Mordechai Maisel, the leader of Prague Jewish community, was the richest Prague citizen in the 16 th century. He reportedly used to lend money even to Emperor Rudolph II. Maisel had done a lot to improve life in Prague Jewish ghetto. He had the streets paved, a poor-house built and many other things done. The Maisel Synagogue was built as his private synagogue, approved by Rudolph II. An exhibition of the Jewish Museum in Prague is situated there nowadays.
Legend about Mordechai Maisel
It is unknown, how could Mordechai Maisel gain so much money. There were legends, that forest sprites brought it to him. He had a small shop in Prague Jewish Quarter and one day an unknown man arrived and left a large chest there. He said he will come back later, but he was never seen again. When Maisel opened the chest after years, he found loads of money there. Mordechai Maisel is buried at the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague Josefov .
Architecture of the Maisel Synagogue
The Maisel Synagogue was built in Renaissance style between 1590 and 1592 by Josef Wahl. Mordechai Maisel donated many valuable ritual objects for it. It was the first Prague synagogue accessible to women. Built on 20 pillars, it was a large and imposing building.
Maisel Synagogue burned down in 1689 and it was rebuilt as a smaller building in Baroque manner. The present neo-Gothic style of the synagogue is from the end of the 19 th century.
Jewish Museum in Prague
During the World War II., Nazis stored works of art from other synagogues in the Maisel Synagogue. They planned to make it an anti-Jewish museum. At the present time, there is an exhibition of the Jewish Museum in Prague, called “History of Jews in Bohemia and Moravia from the 10 th to the 18 th century.”