library aid, because the pictures in the wooden cartouches and their titles specified the type of literature stored on the shelves. Fifty years later, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the translation of St Norbert's relics (1727), the hall was extended by several metres. It was then decorated with frescoes by the Strahov Premonstratensian and painter Siard Nosecký. Symbolically, he presented the true wisdom we acquire through piety and fear in God. In his tracts, Hirnhaim opposed scholasticism and its rationalistic understanding of the world and truth, which he believed to be false or proud wisdom. He wanted to gain an understanding of the world through true humble piety. A person enlightened by faith, but build on knowledge and education. The library hosts several frescoes as a symbol of this principle. Above the forged iron gates on the other side of the library there is a small legend: INITIUM SAPIENTIAE TIMOR DOMINI (the beginning of wisdom is fear of God). It remains a paradox that the philosophical works of the library's founder were put on the index of forbidden books and were therefore placed in special locked cabinets above both the hall doors. Hirnhaim himself had these cabinets installed. As time passed, publication of his works was permitted, and they became the inspiration for Siard Nosecký.

Theological Hall

The left-hand side of the hall is dominated by a Late-Gothic wooden statue of St John the Evangelist. The link between this statue and the library is his small pouch, held by St John in his left hand. This pouch is called a girdle-book or travel bag.  Few have been preserved.  They either get destroyed during journeys or cut off on inclusion in the book collection. On the right-hand side, there is a 'compilation wheel', commissioned by the library in 1678 and used to compile texts. The scribe had the various sources he was using distributed over the shelves of the wheel. The planet mechanism means that when turned, its shelves were kept at the same angle so the books are not liable to fall.

A number of globes (both astronomical and terrestrial) line both sides of the Theological Hall. Some of them come from the workshop of the Rotterdam-based family Blaeu, which specialized in manufacturing maps, atlases, and globes in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Over 18,000 volumes are stored in the Theological Hall. The name of the hall comes from the content of these works. The northern wall contains nothing but different editions of the Bible or parts of the Bible in many languages.

In 1993 and 1994, the interior of the hall was restored; the shelves were completely dismantled and the wood was treated. At the end of the 1980's, the original red paint was discovered under the later blue-grey paint, and this red was used in the restoration as the oldest layer. The parquets from the 20th century were replaced with a historically and aesthetically more accurate copy of the original Baroque flooring. Originally the visitors' route went through all the main areas of the library. Eventually, the tour was adjusted to the current version, as the humidity in the halls fluctuated so much during the day that the condition of the frescoes and book bindings was in jeopardy.

The St. Rochus Church is situated to the left of the entrance gateway of Strahov Monastery. St. Rochus Church is a Gothic-Renaissance single-nave construction with three polygonal apsidal recesses.  It was built by the Holy Roman Emperor and Czech King Rudolph II in 1603-1612 as a votive church to avert the plague epidemic in 1599. This former Catholic church, unused for a very long time, was left damaged and desecrated, but is now the home of the MIRO Gallery, where the aim is to present international modern art to the general public. MIRO Gallery was established in Berlin in 1987. It has been based at the Church of St. Rochus at Strahov Monastery since 1994, when the gallery relocated to Prague from Berlin. This unique location was acquired through the kind assistance of celebrated Czech vocalist Karel Gott, who provided gallery founder Miro Smolák with an interest-free loan of CZK 1 million to secure the space. Since then, several dozen masters on the international and Czech art scenes have been exhibited at St. Rochus. The most well-known have been Picasso, Miró, Dalí, Chagall, Rodin, Warhol and others. In 2001,  MIRO Gallery was named the “most popular commercial gallery in Prague”.  
27November 2012
This evening we went on a 'Ghost and Legends Tour' of Old Town.  We heard stories about alchemy, murder, curses, executions, the restless spirits still said to wander the narrow streets of Old Town, and the dark secrets behind the famous astronomical clock.   We also visited the underground, to the cellars and former dungeons beneath the Old Town Hall. These underground chambers, dating back to the 12th century, have witnessed executions, torture and tragedy, and have their own special energy. Many strange 'orbs' and other unexplained phenomena have been captured in photos.

