ul. Kupa 16 / ul. Jakuba 25
Synagogue closed until further notice, accessible only from the outside!
The most imposing of Kraków synagogues, it was built as a foundation of Izaak Jakubowicz (i.e. son of Jacob, or Ajzyk Jekeles) owing to a request of his wife, Braindla, who in this way wanted to give thanks for the success and happiness of her family.
However, the permit for the construction received from King Ladislaus (Władysław) IV Vasa was protested against by the parish priest of Corpus Christi. For it turned out that priests visiting the Christians living nearby would have to pass by the synagogue while bearing the host, which they wanted to avoid due to a rumour that Jews would be “lying in wait” for it. A diehard merchant himself, Izaak kept on visiting the Bishop of Kraków Jakub Zadzik until his arguments convinced the cleric and he could complete the construction unperturbed (in 1644). The power of the banker’s arguments remained a subject of talks long afterwards.
The only decorative accent on the outside is the baroque portal from Izaaka Street. The two runs of stairs and an arcaded porch leading to the gallery for women, colloquially known as babiniec were added in the 20th century. Inside, our eyes are drawn to the murals showing liturgical texts surrounded by decorations. The oldest dated back to the period immediately after the construction of the synagogue.
The vicissitudes of the time of construction continued also in the further history of the synagogue. During the Swedish Deluge the furnishings were stolen, and later the whole structure was pawned for debts to the Church of St Jadwiga. During the Nazi occupation, the synagogue was turned into a theatrical workshop, where Tadeusz Kantor worked as a set painter. After the war, for a time it housed warehouses, and later sculpture and monument conservation workshops, and the prop room of the Stu Theatre. It was only in 1989 that the building was reclaimed by the Jewish Commune, who returned the interior to its previous splendour.
There is a legend connected to the synagogue: when Izaak Jakubowicz was young and poor, he dreamt of a great treasure hidden under a bridge in Prague, in Bohemia. Once he had reached the place, it turned out to be surrounded by a squadron of soldiers so that any search was therefore impossible. Izaak narrated his dream to one of the soldiers, who laughingly answered that he had a dream that a certain Ajzyk from Kazimierz had a treasure hidden under the oven. Needless to say Ajzyk returned home, took the oven apart, and found a treasure that let him build a synagogue and a bank.
Be sure to see:
- the austere rectangular hall with high barrel vaulting
- an arcaded gallery for women supported on Tuscan columns
- 17-century murals
- Aron Kodesh (the place where the Torah scrolls are stored) with a broken top and relief tablets with the Decalogue
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