Journey to Adventure Prague Trip

Prague Day 5 Part 1: Vysehrad and the Jewish Museum in Prague

January 23, 2019

I ventured over to Vysehrad to see the casemates where the original Charles Bridge statues are kept. What I found was a fortress I wish I had more time to explore. In trying to find the entrance to the tunnels I discovered this peaceful enchanting village is in fact a castle. I really did wish I knew about this place and could have spent more time there to explore the grounds. Legend has it that this was where the original Princes of Prague sat in their reign.

Before entering the tunnel we learned that the casemates and Gorlice were built for food storage, military gatherings and defense in the event of an attack. Now, 6 of the orginal statues from the Charles Bridge are there. The originals are made of sandstone, so they are delicate. The current statues on the bridge are replicas.

  • St. Bernard with Madonna by M. V. Jackl (1709)
  • St. Augustine and St. Nicholas of Torentino (J.B.Kohl, 1708)
  • St Adalbert (F.M.Brokoff, 1709)
  • St Anne (M.V. Jäckel, 1707)
  • St Ludmilla with the Young Wenceslas (M.B.Braun, 1720-24)

After the tour and seeing the casemates, I realized how special this place was. It’s on my list for next time. I wanted the opportunity to walk around and really explore everything without a time constraint.

I had to make my way back to Old Town to the Jewish Museum in Prague. The Museum is comprised of 4 synagogues (Maisel Synagogue, Klausen Synagogue with the Ceremonial Hall, Pinkas Synagogue and Spanish Synagogue), the Cemetery and the Robert Guttman Gallery.

I do want to comment on the question of, is it ok to photograph or film in sacred places? This is my own rule and opinion. If the space has an admission fee or if the space is now a museum, exhibits or tools for learning are present then it is appropriate to ask. If not, I refrain from taking pictures or filming. When I ask here, I was told, “Please take photos and share what you learn! We want to tell this story and teach as many as we can.”

The museum originally opened in 1906, making this is one of the oldest Jewish museums in Europe. During the Nazi Occupation of Czechoslovakia the Prague Jewish community founded the Central Jewish Museum in 1942 as they had command of the collections from the original museum. I was told by a museum guide that, as disgusting as this is, the items were preserved during WWII and kept for the purpose of opening a museum of “an extinct race” after the war. Many of the items are marked with collection point on them, which is where the items were kept after being confiscated. Many of the items on display in the museum belonged to those that did not survive.

The Maisel Synagogue shared the story of Jews in the Bohemian Lands, 10th-18th Century.

The Pinkas Synagogue is the second oldest preserved synagogue in Prague, but now serves as a memorial to the Victims of the Shoah from the Bohemian Lands. The walls are lined with names. All of their names. It’s a very heavy place to visit. Here are also drawings from children of Terezin. The drawings were preserved becuase they were placed in suitcases and left in the ghetto, until someone found them. The drawings depict transports to Terezín, daily life in the ghetto, dreams of returning home and of dreams of Palestine.

The old Jewish Cemetery is the most important site in the Jewish Quarter. The Cemetery has 12,000 tombstones with burials stacked on each other (10 layers I believe). Something I found moving here was there is a mixture of simple tombstones and ornate ones. To me this represented coming from different backgrounds, but they all go home to the same place.

The Klausen synagogue shows Jewish Traditions and Customs. It is the biggest synagogue in the Prague Jewish Quarter. The synagogue is the focus; scripture, holidays, Sabbath, celebrations. The exhibits move to show the “Jewish family”. The kosher kitchen, bar mitzvah, marriage are among some of the things examined. This was my favourite as it showed a religion and a culture. It was here I learned the most. This theme continues into the Ceremonial Hall. Here customs regarding the afterlife is shown.

Finally the Spanish Synagogue. One thing I learned and love from walking through these places of learning and worship is they aren’t all ornate and detailed. The important things are. To me that’s very different. Many of the sacred site I visit (Cathedrals, Mosques, Temples) are typically extremely ornate, with very detailed decoration. There’s nothing wrong with that or any way a place of worship is decorated. But it was humbling to see simple places of worship, with for example, just the Torah and the Torah Ark decorated. The Spanish Synagogue is very ornate. It’s memorizing! Here is the conclusion of the Museum and it tells of the Jewish people in modern Bohemia.

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