Famous-Travel-Destination - The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague

The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague   Facebook share

 Old Jewish Cemetery is one of the most important Jewish historical monuments in Prague. It served its purpose from the first half of 15th century till 1786. Renowned personalities of the local Jewish community were buried here; among them rabbi Jehuda Liva ben Becalel – Maharal (ca. 1526–1609), businessman Mordecai Maisel (1528–1601), historian David Gans (ca. 1541–1613) and rabbi David Oppenheim (1664–1736). Today the cemetery is administered by the Jewish Museum in Prague.

 
The Old Jewish Cemetery is not the first Jewish cemetery in Prague – its predecessor was so-called „Jewish Garden“ located in the area of present New Town of Prague. This cemetery was closed by order of King Wladislav II Jagello in 1478 because of complaints of Prague citizens. Later it disappeared under the streets of New Town. We know that the history of the Old Cemetery started before that, but the exact date when it was founded is unknown. The only clue is the oldest gravestone in the cemetery from 1439 which belongs to rabbi and poet Avigdor Kara.
 
Since the end of the first half of 15th century, there is a continual time line marked by gravestones. The last of them comes from 1787, although three years before that the enlightened sovereign Emperor Josef II banned burials inside the city walls out of hygienic reasons. Later Prague Jews used a cemetery in Žižkov, founded in the 17th century because of plague epidemic.
 
During more than three centuries of functioning, the cemetery continually struggled with the lack of space. Piety and respect for the deceased ancestors does not allow the Jews to abolish old graves. Only occasionally the Jewish Community was allowed to purchase grounds to expand the cemetery and so many times it had to gain space in other ways; if necessary, new layer of soil was heaped up on the available area – at certain places the number of layers reaches the number of twelve. Thanks to this solution the old graves remained intact. Their gravestones were either laid over to protect them or elevated to the surface. Therefore one can see today on the cemetery so many gravestones laid out so densely.


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