One of the oldest streets in Prague, Celetna Lane, connects the Old Town Square with the Republic Square.  House 27 stands at the place, where used to be the church of Knights Templar in the 13th century.  The Order of Knights Templar was abolished in 1312. 

Kinsky Palace in the Old Town Square, doesn’t stand in line with the neighbouring buildings. A legend says that the town council didn’t want to permit the special position of the palace and that the count bribed three councilmen for the permit. The count was eventually brought to trial but because he had a permit he was released. The three councilmen, however, were hanged in front of the palace.

This former Jesuit college in the Prague Old Town is the second largest building complex after Prague Castle.  The Enlightenment reformist Emperor Joseph II. forced the Jesuits to leave Prague in 1773. It is said, that they left their enormous treasure hidden somewhere in the Clementinum. The legend says, that they woke up a poor bricklayer in the night, took him blindfolded to the Clementinum and paid him to wall up the place, where they put the treasure.  He tried to come back later, but he never found the place again.

The execution of 27 leaders of the rebellion against Emperor Matthias took place at the Old Town Square in 1621. Commemorating the sad event. y.6 ou can see 27 crosses, symbols of swords and a thorn crown in the pavement by the Old Town City Hall..6  A legend says that the ghosts of the executed noblemen return to the square every year on June 21, the day of the execution.

Church of St James

The large Church of St James is situated in Prague Old Town. Its decorations are considered to be one of the most beautiful and valuable in Prague. The church contains 23 chapels and is connected to many legends. The church’s acoustics are great and many concerts are held here. One of the prides of the church is a magnificent organ from 1702.

This church was first built by Minorites (a branch of the Franciscans) in Gothic style. It suffered great damage in the fire of 1689. It was then rebuilt in the Baroque style. The tomb of Count Vratislav of Mitrovice inside the church is one of the most beautiful Baroque tombs in Bohemia. 

After Count Vratislav was buried, people could hear dreadful sounds from the tomb. Religious people thought that the spirit of the count couldn’t find peace and they sprinkled the tomb with holy water. After a few days the sound stopped. Several years later, when the tomb was open again, they found the coffin damaged and the remains of the count outside the coffin. He had been buried alive, and when he woke up from his deep unconsciousness, he tried to alert the people in the church but instead found a terrible death.

Several great artists contributed to the decorations of the Church of St James, such as Peter Brandl, Hans von Aachen, Vaclav Vavrinec Reiner and many others. It is said that the author of the picture on the main altar, Vaclav Vavrinec Reiner, was protected by the picture he was creating, even though everybody around him died of plague. The moment after the painter made his last stroke of the brush, he was infected with the plaque and died the same day.

Visitors should also notice a mumified forearm more than 400 years old hanging on the right of the entrance. It belonged to a thief who tried to steel some jewels from the Madonna on the high altar one night. But the Madonna grapped his hand and didn’t want to let it go. The thief had to wait there until the next morning. The next day, when the Minorites came to the Church, they tried to separate the thief from the Madonna, but in vain. They had to cut his arm. Then the Madonna let the hand go. The monks hung the arm to remember this event and as a warning for other thieves.

When we entered this church, it was dark, cold and uninviting.  Lights would turn on only when you got close enough to trigger the sensor.  In many places there were signs on the floor that said, no entry, alarm will sound and if you got too close, the alarm did go on until you stepped away.

Disappointingly, we could not see the spectacular ceilings of the church.  We hardly made out where the mummified hand was placed.  The atmosphere added to the creepiness of the experience. 

Only knew to come here because of the Ghost Tour we participated in.  

27November 2012

Old Town Hall Tower and Astronomical Clock

Prague's old Town Hall was built in 1364. The astronomical clock in the town hall's tower is one of the city's most popular tourist attractions. Originally the building served only as the city hall of the old town, but later became the city hall for all of Prague. It is now only used for ceremonial functions.

