It is the oldest landmark of the Prague Jewish Ghetto and it is also the oldest synagogue in Europe that is still used for religious purposes. The beautiful Gothic building was built around the year 1270 and it has survived all the pogroms, fires, sanitation and the holocaust. It has a rather unusual name, Old-New, and it arises from the fact that its original name was the New Synagogue. However, when additional religious buildings were built, for example, the New School Synagogue, they had to come up with another name that would distinguish it from the others. In some historic accounts you can find that it is also called, the Large School.
The synagogue was not just a religious centre but it was also a real centre for cultural and social life. There was a school and also the legal and administrative affairs of the Jewish community were solved here. The building has typical brick gables and on the side of the synagogue there stands low annexes with a foyer and galleries for women. It is interesting that the two-aisles interior is covered by the vault with five ribs. The four ribs would remarkably resemble the Christian cross. Inside the synagogue stands an Almenor, a raised rostrum, over which hangs a banner with a Star of David Jewish Hat. The most sacred place-box for Torah is located on the east side. One of the most important scholars and figures was Jehuda Löw ben Bezalel, better known as Rabbi Löw (1512-1609) who lived during the time of Rudolf II. His chair in the synagogue has the number 1 on it and since the death of Rabbi no one has sat in it. Another important figure that is associated with the Prague Jewish community is a renowned Jewish scholar, Rabbi Landau Jecheskel, better known as Noda bi Jehuda (1713-1793).
The most famous legend connected with the synagogue is the one about Golem. This legend was adapted in literature, films and theatre. The small statues of Golem are one of the most popular touristic souvenirs. The Jews lived in constant danger and they desired a guardian and so, Rabbi Löw built an artificial being – Golem. He then put a scroll with a magic formula – Šém (Shem ha-meforash) into his mouth to bring him to life. One day, the rabbi forgot to take the scroll out of the Golem’s mouth and he wandered out into the ghetto and caused great damage. The Rabbi then put Golem to sleep and hid him somewhere on the land of the synagogue, where he has been resting ever since.