Mikulov

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Educational Path across Jewish Quarter

The educational path across the Jewish Quarter includes 14 stops on an about 1 km long route. Thirteen houses of the former Jewish Ghetto are marked and described in detail. The route passes through the town centre and is connected to the other foot paths for tourists.

Major Houses

  1. Upper Synagogue: Also called the Altschul, original structure dating from 1550, expanded in 1689, and rebuilt after a fire in 1719-23 (probably with the participation of architect J.Ch.Oedtl) with a new Baroque layout, where four cupolas are vaulted into a four-columned pillar in the middle of the hall, forming the pulpit, or almemor. Today it represents the last preserved temple of the Polish or Lwow type in the country. The Tabernacle was the work of sculptor I. Lengelacher. The ceiling vaults are today decorated with stucco, but originally had Hebrew liturgical texts. The synagogue underwent general renovation in 1977-89 as a venue for cultural events. Protected cultural monument.
  2. House, Husova 30. Common house of the Jewish quarter, with Renaissance core and vaulting, rebuilt in Classicism, including the facade, cultural monument. The basic layout and disposition of most of the houses is still Renaissance – this is shown by the cross vaulting on massive stone walls (also see Husova 15, 19, and 42). Houses in the Jewish quarter were marked with Roman numerals I to CLXIX to distinguish them from Christian houses. A commonplace in the ghetto was the so-called condominium, that is, the physical division of the house among several partial owners, both horizontally and vertically – the address number was then subdivided into a, b, c, and so on.
  3. House, Husova 32. Typical Jewish quarter house with what was once a public inner passageway, Renaissance core, courtyard wing with outer Classicist stairway; cultural monument. In the cramped quarters of the ghetto, the inner passageways (usually narrow, vaulted) served to cross-connect the main streets, here from Hlavní=Židovská Street onto Alejní Square. The passage was, alas – as is common today – walled up by its new owner, and it has become part of the house. The ground floor of most of the Jewish houses were used as shops or artisans’ workshops, while the upper floors and courtyard wings served as residences.
  4. House, Husova 48. A former Jewish boys’ school from 1845 to the 1860’s, when the house at Hlavní 28/1082 was adapted for it (existed here until 1919). House with Renaissance core and vaulting, renovated in Classicism (Prussian vaults date from this era), upstairs are wooden beam roofs, restored in 1995 for a pharmacy; protected cultural monument. The Jewish elementary school (cheder) was attended by boys from five years of age, as was mandatory under the Enlightenment reforms of Emperor Josef II in the late 18th century. Instruction was mainly Hebrew, the Torah, and the foundations of Judaism.
  5. House, Husova 50. House with Renaissance core and vaulting and one-columned corner arcade in front, a typical element for finer houses in the Moravian Jewish quarters, where the field of a cross-vault arches over onto one Tuscan pillar. The facade dates from a Classicist renovation; the house is a cultural monument. The streets of the old Jewish quarter were paved with irregular boulders. From the late 17th century the Mikulov ghetto had its own aqueduct and simple sewer system.
  6. House, Husova 52. Former Jewish nursing/old people’s home from the mid 18th century to the end of the 19th century. The house has a Renaissance core and vaulting, later modified; Empire facade. Created by joining two Renaissance houses after a fire in 1784, courtyard wing built in 1824; protected cultural monument. In the courtyard stands the one-time Michelstädter Synagogue, which David Michelstädter built in 1697 for his own private worship. Later it served the residents of the old folks’ home, still later the interior was modified for everyday purposes. An elegant narrow staircase from the court leads up to the former prayer room.
  7. Houses, A. Muchy 18-20. Originally Renaissance buildings with interior vaulting, house no.20 with Art Noveau facade, cultural monument. In the courtyard parts of the two houses are the remnants of the Ashkenazi Synagogue, built in Baroque style by Lazar or Beer Salomon in 1675 for private worship; it was used until the mid-19th century. It was accessible via a hallway from building no.18, and from the courtyard by a stone stairway to the upper floor. The room, measuring about 9x5 m, had a flat ceiling. A remnant of brick and mortar outer walls with a niche for the Torah between two windows on the eastern side, and the stone washbasin of the one-time foyer on the west side still stand. Across the street and over stood house no.104, which bore on its facade the Hebrew symbol for the end or division of a Jewish ghetto – the eruv.
  8. House, Husova 9. Very valuable and picturesque house with Renaissance layout and vaulting (barrel, with cross lunettes), courtyard wing in Baroque. Its facade is adorned with a two-columned entryway arcade. In modern times it has been joined with the neighboring, also Renaissance house no.11; completely restored in 1993-94; cultural monument. Among the notable architectural details of the houses in the Jewish quarter are the stone-profiled door frames, iron-plated doors, and artistically-shaped wrought iron bars: unfortunately there is not even a trace of such characteristic elements as mezuzah, or Hebrew inscriptions.