After John the Blind, Count of Luxembourg and King of Bohemia, accorded the citizens of Prague the privilege of having their own district council in 1338, they decided to build a town hall, paid for by a duty levied on wine. The almost 70 meters (230 ft) high tower was completed in 1364. Due to continuous expansions, the town hall now consists of a colorful collection of Gothic and Renaissance-style buildings. During the Second World War the complex was severely damaged when the nazis suppressed the Prague uprising, but it is now thoroughly restored.

The Old Town Hall is famous for its beautiful façade clock. The clock dates back to the beginning of the 15th century. Clock maker Hanuš, who perfected the construction in 1490 was, according to legend, made blind by the city council to prevent him from making a more beautiful clock elsewhere. Most of the mechanism still used today was made by Jan Táborský between 1552 and 1572.

The clock is a magnet for tourists, especially just before the hour, when the twelve apostles march past. The skeleton on the right, depicting Death, starts the show by pulling on a string. In the meantime he looks at his other hand, in which he holds an hourglass. Then, two windows open, from where the apostles march.

Below the apostles is the astronomical clock, which has the earth in the middle of the universe. The clock was created to show the then presumed rotation of the sun and the moon around the earth. The clock also shows the movement of the sun and the moon in relation to the signs of zodiac. Below the astronomical clock is a calendar. The calendar, built by Josef Mánes in 1866, shows the days of the year together with symbolic pictures of the months of the year.

I was wondering why we saw suds on the ground in the Old Town Square.  Interesting busking although the kids would gleefully run and burst the ginormous bubbles.

Trdelník is made from rolled dough, wrapped around a stick, then grilled and topped with sugar and walnut mix.  Still does not beat a beavertail.
27November 2012
02-PICT7444-CZECH2012 Charles Bridge is a 14th century stone bridge linking the two sides of Prague. This magnificent structure is one of the city's finest attractions, and is the main pedestrian route connecting the Old Town with the Lesser Town (Malá Strana) and Prague Castle.  From the bridge, you have stunning views of the Prague skyline.  The wide expanse of the river flows beneath it, flanked on both sides by elegant buildings. Prague Castle towers above in its eminent position. Here you are truly in the centre of the city.

King Charles IV commissioned the bridge. The foundation stone was laid in 1357. Charles IV's favourite architect and builder, Peter Parler, oversaw the majority of the work. The initial idea was to build a functional construction for knight tournaments, and for many years the only decoration on the bridge was a simple crucifix. Later, the Catholic desire for ornamentation resulted in 30 statues being erected between 1600 and 1800.  There are now 75 statues on Charles Bridge, but most are copies, as floods and catastrophes over the centuries damaged the originals. Perhaps the most interesting, as well as the oldest, is that of John of Nepomuk (8th from the right as you cross towards Prague Castle).  The entrance to Charles Bridge is marked at both ends by towers: the Old Town Bridge Tower and the Malá Strana Bridge Tower.2 .

John Lennon Wall

Once a normal wall, since the 1980s it has been filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles songs.

In 1988, the wall was a source of irritation for the communist regime of Gustáv Husák. Young Czechs would write grievances on the wall and in a report of the time this led to a clash between hundreds of students and security police on the nearby Charles Bridge. The movement these students followed was described ironically as "Lennonism" and Czech authorities described these people as alcoholics, mentally deranged, sociopathic, and agents of Western capitalism.

