Pilsen’s Great Synagogue is the third largest structure of its type in Europe and the fifth largest in the world. In addition, it is the largest synagogue in the Czech Republic, which allegedly could hold as many as 2,500 people. The building, with its Moorish-Romanesque style and decoration of oriental elements, was completed in 1893.
Tour of the Synagogue’s interior:
Due to reconstruction, the Great Synagogue is closed to the public from the 30th of September 2019. Reconstruction is scheduled to end by the 31st of December 2021
Adults CZK 80
Children 10 and younger – free
Children ages 10‒15 CZK 50
Family admission CZK 130
Group admission (starting with at least 15 people):
CZK 70 per visitor
1 2 4 20 41
sady Pětatřicátníků 11
301 00 Pilsen
The story of the Synagogue’s construction
The fate of this imposing structure was troubled right from the beginning. Originally, it was meant to be built in the northern neo-Gothic style as designed by the Viennese architect Fleischer. However, his design was not used in the end. There are two reasons explaining why this happened. The story goes that the governing bodies of the city at that time didn’t like the idea that this new sanctuary to Judaism would cast a shadow on Pilsen’s cathedral. The plans for the towers were shortened by 20 metres and the design changed in such a way to ensure no one would ever mistake the Synagogue for a Christian church. The second explanation is much more prosaic; there simply wasn’t enough money to complete the Viennese architect’s design.
The Great Synagogue today
Pilsen’s Great Synagogue acts as a witness to the rich history of the city’s Jewish community, which was decimated by the Nazis during World War Two. Apart from its religious purposes, the Great Synagogue also serves as both a concert and exposition hall thanks to its great acoustics and unique atmosphere. Currently, reconstruction of the Synagogue’s interior is under way as well as that of the neighbouring rabbi’s home. A newly restored mikveh (a ritual bath used in Judaism) will be featured in the basement area. A special exposition will be dedicated to this new addition.
How is it possible that the Synagogue wasn’t torn down during WW2?
Similar to every country occupied by the Nazis, life inside Pilsen’s Jewish community was brutally hit during the Second World War. A large portion of the community was dragged off to concentration camps, including to the Czech camp of Terezín. During the war, the Great Synagogue wasn’t used for religious purposes, rather it became a storage space for Jewish property and later a workshop for repairing German military uniforms. In addition, the Nazis made use of the Synagogue’s towers as strategic, fortified points of the German garrison.