28 Sacred Sights
29
Great Synagogue in Plzeň
West Bohemia
Plzeň
In addition to the sheer size of the Plzeň
synagogue, proof that there has always
been a large Jewish community around
the city of Plzeň is the number
of preserved monuments. As elsewhere,
the Jewish population was decimated
by the Nazi occupation in the first half
of the 20th century. Jews lived in Plzeň
in scattered settlements until 1848,
when the modern Jewish Community
was established. In the years 1858–59,
the
Old Synagogue
(Stará synagoga)
was built in the Neo-Romanesque style
according to the new rite. When the
Great Synagogue was built in the years
1888–92, the importance of the
Old Synagogue gradually declined.
Since the autumn of 2013, it houses
an exhibition.
The
Great Synagogue
(Velká
synagoga) is one of the largest in the
world, blending Neo-Romanesque and
Neo-Renaissance elements with oriental
motifs. After the Second World War,
it fell into disrepair and was used only
occasionally. It underwent renovation in
the 1990s and became a cultural centre
of Plzeň.
Near the Old Synagogue in Plzeň
you will find the ruins of the Auxiliary
Synagogue, today the location of the
Holocaust memorial called the Garden
of Memories, built of 2,600 stones with
the names of victims.
Plzeň is a city of beer. Tours of the
brewery and the Brewery Museum
will acquaint you with the mystery
and history of Pilsner Urquell’s unique
brewing process. You will see a film
about beer production in a panoramic
cinema with a revolving auditorium.
Moravia
Třebíč
One of the most important Jewish sites
in the Czech Republic is the preserved
Jewish Quarter in Třebíč, which
is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
It is composed of 116 surviving houses
and two synagogues – the Rear and the
Front. The Rear Synagogue houses
an exhibition on the appearance of the
city in the 19th century. After following
a former cart way, you can also visit
the Jewish cemetery.
In its extent and the number
of preserved buildings, the Třebíč
Jewish quarter is the biggest
in the Czech Republic.
Brno
Before the Second World War, Brno,
the metropolis of South Moravia,
was home to around 12,000 Jews,
who could visit four synagogues. Only
one survives – a Functionalist-style
synagogue by the architect Otto Eisler
dating from 1934–36. It still serves
its original purpose and is the only
one in the entire region. In the
Židenice
(meaning Jewish town) district, there
is a cemetery which was established
in 1852. In its Neo-Romanesque
ceremonial hall, fragments of tombstones
from the Middle Ages are embedded
in the walls. Behind the ceremonial hall
is a Holocaust memorial.
Boskovice
There was also a significant Jewish
community in Boskovice, where
a famous school (yeshiva) and centre
for Talmudic research were in operation
at the turn of the 19th century. In the
mid-19th century, more than one-third
of the population was of Jewish origin.
The local cemetery has more than
2,400 graves. Of the original
138 buildings, 79 are still standing
today, including a school, a spa,
a hospital, a mikveh (ritual bath)
and a Baroque synagogue.
Since 1999, the major Jewish sites
are connected via an educational trail.
Mikulov
Up to 90 surviving Jewish buildings,
of which 45 are designated cultural
monuments, can be found in Mikulov.
From the 16th century until 1851,
this was the seat of the Moravian regional
rabbi. You can follow a kilometre-
long educational trail with stops at 13
important sites in the Jewish district’s
history, ending at the medieval mikveh.
Mikulov occupies a prominent place
on the religious map of Moravia.
This is mainly thanks to Cardinal
František Dietrichstein, who in the
mid-17th century established
an outstanding collegiate chapter
in the city and commissioned the first
Loretto church to be built in the Czech
lands. He also started the tradition
of religious pilgrimages to Holy Hill
(Svatý kopeček) above the town, which
continue to this day.
Mikulov is located in the centre
of Moravian wine country, so there
is also a wine trail with stops in wine
cellars. The region is interwoven with
a network of cycling paths.
In Mikulov, history was made.
On 6 December 1805, four days
after the Battle of Austerlitz, peace
negotiations were opened
at the local chateau. Napoleon himself
slept in Mikulov on his way to Brno
and the Slavkov battlefield in 1809.
In August 1866, a truce between
Austria and Prussia, called the Mikulov
Armistice, was pre-negotiated here
before later being concluded in
Prague. Mikulov is truly a place of
reconciliation.
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