The wall continuously undergoes change and the original portrait of Lennon is long lost under layers of new paint. Even when the wall was repainted by some authorities, on the second day it was again full of poems and flowers. Today, the wall represents a symbol of youth ideals such as love and peace. The wall is owned by the Knights of Malta, who allow the graffiti to continue
26November 2012
06-puppet show advert-CZECH2012I discovered that Regan really loved puppets.  She really wanted to go see a puppet show.  We went to see 'Don Giovanni', the 'opera of operas' written by Mozart, at the National Marionette Theatre.  I was not expecting it, but Mozart was a puppet in the show! It would seem that Mozart composed this opera specifically for Prague, It premiered at the Estates Theatre in 1787 and was conducted by Mozart himself.  Mozart had a special relationship with Prague and its people, saying that Prague was the 'good city' that supported him at a time when he had allegedly been neglected and scorned by Vienna. All the puppets were tall and clothed in period costumes, set against an18th century stage set.  The set was worn out by extensive use, and I must admit was a distraction.  The show was not as magical as I thought it would be. The theatre itself was small and a bit delapidated.  The shop, which one would expect to be superb in its selection of marionettes, was disappointing. The stage was small, with water stained curtains and paint peeling from the walls, but the show presented us with quite a few good laughs.  The opera, which was a recording, was quite long.  The best parts were when the pupetteers got on stage and became actors  and part of the show.  The golem character was pretty fantastic as well.  Not all puppets were equal though, some had better articulation then others.

It was a great way to spend the evening.

26November 2012

07-jewish museum brochure-CZECH2012Present at the establishment of the Jewish Museum in Prague in 1906 were the historian Dr. Hugo Lieben and Dr. Augustin Stein, the representative of the Czech Jewish movement and later head of the Prague Jewish Community. The original aim was to preserve valuable artefacts from the Prague synagogues that had been demolished during the reconstruction of Jewish Town at the beginning of the 20th century. The Museum was closed to the public after the Nazi occupation of Bohemia and Moravia on March 15, 1939. In 1942 the Nazis established the Central Jewish Museum, to which were shipped artefacts from all the liquidated Jewish communities and synagogues of Bohemia and Moravia. Its founding was proposed by Dr. Stein who, in co-operation with other specialist members of staff, sought to save the Jewish objects that were being confiscated by the Nazis. Following long negotiations, the Nazis approved the project to set up a central museum, albeit guided by different motives than the Museum´s founders.

After World War II, the Jewish Museum came under the administration of the Council of Jewish Communities in Czechoslovakia. In 1950, ownership was transferred to the State, which, as of 1948, was in the hands of the communists. As a result, the Museum was markedly restricted in its preservation, exhibition and educational activities.

The collapse of the communist regime in 1989 created the necessary conditions that led to a change in the Museum´s status. On October 1, 1994, the Museum buildings and collections were returned to the Jewish Community of Prague and the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic respectively. At the same time, the Jewish Museum took on new life as a non-state organization.

We were a bit confused at first, because the museum is actually comprised of several synagogues (Maisel, Pinkas, Klausen, Spanish)  and places (Ceremonial Hall, Jewish Cemetary).  The Old-New and Jerusalem Synagogues are active and can be visited, but are not part of the Jewish Museum.

The Maisel Synagogue

The Maisel Synagogue was built in 1590-1592 by the Mayor of Jewish Town, Mordechai Maisel, who funded the extensive Renaissance reconstruction of the ghetto. The builders of this synagogue were Josef Wahl and Juda Goldsmied de Herz. The original building was seriously damaged by fire in 1689 and was then renovated in the Baroque style. In the end, it was considerably rebuilt to a pseudo-Gothic design by Prof. A Grott in 1893-1905. All that remained intact of the original Renaissance layout was the ground plan of the tripartite central hall with the upper-storey women´s section. The Maisel Synagogue is currently used by the Jewish Museum as an exhibition venue and depository.

The Old Jewish Cemetary

The Old Jewish Cemetery was established in the first half of the 15th century. Along with the Old-New Synagogue, it is one of the most important hictoric sites in Prague´s Jewish Town. The oldest tombstone, which marks the grave of the poet and scholar Avigdor Karo, dates from the year 1439. Burials took place in the cemetery until 1787. Today it contains 12,000 tombstones, although the number of persons buried here is much greater. The cemetery was enlarged a number of times in the past. In spite of this the area did not suffice and earth was brought in to add further layers. It is assumed that the cemetery contains several burial layers placed on top of each other. The picturesque goups of tombstones from various periods emerged through the raising of older stones to the upper layers.

