Spanish Synagogue (Prague)

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Spanish Synagogue
Basic information
Geographic coordinates 50°05′25″N 14°25′15″E / 50.090278°N 14.420833°E / 50.090278; 14.420833Coordinates: 50°05′25″N 14°25′15″E / 50.090278°N 14.420833°E / 50.090278; 14.420833
Affiliation Reform Judaism
Status Museum
Architectural description
Architectural type Synagogue
Completed 1868

The Spanish Synagogue (Hebrew: בית הכנסת הספרדי‎, Czech: Španělská synagoga, German: Spanische Synagoge) is a Moorish Revival synagogue built in Prague in 1868 to the design of Vojtěch Ignátz Ullmann. The facade copies the form of the Leopoldstädter Tempel, built in Vienna, Austria, in 1853, a tripartite facade with a tall central section flanked by lower wings on each side. As in Vienna, the central section is topped by a pair of domed turrets.

The synagogue is most remarkable for the elaborate style of the interior, every surface is covered by elaborate Islamic-style polychrome and gilded patterns, some painted and some carved or molded.

During the Second World War, the Germans used the building as a repository for property taken from the Jews. The building underwent a restoration in the late 1990s.[1]

The building is owned by the Jewish Museum of Prague, and is used as a museum and concert hall.

Despite its name, the synagogue was never used by a Spanish or Sephardic congregation: it was in fact an early Reform temple. There are two theories to account for the synagogue's name.

  1. The Moorish architectural style may have been found reminiscent of the Golden age of Jewish culture in Spain.
  2. The synagogue was on the site of the city's most ancient synagogue, which may originally have been used by Byzantine Jews. Some awareness of this fact may have given rise to the legend of a historic Sephardic community.

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