Completed around 1270, the Old-New Synagogue is Europe’s oldest working synagogue and one of Prague’s earliest Gothic buildings. You step down into it because it pre-dates the raising of Staré Město’s street level in medieval times to guard against floods. Men must cover their heads (bring a hat or take one of the paper yarmulkes handed out at the entrance). Although the synagogue is one of the six Jewish monuments that make up the Prague Jewish Museum, entry is not included in the general admission ticket.
Around the central chamber are an entry hall, a winter prayer hall and the room from which women watch the men-only services. The interior, with a pulpit surrounded by a 15th-century wrought-iron grill, looks much as it would have 500 years ago. The 17th-century scriptures on the walls were recovered from beneath a later ‘restoration’. On the eastern wall is the Holy Ark that holds the Torah scrolls. In a glass case at the rear, little light bulbs beside the names of the prominent deceased are lit on their death days.