Czech name: Španělská synagoga
The Spanish Synagogue — Španělská synagoga in Czech — is a stunning architectural and design achievement. A Prague sightseeing gem in the city’s Jewish Quarter, the building now serves as both a place of worship and a museum.
Location & How to Get There
The Spanish Synagogue is at Vězeňská 1, 110 00 Staré Město, Czechia — on the corner of Dušní and Vězeňská Streets. The easiest way to get there is by taking the 194 bus and getting off at the Staré školy stop, which is right next to the complex.
Opening Hours & Entry
The Spanish Synagogue is currently closed because of extensive renovations. A re-opening date has yet to be announce.
What to Do & What to See
Elaborately decorated in the Moorish Revival style, the inside is a collage of symmetrical and intricate mosaics piped with tasteful goldwork. Moorish arches and Stars of David are recurring motifs throughout the structure.
Since the Jewish Museum in Prague manages the Spanish Synagogue, the building also houses a permanent exhibit exploring the modern history of Jews in the Czech Republic, starting with reforms instituted by the Hapsburg Emperor Joseph II and ending with the Holocaust.
Technically, the Spanish Synagogue is the newest Prague synagogue. However, the building stands where the oldest area temple — called Old School or Altshul — once stood. Why was it called Old School? Because in days of old, temples and synagogues were also used as schools.
In 1867, the community opted to demolish the old building due to structural problems. By 1868, they’d replaced it with a new building — the one that stands today.
Vojtěch Ignác Ullmann, an architect, and Josef Niklas, an interior designer, collaborated on the 1868 plans and paid particular attention to acoustics. Additional rooms were added in 1935, which served as a community hospital and storage facility during World War II. Years after the war, officials finally and rightfully turned the Synagogue back over to the Jewish community. It was once again restored around that time.
But, the 1970s brought deterioration, and the Spanish Synagogue closed permanently in 1982. After the Velvet Revolution, funds flowed in, and the Jewish Museum plunged into renovations. A formal opening in 1998 proved to be a huge success.
Behind the Spanish Synagogue is a small park that houses a Franz Kafka statue. On the other side of the park sits the Church of the Holy Spirit, another popular Prague Sightseeing location.