The most prominent person buried in the Old Jewish Cemetery is without a doubt the great religious scholar and teacher Judah Loew ben Bezalel, known as Rabbi Loew   (d. 1609), who is associated with the legend of the Golem. Among the many other prominent persons buried in the Old Jewish Cemetery are: the Mayor of the Jewish Town Mordechai Maisel (d. 1601), the Renaissance scholar, historian, mathematician and astronomer David Gans   (d. 1613), scholar and historian Joseph Solomon Delmedigo (d. 1655), and rabbi and collector of Hebrew manuscripts and printed books David Oppenheim (d. 1736)

The Klausen Synagogue

The Klausen Synagogue is located by the entrance to the Old Jewish Cemetery. It takes its name from the German word "Klaus" meaning "small building", which is derived from the Latin "claustrum". "Klausen" (plural of "Klaus") was the name of the original three smaller buildings, which Moredehai Maisel, Head of the Prague Jewish Community, had erected in honour of a visit from Emperor Maximilian II to the Prague ghetto in 1573. After the destruction of the original Klausen by fire in 1689, work began on the present Klausen Synagogue building which was completed in 1604. Further reconstruction of the Klausen Synagogue took place in the 1880s. The Klausen Synagogue held an important place in the history of Prague´s Jewish Town. It was the largest synagogue in the ghetto and the seat of Prague´s Burial Society.

Pinkas Synagogue: a Holocaust Memorial

In a word, "chilling"!  The Pinkas Synagogue is dedicated to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust from Bohemia and Morovia; their names are inscribed on the walls of the main nave and adjoining areas. The interior of the synagogue comprises almost 80,000 names.  It was designed and executed by the painters Václav Boštík and Jiří John between 1954 and 1959. The memorial was closed in 1968 because the building was in an increasingly poor state of repair. The building was eventually reconstructed and, following the collapse of the Communist regime, a project was launched to renovate the memorial.  The Pinkas Synagogue reopened in 1996.

The inscriptions were compiled from card indexes, written shortly after the war from transport papers, registration lists and survivor's accounts. The names of Holocaust victims, together with their dates of birth and death, are inscribed on all the interior walls of the Synagogue. Where the precise date of death is not known, which is generally the case, the date of deportation to the ghettos and extermination camps is stated instead.   The main nave features the names of people whose last address prior to deportation was in Prague; the rest of the interior space commemorates victims from towns and villages outside of Prague.  The names are in alphabetical order. On both sides of the Holy Ark, aron ha-kodesh in Hebrew, (a receptacle or ornamental closet which contains the synagogue's Torah scrolls) are recorded the names of some of the ghettos and camps where Bohemian and Moravian Jews were deported and, in most cases, exterminated. This memorial is a long epitaph commemorating the names of those for whom a tombstone could not be erected.

07-Gershwin concert synagogue museum-CZECH2012The Spanish Synagogue: A Moorish Delight

The Spanish Synagogue was built in 1868 on the site of the oldest Prague Jewish house of prayer ("the Old Shul"). It was designed in a Moorish style by Vojtěch Ignátz Ullmann.  The synagogue has a regular square plan with a large dome surmounting the central space. On three sides there are galleries on metal structures, which fully open onto the nave.  The remarkable interior decoration features a low stucco arabesque of stylized Islamic motifs which are also applied to the walls, doors and gallery balustrades. The interior, together with the stained glass windows, were designed by architects A. Baum and B. Munzberg and completed in 1893.

By reopening the Spanish Synagogue, closed for over 20 years, on the 130th anniversary of its establishment, the Jewish Museum in Prague has completed one of its most ambitious projects to date.

František Škroup, the composer of the Czech national anthem, served as organist from 1836-45. It would seem that the organ is no longer played, as noone knows how to play it, and that is a real shame.  It goes without saying that the concerts performed in the Spanish Synagogue are classical in nature and do not include the organ. I went to this concert before going to the puppet show, and I am really happy that I did. To be able to sit still in this beautiful space was special.

Franz Kafka (July 3, 1883 –  June 3, 1924) was a German-language writer of novels and short stories, regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. Kafka strongly influenced genres such as existentialism. His works are filled with the themes and archetypes of alienation, physical and psychological brutality, parent–child conflict, characters on a terrifying quest, and mystical transformations.

