Multi-layered Jewish cemetery in Prague
In the past, when the place ended up in the cemetery and there was nowhere to expand, a new cemetery was created by depositing earth on old graves. That is how it happened all the time at the old Jewish cemetery in the Jewish quarter of Prague. Not once, not twice, but all twenty!
Let's see what it looks like right now ...
This cemetery is one of the oldest surviving Jewish burial sites in the world. It was founded at the beginning of the 15th century, the oldest grave dates from 1439 year. The last burial was made in 1787. About 350 years passed between these two graves, and more than 100 thousand people were buried in the cemetery - on top of each other, and so there are twenty layers.
In those days, Jews in Prague were only allowed to land in the Jewish quarter of Josefov. The cemetery was expanded several times, but there was still not enough space. The Jewish faith forbids moving gravestones, and put layers of earth on existing graves, and dig out old gravestones and put them on a new layer of soil. Today, there are about 12 thousand graves.
Here is a story about this cemetery:
Long since the Jews called their cemetery a garden - and this is indeed a garden, albeit a sad and dreary one. Branches of old trees and thickets of lilac bushes shade graves overgrown with grass, and countless gravestones made of Slivenets marble and sandstone. They are carved out in the form of a canopy, gradually fall into the ground, a gravestone next to a gravestone, monuments with numerous words and monuments without inscriptions, a maze of fates, from which only stones remained. They lurch out of old age, the wind and rain have already erased most of the names, and with them the memories, but you can still read on old graves, as if in a book whose author has long been forgotten.
The cemetery was founded in the 13th or 14th century. The Jews transferred here the bones of their co-religionists from the County, as well as from a large burial site, which was located between the present-day Spalen and Yungmanova streets. Stones from this garden of the dead were mounted in the cemetery fence, and the legend tells that these were the gravestones of suicides or people who cursed their parents for giving them life.
Other legends remind that at this place the burial was already under Prince Borzhivoye, long before the founding of Prague, even earlier than Princess Libuse came to Vysehrad.On one of the tombstones there is a date 606, on the others - 941, 979, and under one stone, they say, a woman is buried who died a hundred years before the founding of the Old Place. But wise people recall that one number was missing in Jewish dates - the inhabitants of the ghetto did not designate stones as real dates for fear that the graves would not be devastated by the forces of the Crusaders or during pogroms.
So, probably the oldest gravestone is the monument to Abigdor Kara of April 1439, a famous poet who wrote a psalm about murder and robbery in the ghetto in 1389: “And the graves were dug out, and the bones of long-decayed ancestors were removed from eternal places of rest, gravestones the stones were destroyed, and the graves were razed to the ground ... ”
No one will find out where exactly the first dead was buried in this big sad garden. On the tomb of Joseph, the son of Gaon Yitzchak, it is written that he was well-versed in Scripture, the Mishna, the Talmud and in all books, that he could enumerate all the prescriptions in Turim, was a connoisseur of grammar and poetry, and he had no equal in this country, nor abroad.
And here lies David, the son of Mojish Koref, a butcher, about whom it is written that he supported the Prague orphans, regardless of their faith, and on holidays he distributed to the poor as much meat as his children put together.A little further lies Mrs. Handel, the mother of the Prague poor, who generously supported scientists and invited beggars to her table, distributed linen, clothes and shoes, cared for orphans.
From the others only names remained:
Joshua, the son of Yehuda, the reader, was buried in the year 941,
Shendle, the wife of the scientist Gabriola, died in 979,
Abraham, son of Jacob, martyr
Gedaliah, doctor and manager of the old synagogue
Here are Jewish, German names, not counting Czech from the 16th century: Krasa, Cerny, Sarka, Lyudmila, Slava, Dobrushka, Slavka, Kršesomysl, Itka and Bozhena, Nezamysl, Mnata, Voen and Libuse.
In the old books it is written that the wise Rabbi Shlomo ben Isaac, whose name was RASHI, lived in France. He traveled a lot, was in Italy, Greece, Palestine, Egypt, Persia, until his fate brought him to Prague. Tradition says that he was wise and educated, but it was because of his wisdom that he had many enemies: some of his piety were called hypocrisy, his science was heresy. He was blackened before the powers that be - they claimed that he was posing as a savior, that this fake messiah wanted to bring the Jewish people out of Prague.
Hatred eventually brought its own black fruit - one evening, when the Rabbi was sitting in his room over old books, a hired assassin penetrated to him and pierced his heart with a dagger.But the rabbi’s spouse dripped a few drops of the miraculous balm onto the wound of her husband, the wound healed and Rashi's life returned. To avoid the following attacks, the rabbi buried an empty coffin under a tombstone with his name, while he himself secretly left. His opponents several times removed the name of their enemy from the tombstone, declared a curse on his writings, but people continued to read them, and the name RASHI reappeared on the stone every morning. Only years later, when the Rabbi actually died, his body was buried in the grave intended for him.
There are many stories about the tomb of Rabbi Loew. They had to bury their son next to his parents, but he died in Kolin, where he was buried. Later, his grandson claimed a place of honor next to the rabbi. The co-religionists, however, began to doubt and summon the dead Rabbi Lev to sign if he wanted to. Then the grave expanded, and after the funeral returned to its former size. Another legend tells that, on the contrary, the grave narrowed so that between the grave of the rabbi and the next there was enough space for the next dead man. The new grave was small, because the child rested in it.
On the tomb not far from the grave of Rabbi Lev is depicted a noble coat of arms, under which lies Handel, the spouse of Bashevich - the first Prague Jew who received the noble title. He had the right to mint coins, he served Albrecht with Waldstein. At the end of his life he had to flee from Prague to Mladá Boleslav, he soon died there, and his wife Handel was left alone in the grave. Even this old story is told differently. It is said that the Polish queen rests under the magnificent tombstone of Handel. The king threw her out, and the queen ran out of Poland out of fear for her life.
I got to Prague and found refuge in a Jewish city, assuming that no one there would seek her. Residents of the streets around the Old-New Synagogue accepted her not only because she was defenseless and doomed to wander along roads and off-road, but also for a more practical reason - the queen had the right to mint coins. She lived in the ghetto, they say, happily and calmly. Those who knew her put a marble tombstone above the place of eternal rest, on which a lion in its claws holds a coat of arms with three fields: an average of three stars, and in the side images of a lion. Only instead of her name, the inhabitants of the ghetto hewed differentthey feared that their queen’s compatriots would not, in the future, dig up the body and return it to Poland.
Sources - infoglaz.ru
Translation of Galina Puntusovoy.