Old Jewish Cemetery – Prague - History and Facts | History Hit

Old Jewish Cemetery – Prague

Prague, Prague, Czech Republic

The Old Jewish Cemetery is one of Prague’s most important Jewish sites, dating back to the fifteenth century.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Old Jewish Cemetery – Prague

The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague is the final resting place of many leading figures of the city’s Jewish community.

Over 12,000 headstones jostle for space in this quiet but pretty graveyard, the oldest of which belongs to the scholar Avigdor Karo and dates back to 1439.

In use until 1787, it is believed that there have been many more burials at the Old Jewish Cemetery than denoted by the headstones, probably layered one on top of the other. Amongst the crowded graves lie those of the creator of the golem, Rabbi Loew (d. 1609) and the former mayor of Prague’s Jewish Quarter, Mordechai Maisel (d. 1601).

Old Jewish Cemetery – Prague

The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague is among the oldest surviving Jewish burial grounds in the world and, along with the Old-New Synagogue, is the most important site in the Prague Jewish Town.

It is unclear when exactly the graveyard was founded. The oldest gravestone, however, is that of rabbi and poet Avigdor Kara, and is dated to 1439.

From the middle of the 15th century, the gravestones record a continuous timeline of burials. The final gravestone is dated 1787: three years before, Emperor Joseph II banned burials inside the city walls for hygienic reasons.

Because of Jewish custom which doesn’t allow for the abandonment of old graves and the fact that the community weren’t allowed to purchase grounds to expand the cemetery, there are a huge number of graves crammed into a relatively small space.

There are around 100,000 bodies buried there, many of which are marked under a many gravestones which denote bodies that have been stacked 12 layers deep. As a result, the surface of the cemetery is raised several metres higher than the surrounding streets.

The oldest gravestones at the Old Jewish Cemetery are plain. More decorated or ornate gravestones date from the 17th century, with symbolism which corresponds to occupation and reputation, and so on.

Old Jewish Cemetery – Prague

There are many famous people buried at the cemetery. It is possible to pay a little extra for an audio guide, and staff there are very welcoming and will answer any questions you might have.

National Geographic list it among the top ten cemeteries to visit in the world.

Old Jewish Cemetery – Prague

From the centre of Prague, the cemetery is a 30 minute walk via Václavské nám. By car it takes around 15 minutes via the Žitná road. There are also a number of connecting bus and tram routes which depart from Prague, Na Knížecí, every 20 minutes or so.


Featured In

Czech Republic Historic Sites

Discover the best historic sites in the Czech Republic, from Austerlitz Battlefield to Prague Old Town Hall and the famous Astronomical Clock.