Kafka was born into a middle-class, German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and trained as a lawyer. After completing his legal education, Kafka obtained employment with an insurance company. He began to write short stories in his spare time, and for the rest of his life complained about the little time he had to devote to what he came to regard as his calling. He had a complicated and troubled relationship with his father that had a major impact on his writing, and he was conflicted over his Jewishness and felt it had little to do with him, although it debatably influenced his writing.

Only a few of Kafka's works were published during his lifetime.  Many were published posthumously, mostly by his friend Max Brod, who ignored Kafka's wish to have the manuscripts destroyed. Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre are among the writers influenced by Kafka's work.  The term 'Kafkaesque' has entered the English language to describe surreal situations like those in his writing.

In Jewish folklore, a golem (pron.: /ˈɡoʊləm/ goh-ləm; Hebrew: גולם) is an animated anthropomorphic being, created entirely from inanimate matter. The word was used to mean an amorphous, unformed material in Psalms and medieval writing.  The most famous golem narrative involves Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the late 16th century chief rabbi of Prague.  In 1967, Roddy McDowall starred in the film 'It' in which a Golem in a museum is reactivated and murders many people. The word golem occurs once in the Bible in Psalm 139:16, which uses the word גלמי, meaning "my unshaped form". The Mishnah uses the term for an uncultivated person.  In modern Hebrew golem is used to mean "dumb" or "helpless". Similarly, it is often used today as a metaphor for a brainless lunk or entity who serves man under controlled conditions but is hostile to him under others. "Golem" passed into Yiddish as goylem to mean someone who is clumsy or slow.

07-old new synagogue-CZECH2012The Old-New Synagogue

The Old-New Synagogue is the oldest site of Prague’s Jewish Town and the oldest existing synagogue in Europe. It has been the main synagogue of the Prague Jewish community for more than 700 years. Built in the last third of the thirteenth century by stone-masons from the royal workshop who were working on the nearby Convent of St. Agnes, it is testimony to the important status of the then Jewish community of Prague. Originally called the New or Great Shul, it was not until the establishment of other synagogues in the late 16th century that it came to be known as the Old-New (Altneuschul). Legend has it, however, that its foundation stones were brought by angels from the destroyed Temple of Jerusalem on condition of their return upon restoration of the Temple. The Old-New Synagogue enjoyed tremendous respect in Prague’s Jewish Town and in Jewish communities abroad. It also became enveloped in numerous legends and tales.

According to one legend, the synagogue was protected against fire in the ghetto by the wings of angels transformed into doves, which is why it has remained miraculously intact to this day. Another legend has it that the attic of the synagogue is home to the remains of the Golem, the artificial creature made of clay that was animated by the Rabbi Loew in order to protect the Prague community. The Old-New Synagogue is the oldest surviving synagogue with a medieval double-nave. It is a rectangular structure with a large saddle roof and Gothic gables, the thick outer walls of which are supported by buttresses.

