Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Elegant Elbe: Prague 3a Jewish Quarter I (5/22/2018)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018
This morning we checked out the southeast end of Wenceslas Square/Václavské náměstí.
Hotel Jalta (1950s, by Antonín Tenzer in Stalin Empire style);
actually not as stark as some Soviet-era buildings
A memorial plaque marks the spot where
Jan Palach set himself on fire,
followed by Jan Zajic one month later
Jan Palach and Jan Zajic were part of a suicide pact formed by students to protest the Warsaw Pact army invasion that ended the Prague Spring reforms. Jan Palach committed his self-immolation on 1/16/1969 (he was 21-years old). Most of the students did not follow through (per death-bed request of Jan Palach), except for Jan Zajic, on 2/25/1969 (he was 18-years old).
Behind the memorial is the statue of St Wenceslas and the National Museum (1885-1891, by Josef Schulz), now closed due to renovation. Because it is covered with scaffolding, we could not see the senseless damage to its façade by machine gun fire of the Warsaw Pact soldiers in 1968.
Monument of St Wenceslas/sv. Václav (1887-1924) with
statue (1912, by Josef Václav Myslbek)
The statues of Sts Ludmila, Vojtěch/Adalbert, Prokop/Procopius and Anežka/Agnes stand at the corners of the base, and are also by Myslbek. In fact, the sculptor is said  to have used his own face as a model for that of St Procopius.
Statue of Soviet worker in Socialist Realism/Soviet style,
in front of the New National Museum
The New National Museum Building (1938, rebuilt with
superstructure in 1960s, by Karel Prager, Jiří Kadeřábek and Jiří Albrecht)
The original building served as the Prague Stock Exchange, then from 1946-1992 it was the home of the "Soviet-puppet" parliament. In contrast, from 1995-2009 it was the headquarters of Radio Free Europe, which has since moved. It is not clear if the New National Museum holds the collections from the old National Museum during renovation, or if it will be a museum site of its own.
Memorial to Jan Palach and Jan Zajic (by the artist, Barbora Veselá,
and the architects, Čestmír Houska and Jiří Veselý)
We took the Metro to Staroměstská to meet Peter & Beth, who were waiting in front of the Rudolfinum.
House of Kocanda/Dům Na Kocandě with a bust
of Jaroslav Heyrovský, a 1959 Nobel Prize
winning chemist and inventor
Walked over to and around the Old Jewish Cemetery to begin the tour of Josefov, the Jewish Quarter.
A peek at the Old Jewish Cemetery
through a door in the outer wall
A peek at the Old Jewish Cemetery (12/24/1981);
so many of these tombstones have crumbled to nothing!
The Jewish Quarter is full of Art Nouveau buildings,
like this one at Břehová 208/8
Old Ceremonial Hall (1911-1912, by
František Gerstel) was the mortuary house of
the Jewish Burial Society
Old Ceremonial Hall (12/24/1981)
Paintings in the Ceremonial Hall provide instruction in
caring for both the ill and the dead, all equally
The Ceremonial Hall is decorated in
neo-Renaissance style
Mosaic tile floor of the Ceremonial Hall
Klaus Synagogue/Klausová synagoga (1694)
to the left of the Ceremonial Hall
Interior of Klaus Synagogue
Omer Calendar that keeps
track of the Jewish Holy Days
Torah shield (late 18C, partially gilt silver) and
Torah pointer (late 19C, brass)
Ethrog Containers (1820s, silver); ethrog or etrog is the citron fruit
of the Citrus medica, used in the celebration of Sukkoth
Circumcision knives of silver
(ouch! they look like butter knives!)
Maiselova #21 (1911, by Richard Klenka & František Weyr
in Biedermeier style) (KSS)
Old-New Synagogue/Staronová Synagoga (circa 1270)
with 14C crenelated brick gable
Old-New Synagogue (12/24/1981)
The Old-New Synagogue was the New Synagogue until a newer one was built (since destroyed), and has survived fires, pogroms, and the razing of the slums. It was spared by the Nazis because it was going to be part of the Nazi Museum of the Extinct Jewish Race.
The Old-New Synagogue is closely tied with the legend of Rabbi Löw, a scholar and philosophical writer, and director of Talmudic school in the late 16C. Rabbi Löw was supposed to have created a figure, a Golem, from clay and brought it to life by placing a magic stone tablet in its mouth. The Golem was meant to guard the ghetto, and was removed every Friday night for a day of rest. Once the Rabbi forgot and the Golem went on a rampage. Rabbi Löw had to remove the tablet and hid the creature among the Old-New Synagogue's rafters. You can walk behind the synagogue and see a iron-rung ladder from an attic window.
Ladder to an attic window of the Old-New Synagogue
The story inspired the 20C Czech writer Karel Čapek to write R.U.R. (for Rossum's Universal Robots) about artificially created beings who turn on their creators, coining the word roboti/workers, which became the English word ''robots."
Portal tympanum of the Old-New Synagogue,
with 12 bunches of grapes on twisted vines
A window to an 18C extension that allowed women
to hear services, and a candle holder meant
to maximize light in the synagogue (KSS)
Old-New Synagogue's ark for
holding the Torah
To the right, the copy of historic banner (gift of
Charles IV) of Prague's Jews showing Star of David
and the hat required to be worn by 14C Jews (KSS)
Under the banner is the decorated (for Shavuot?) iron-railing around the bema/orator's platform. You can also see the five-rib Gothic vaulting (could not be four ribs as that would form a cross), and the many bronze chandeliers to provide light.
The chair of Rabbi Löw
Remains of an alms box (KSS)
Directory? Seating donors? Mailboxes? (KSS)
Next: Prague 3b Jewish Quarter II.

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