A recently opened temporary exhibit at the Old Synagogue in Krakow’s Kazimierz district illustrates the more than 500-year history of the gothic building, which today serves as the venue for the Jewish history branch of the Krakow Historical Museum — the synagogue itself is the museum’s main exhibit.
Called “The Mainstay of Tradition,” the exhibit, curated by Eugeniusz Duda, opened December 22 and will run until November 30, 2017.
Originally built in the 15th century and remodeled many times, the synagogue is the oldest of the seven synagogues in Kazimierz and also the oldest existing synagogue in Poland. It was looted and devastated by the Nazis during World War II and left a partial ruin. Painstakingly restored in 1956-1959 by the government’s Monuments Preservation Fund, the building was then reopened to house a permanent exhibit of the Judaica collection owned by the Cracow City History Museum. (Before the Second World War, a small museum of ritual objects and other treasure had been mounted in a room of the synagogue building.
Its interior features include gothic vaulting, a late-Renaissance stone ark and Bimah surrounded by an elaborate wrought-iron grille.
The catalogue of the current exhibition features “richly illustrated articles on the Old Synagogue’s architecture, history and social role.”
Studies devoted to archaeological research conducted at the Old Synagogue in 2014-2016 and to systematic presentation of the rabbis of the Jewish Community of Kraków holding offices between the Middle Ages and the 20th century make a useful addition of the knowledge on the history of the monument and the Kraków rabbinate. The book also includes a catalogue of exhibits: paintings and graphic works as well as archaeological items discovered during the research at the Old Synagogue in the past three years.