Prague Minos Guide

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Old Jewish Cemetery

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A world unique cemetery with an incomparable character
Significant photo
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The old Jewish cemetery is a renowned site in the Jewish quarter in Prague. Numerous prominent personalities are buried there, two of its most significant ones being Mordecai Maisel and Rabi Löw.
Nobody knows exactly when the cemetery was founded and scholars keep arguing about various possible dates. Gelasius Dobner held the theory that the Jewish cemetery is connected to the original Jewish settlement and that it was hence established at some point in the 10th century. A cemetery is mentioned for the first time in documents from the 13th century in the Privilege granted by Premyslid Ottokar II, which dealt with the status of the Jews in Bohemia. The fact is however such that it is impossible to prove what cemetery the Privilege was referring to, but it was probably the so-called Jewish Garden, the second oldest Jewish cemetery. The prevailing theory today is that the old Jewish cemetery was established in the early 15th century and the

first noteworthy tombstone was that of the poet Avigdor Karo in 1439. The cemetery was established on the highest site of the Prague Jewish town and as a consequence of the numerous burials, the Jewish community had to keep buying new plots to counter the lack of space. This took place in the course of the 15th through the 18th centuries, with the last tombstone placed in the cemetery in 1787.
The Halakhah prohibits any disrupting of the graves, so the lack of burial space in the old Jewish cemetery resulted in the superposition of layers. The existing graves were covered with a layer of soil and a new layer of graves could be formed. The result of this method is that in some parts of the cemetery there are up to 12 layers of graves. It also resulted in the cemetery’s unique conglomeration of gravestones. The tombstones are very richly decorated and the cemetery hence represents an exceptional monument in the Jewish Museum of Prague.

GPS: 50° 5′ 24.01″ N, 14° 25′ 1.65″ E

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