Turnov Synagogue

The Turnov Synagogue dates back to 1719. It was built as a stone building on the corner section of the Jewish Quarter. Today it is inside a block of houses. The first three wooden synagogues which we know about from historical sources burnt down during the fires in the town in 1643 and 1707.
The first written references to the Turnov Jewish community date back to 1527.

The architecture of the Turnov Synagogue is a typical example of the late Baroque synagogue architecture in Bohemia. The interior layout consists of three parts: the entrance part, which was used as a hallway, the central part serving as a prayer room and the women's gallery. A stone staircase leads to the women's gallery from the backyard. It is original and is sheltered with a slate roof. The wooden gate below the staircase leads to the side courtyard of the synagogue with an impressive statue of Golem, a legendary artificial creature.

The word "synagogue" (Hebrew "bet kenesset") comes from the Greek word for "place of assembly". Unlike the church, the synagogue served not only as a prayer room but also as a place of religious law tuition and public proceedings of the Jewish community took place here. The inner form of the synagogue was dictated by religious regulations. The central place is the tabernacle in which the scrolls of the Torah (with the text of the Biblical Five Books of Moses) were deposited. They were wrapped in a wimpel, overlaid with a mantle, a richly decorated silver or brass plate, and a crown of the same material. Wooden ornaments were placed on wooden scroll holders.

Above the sanctuary there are original wooden tablets of the covenant (Hebrew "luchot ha-brit"). The menorah (seven-lamp lampstand) is also worth seeing.

The synogogal services took place in the Turnov Synagogue until September 1941 when they were banned by the authorities of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. The Turnov Jewish community was transported to Terezín (town-ghetto in Bohemia) on January 16, 1943 and from there on January 20, 1943, to the Oświęcim (Auschwitz-Birkenau) concentration camp in Poland, where its members were murdered.

After the war, the surviving members of the Jewish community sought to resume their activities in Turnov but gradually most of them emigrated and Jewish life in Turnov ceased. From the 1950s to 2003, the synagogue was used as a warehouse. At that time, many thoughtless building modifications were unfortunately made there. In 2003 the synagogue was purchased by the Town of Turnov. Its demanding reconstruction was partly funded by the Norwegian Kingdom from the Norwegian Funds through the EU's Financial Mechanisms with a sum of 280 010 €. The total reconstruction costs amounted to almost 14 million CZK. The reconstruction took place in years 2007 and 2008, since 2009 the synagogue has been regularly open to visitors.