It is one of the most important examples of Jewish architecture in Europe. The synagogue was most likely built in the second half of the 15th century, although some sources mention 1407 as the year of its construction. It is the oldest monument of Jewish culture in Poland; founded at a time when Czech Jews found refuge in Krakow and its vicinity after the Prague pogrom in 1389. The building was a typically gothic, two-nave hall built of brick and stone. At that time, there were only three such synagogues in Europe. In the second half of the 16th century, a vestibule, a kehilla house and a women’s gallery were added. Unfortunately, in 1557, the fire consumed almost the entire building. However, due to the importance of the synagogue for the Jewish community, it was quickly rebuilt by a Florentine architect Mateo Gucci. The artist kept the previous plan of the building, but gave it a refreshed, renaissance character. The walls of the synagogue were topped with an arcaded attic. Works lasted until 1570, which was commemorated with the builder’s inscription existing until 1942. Several more fires broke out in 200 years, but they did not do much damage. One of the most important events in the history of the synagogue was a speech by Tadeusz Kościuszko, military leader and national hero, which he delivered in 1794. He was urging the Jewish community to participate in the struggle for the freedom of the homeland, as it was the time of the third partition of Poland. Following Kościuszko’s footsteps, the leaders of the Krakow Uprising in 1846 and the Spring of Nations in 1848 also spoke here. The building was renovated at the turn of 19 and 20 centuries. During the II World War valuable liturgical equipment, textiles, silver, archival documents collected over the centuries were taken away, and the candlesticks were taken to Wawel, where they were used as decorations for governor Hans Frank’s apartments. Interiors were destroyed. After 1945 the synagogue was in ruins; its renovation started in 1956. The architects commanding the works restored the original, Gothic-Renaissance appearance of the building. Nowadays it houses a branch of the Krakow Museum.
12 422 09 62