chapter  3
18 Pages

Temple to town hall

Sacred and secular in Prague’s Jewish town 1
WithRachel L. Greenblatt

In the eyes of its Jewish inhabitants and their Christian neighbours, the Jewish Town of Prague was indeed its own mini-metropolis within a metropolis, featuring more or less clear, though ever porous, boundaries, setting it apart from the larger urban context in which it was embedded. A Jewish merchant mentions Jewish presence in the city in 965. In the following century, Jewish settlements developed around the two castles, but a permanent Jewish presence in the Old Town, north of the Old Town Square, probably dates from the mid-twelfth century. While the Christian civitas sancta derived its sanctity from the presence of relics, for Jewish communities, as Yuval points out, it was the gathering of righteous Jews-holy people-that bestowed sanctity on a particular locale. Known as the 'High Synagogue' for its location on an upper floor, scholars have hypothesized that this hall served as a prayer space for the municipal officials engaged in their work.