Located in the heart of the Josefov, Prague's old Jewish ghetto, this cemetery dates back to the 15th century (the earliest tombstone that can still be seen today dates back to 1439) and remained in use until the end of the 18th century. About 12,000 tombstones are crammed in the cemetery, with most showing the wear and tear of time, but it's estimated that at least 100,000 people were buried in the small cemetery. It was the only place in the city where people of Jewish faith were allowed to be buried, and since space was rather limited, archeological research conducted at the Old Jewish Cemetery revealed that there are up to 12 layers of graves in some spots. The cemetery is now part of the Jewish Museum, which I thought was one of the interesting attractions in Prague (and it goes beyond my weird fascination with historic cemeteries!). It's also believed to be one of the most haunted spots in Europe, so I had to laugh when one of my pictures turned out to show a white spot sometimes referred to as an orb, which some people believe to be a paranormal phenomenon.
Just a very interesting place to see, bordering on the macabre. This is a very small place established in the 15th century. Because of space constraints, there are 12 layers of graves here.
That is why the tombstones are so close together.
The Old Jewish Cemetery lies in the Josefov, the Jewish Quarter of Prague in the Czech Republic. It was in use from the early 15th century (the oldest preserved tombstone, the one of Avigdor Kara, dates back to 1439) until 1787. Its ancestor was a cemetery called "The Jewish Garden", which was found in archaeological excavations under the Vladislavova street, New Town.
The Old Jewish Cemetery was facinating! Especially for me, since I work in a cemetery back home. I wandered for about and hour, looking at the different stone carvings. The oldest tombstone, which marks the grave of the poet and scholar Avigdor Karo, dates from the year 1439. Burials took place in the cemetery until 1787. Today it contains some 12,000 tombstones, al though the number of persons buried here is much greater.
I had heard that this is a very popular site, and from a photographer's point of view, morning light is much better for photos--so I made sure and was at the entrance when it opened at 9 in the morning....it was very much worth it as the light over the headstones was luminous and inviting. Not as many folk wandering made for better pix as well....GO EARLY! These are graves stacked on graves----many, many folk buried here on top of others. An amazingly wonderful place to visit no matter what your spiritual vision might be.
My favorite part of Prague was the Jewish Cemetary. It was deeply moving and beautiful. Not being a very religious person I was surprised by how strongly I felt about this part of town. It's hard to comprehend how many people are buried in that small plot of land. It's beautiful. And the rocks that are set on the gravestones are a reminder to respect all different religions. I really liked how in the Synogogue the names of the Jewish families that were captured (or killed, I can't remember), are on the walls and are read on an infinite loop. I thought it was a nice rememberance for what happened.
In the jewish tradition, the cemetery is called "Beith Hajaim" (House of Life), as it is the place where jews remember and respect they ancestors.
The Old Cemetery of Prague, in Josefov, was created in the fifteenth century, when jews were forbidden to be buried in its own quarter.
prague's jewish cemetery was the burial place for prague's jewish community for over 300 years. this small area was the only burial place permitted to jews. because of lack of space people had to buried on top of each other up to 12 layers deep. in this small cemetery there are 12.000 grave stones and it is estimated that 100,000 jews are buried here,
the old jewish cemetery is located in the jewish quarter (josefov) near the old market square. the cemetery is one of the most interesting sites in prague. for over 300 years this was the only burial ground permitted to jews. because of it's small size people had to be buried on top of each other up to 12 layers deep. over 100,000 jews are thought to be buried here.
The Jewish Museum consists of several sights - including synagogues, a ceremonial hall and the most interesting old Jewish cemetary. They won`t allow you to visit the cemetary only, there are only combination tickets for at least about 12 EUR sold. In case you want to take pictures, you have to buy an extra "photo ticket" for about EUR 1,50.
I entered through Pinkas Synagogue, which was used for worship last time in the 1940ies. Now, the names of Czech Jewish Holocaust victims cover it`s walls. Upstairs you`ll se a moving exhibitions of drawings made by children captured in Theresienstadt concentration camp. The names of the little artists are written next to their drawings and you can see from when till when they were in Theresienstadt and if they survived. The drawings show scenes from times before they were deported, their families, but also for example execution scenes :(.
In the ceremonial hall and synagogues you can learn about Jewish culture and ceremonies, see religious items and traditional clothes. Last but not least the cemetary - due to a law that Jews were only allowed to get interred on that little space, there are estimately 100000 corpses buried.
Men visiting the synagogues and cemetary are obliged to cover their head - you can rent kippahs there.
....if one is needed, of what European Jewish ghettoes were about.
The first recorded pogrom here took place in 1096, and Jews were first sent to the area known as Josefov during the twelfth century. Later, the ghetto was walled off. Centuries passed, and more pogroms occurred, but the late 19th century Jews who could afford to were able to move out. In their place came gypsies, the poor, prostitutes and so on, although some Jewish families remained.
In use from the fifteenth century until 1787, around 100 000 are buried there because that was how it had to be; Jews were buried within the ghetto. Soil was brought in so that they could be properly buried; that's why the cemetery appears to have a hill in the middle. The graves are up to twelve layers deep.
It makes a strong impact, this overcrowded space. Look at the gravestones.........these were beloved people, the designs on some gravestones telling of names or occupations. Their overcrowding in death ironically reflects their overcrowding in life.
Some graves have stones placed on them for remembrance, one or two (Rabbi Low, Mordechai Maisel) are larger and clearly mark the place of an important man.
But all were human beings, and it behoves us to remember that.
The cemetery is accessed via the Pinkasova synagogue. A ticket (which covers all buildings in what is known as the 'Jewish Museum' apart from the Old/New Synagogue) costs 300Kc.
The Old Jewish Cemetery is quite an interesting place with its mish-mash of grave stones the result of continued digging and burying in the same site. Some areas are said to be over 10 layers deep.
Entrance is via the Pinkas synagogue or for a free look head around the corner to listopadu street where there is a door with a grating you can see through which is big enough to take photos too.
The Jewish Cemetery is the oldest in Europe in use from 1439 to 1787. During this period, the Jewish residents of the ghetto had only this cemetery and there are believed to be up to 200000 buried there. Because of the limited space, the graves are layered up to 12 deep and gravestones are bunched tightly together at ground level. Two of the most famous tombs are for Mordechai Maisel and Rabbi Loew.
Items of importance --------
1 - while walking through this holy place, the head should be covered. Anything including a baseball hat will do and paper skullcaps are provided for those without. These can be bought for a few crowns.
2 - photography is allowed here.
3 - on the back of the paper handout received when buying your ticket is a map of the cemetery with numbers depicting the most famous tombstones, including the first (poet Avigdor Kara and the last (Moses Beck).
One tip on VT suggests saving the few hundred florints for admission and just shooting pictures through the open fence. I disagree - this is one of the most spiritual places I have ever visited. This ground is permeated with history and faith and imparts special feelings of respect and awe.
My images and legends travelogue contains additional images, as well as legends of the Jewish community and further more detailed discussions of this most special place.
Walking along the path of the cemetery is easy to find pebbles and tickets of prayers supported on the graves. Among the most interesting graves there are the ones of the sixteenth century and those of Hendela Bassevi and of the rabbi Low.
One of the places of great suggestion and interest in the Jewish district are the old Jewish cemetery. It was built in the begin of the fifteenth century and it is still the most ancient Jewish cemetery existing in whole Europe, even if it was closed in 1787. To its inside you can see 12000 headstones the one against the others, but under them there were around 100000 burials systematized to layers. The most important graves are served as two marmoreal plates overhung by a kind of roof.