The main building is surrounded on three sides by low annexes which serve as a vestibule and women’s sections; the latter are connected to the main hall only by narrow apertures in the walls, which enable women to hear the services. In accordance with tradition and as a sign of humility, the floor level of the hall and main nave is several degrees below the surrounding terrain. Two early Baroque money boxes in the vestibule were used for collecting Jewish taxes from the entire kingdom. The interior of the Old-New Synagogue is arched by six bays of five-ribbed vaulting on two large octagonal pillars. The twelve narrow pointed windows correspond in number to the tribes of Israel. The stone brackets and shaft capitals feature sculptural ornamentation of plant motifs, dominated by vine-leaf motifs. Of greatest artistic value is the decoration of the tympanum above the Torah ark and the vault keystones. Due to the similarity of the stone ornamentation to that of other early Gothic buildings in Bohemia, the foundation of the synagogue can be dated back to around 1270. In the centre of the main hall is a raised platform (bimah or almemar) which is separated from the surrounding space by a late-Gothic grille. The Torah scrolls are kept in the holy ark in the eastern wall of the synagogue, facing Jerusalem. The ark is covered by an embroidered curtain and valance, which are adorned with symbols that recall the Temple of Jerusalem. In front of the ark hangs the eternal light, and to the right is the cantor’s desk from which he leads the service. To this day, the Old-New Synagogue has retained the original seating arrangement around the perimiter of the main hall, which corresponds to the usual layout in other synagogues of its time. Recently uncovered frames of the niches, which were once used for the storage of prayer books and requisites, can be seen in the perimeter walls. The main room is lit by numerous bronze chandeliers, dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries, and brass reflectors hung on the walls. The interior decoration of the Old-New Synagogue is complemented by a high banner, which symbolizes the important status of the Prague Jewish community. In use since the late 15th century, it was restored to its present form by Emperor Charles VI in 1716. The centre of the banner features the six-pointed Star of David with a Jewish hat, which was the official symbol of the Prague Jewish community from the 15th century onwards.

The text of the Jewish faith, Shemah Yisroel, is inscribed along the edges of the flag. The Old-New Synagogue was always the main synagogue of Prague’s Jewish community. Rabbis who were active here in the 16th century included Eliezer Ashkenazi, Mordecai ben Abraham Jaffe, Judah ben Bezalel (the great Rabbi Loew) and his most important pupil Jom Tov Lipmannn Heller, who was known for his outstanding commentaries on the Mishnah. Among the later rabbis who were active here were Ezekiel Landau, a great authority on traditional rabbinic learning, and Solomon Judah Leib Rapoport, a prominent representative of the Jewish Enlightenment.

Jubilee Synagogue

Jubilee Synagogue is also known as the Jerusalem Synagogue because of its location on Jerusalem Street. It was built in 1906  in honor of the silver Jubilee of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria.  After the Czech Republic became independent of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it became more usual to call the synagogue the Jerusalem Street Synagogue. The synagogue preserves inscribed plaques removed from the former Zigeuner synagogue, demolished by the urban renewal campaign that was the cause of the building of the Jubilee Synagogue. After a century of being open to the public as a house of worship, on April 1, 2008 the Jerusalem Synagogue began opening its doors to tourists and aficionados of historic architecture. We were not able to visit the inside of the Jerusalem Synagogue as it was closed.  To my great chagrin, as I was so looking forward to seeing the stain glass windows.

Designed in 1903 by Viennese architect Wilhelm Stiassny and completed in 1906 by Alois Richter, Jerusalem Synagogue remains a religious and cultural center for the Jewish community of Prague. The synagogue’s ornate design and decorative features represent an Art Nouveau stylization of the Moorish style. The polychrome façade of red, blue, yellow, green, and gold, with a large central arch framing a rosette window with the Star of David, is a striking addition to the cityscape. The interior is as dramatic as the exterior, with a deep triple nave illuminated by stained glass windows and decorated with chandeliers, polychrome paintings, biblical text, and geometric designs. Two rows of seven arches each support the women’s gallery and create a unique rhythm to the synagogue. It was spared destruction during World War II since it was used as a warehouse. In 1989, the Jewish community of Prague and its institutions were once again established and successfully revived in the following years. Conservation work at the synagogue began in 1992 with the restoration of the stained-glass windows, and in 1996 and 1997 the upper floor prayer hall was renovated. Restoration work on the façade and portal was completed between 2001 and 2002. Jerusalem Synagogue is a testament to the growing Jewish community in Prague and their dedication to conserving its built heritage.

Since Jerusalem Synagogue was not destroyed during the war, it is one of the few synagogues in Prague that has not been reconstructed. Its design reflects a unique confluence of styles and the appropriation of Moorish architecture and design in an early 20th century religious and cultural building. With the physical restoration of the synagogue, it is also returning to its original function as the center of religious and cultural activities for the community in Prague. It is anticipated that the synagogue will also be used for concerts of Jewish and classical music, exhibitions, and activities through the year.

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