ul. Józefa 38
Poland’s only synagogue with the prayer room upstairs, a feature that earned it its name – Wysoka (High).
The high-reaching supports, buttressing the synagogue’s façade on Józefa Street certainly add to the monumental character of this synagogue. Yet the name is not (at least directly) related to the height of the building, but to the situation of the men’s prayer room on the first floor. It must have been an extension of a somewhat earlier single-storey house already taken over by a commercial establishment. This is how Poland’s only synagogue with an upstairs prayer room originated.
Built in the second half of the 16th century, it was among the wealthiest synagogues of the Jewish city in Kazimierz. The façade features three tall semicircular windows of the 10-metre (33 ft) high prayer room. They provided perfect lighting for the spacious hall covered with barrel vaulting with lunettes and decorated with stuccowork. Early in the 20th century, passages to the neighbouring townhouse were made and a gallery for women opened.
Devastated in the Second World War, it was not overhauled until the 1960s. In 2005 an exhibition on Jewish history and culture was opened to visitors, and three years later the building was recovered by the Jewish Community. Today, the ground floor is home to a bookshop, one of Kraków’s best stocked when it comes to Judaica. Concerts, promotional meetings, and exhibitions are organised here.
Be sure to see:
- the largest and oldest renaissance Aron Kodesh (Torah Ark) preserved in Poland
- money box by the entrance with the traditional “gold, silver, copper” inscription to encourage donations
- fragments of 17th-century polychrome murals
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