  9. Hotel Rohatý krokodýl, Husova 8. The aboveground part of the former rabbinate, with corner arcade, was razed in the 1970’s, and a hotel and restaurant built on the site. In the second basement, at a depth of 10.5 m below the level of the street, an extraordinarily valuable monument of medieval origin has been preserved: a round water cistern, probably part of the ritual bath (mikveh). The bath was used by religious Jews – men and women – for weekly symbolic cleansing before the Sabbath. A bust of Alfons Mucha on the facade commemorates the painters’ stay in 1935.
  10. House, Husova 4. Former Jewish boys’ school, house with Baroque disposition and vaults (barrel with lunettes, Prussian vaults), modified after WW II as apartments, cultural monument. Original seat of the Jewish basic school (cheder) from the late 18th century until 1844; then with six classrooms. Later, in 1844-52, a Jewish institution for the deaf and mute was located here, directed by Josua Hirsch Kollisch and teacher Joel Deutsch (the institution was transferred to Vienna in 1852). The neighboring house, Husova 6, has a nice Baroque facade.
  11. House, Brněnská 9. Excellent example of bourgeois Renaissance architecture from around 1590 with original layout, cross vaults, and an inner courtyard with arcaded gallery on the second floor. The Jewish community bought it, with permission from the nobility, in 1798; proceeds from its rental went to the David Oppenheim Foundation for the support of the local theology school (bet ha-midrash). Cultural monument. The mandatory separation of the ghetto from the rest of the town’s buildings was marked by gates (especially in three places), wooden railings, barrier chains, and outer walls.
  12. Ceremony Hall. Sophisticated structure in neo-historical style built in 1898 from designs by famous architect Max Fleischer (1841 Prostějov – 1905 Vienna). After the war the building served for storage; now being gradually remodeled as an art workshop. Cultural monument. A necessary part of any cemetery is the morgue, in the mid-19th century larger Jewish communities were building opulent ceremony halls, where in the main hall last farewells were taken with the dead; adjoining rooms served for the last cleansing (tahara), or as storage of articles, cloakroom, garage for the funeral carriage, and the apartment of the caretaker or gravedigger.
  13. Jewish Cemetery. Spread out over the western slope below Kozí hrádek, this cemetery dates from the 15th century, and was expanded several times to its present area of 19,180 m2. Of the 4000 or so gravestones, the oldest legible one dates from 1605. This extraordinarily valuable cemetery has gravestones in Renaissance, Baroque, and Classicist styles. Their artisanship and rich ornamentation became the model for other South Moravian Jewish cemeteries. On the rabbi’s mound lie the famous Moravian provincial rabbis M.M. Krochmal (d.1637), Sh.Sh. Horowitz (1778), and M. Benet (1829); it is the destination of pilgrims from all over the world. The area also holds memorials to fallen soldiers of the First World War, and 21 Hungarian Jews massacred in 1945. The cemetery is a protected cultural monument.
  14. Mikveh. The medieval mikveh is found on the site of the former Lázeňské náměstí (Bath Square). The Jewish mikveh served for symbolic ritual purification for Orthodox Jews before the beginning of the Sabbath and other Jewish holidays. It was used by women mostly following menstruation, before their wedding and after childbirth.
    The mikveh is described in the Old Testament. Certain rules applied to its construction, meaning that the appearance of the mikveh is roughly the same whether seen in excavations from Biblical times and the few surviving medieval baths in Europe or in new structures.
    The mikveh is, in essence, a brick tank in the shape of a cube located in the basement or ground floor of a house in the synagogue district. 5–7 steps generally lead down to the bottom of the mikveh. The bath has to contain clean natural water, must have an inflow and outflow of water, and must be deep enough for an adult person to be completely submerged.
    The institution of ritual baths must have existed in all Jewish communities in Moravia, with perhaps a number of them in the larger ghettos. The mikveh in Mikulov was discovered by chance during archaeological research ordered before the beginning of new building work inside the town conservation area.
    It was found in the cellar of a residential building, perfectly preserved, with merely a cave-in caused by a collapsed roof. It was estimated to be three hundred years old, which means that it must have been built during the 17th century.
    The mikveh in Mikulov has been preserved thanks to the work of the Association of Friends of Jewish Culture in Mikulov. Mikulov Municipal Authority has undertaken the reconstruction itself, with the areas leading to the cellar and the mikveh itself being repaired and a new entrance to these subterranean areas being constructed. The mikveh has been opened to the public.