Mikulov - The Story of Rabbi Loew

The development of Jewish settlements took place rather differently in Moravia than in Bohemia. Following the creation of Jewish communities in royal towns in the 13th century, there was a further wave of migration when the Jews were expelled from Vienna and Upper Austria in 1421. Moravia was nearby so the majority of Jewish families moved there. One of the towns closest to the border was Mikulov and its Jewish community soon ranked among the largest and most important in Moravia.
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When the Jews came to Mikulov they settled in the western part of the area beneath the chateau, buying the surrounding buildings and laying the foundations of an independent Jewish Quarter. The district quickly developed, in part due to the fact that coexistence with the Christian population, apart from minor disputes arising from competition in business, was largely frictionless. The expansion of the Jewish town soon attracted a number of important figures of that period. Chief among them was one of the most famous figures in Jewish history, the rabbi and scholar Judah Loew ben Bezalel, better known as Rabbi Loew or the Maharal.


© Ladislav Renner

He spent a full two decades, starting in 1553, in Mikulov, where he served as provincial rabbi and wrote philosophical-religious treatises. The presence of such a significant personage attests to the importance of the local community, after Prague the second largest in the Bohemian and Moravian lands. However, the Mikulov Jewish community suffered serious blows in the form of two fires at the start of the 18th century that left fewer than 100 of its more than 300 houses standing. Despite this, the Jewish town offers visitors a unique insight into the history of the local Jewish population. The definitive end of the Jewish settlement came with the Nazi atrocities of WWII. In 1938 Mikulov had 472 Jewish residents. Some 110 managed to escape abroad, though 327 died in Nazi concentration and death camps. The Jewish community has never been revived.

Interesting thing

In the recently renewed synagogue, which houses an exhibition dedicated to Rabbi Loew, you can also pick up a brochure containing the biography of an important Mikulov native, the poet, philosopher and journalist Hieronymus Lorm; having gone deaf and blind at the age of 15, he created the Lorm alphabet, a tactile signing system that is still used today in a number of countries. 

Day 1

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The tour of Mikulov’s Jewish town begins at the Upper Synagogue, the last of the Polish type in the Czech Republic. It features an exhibition dedicated to Rabbi Loew and the history of the local community. From there you head south onto Husova St., where several stops await you. At no. 30 there is a dwelling house with a Renaissance core and Classicist façade. At no. 22 you will find a house that previously featured a public passageway. No. 48 formerly housed a boys’ school that was compulsory for the over-fives under a reform introduced by Joseph II; it mainly taught the religious texts the Talmud and Torah in Hebrew and geography, mathematics and ethics in German. The building at no. 50 has noteworthy arches and a corner arcade on the façade, while at no. 52 there used to be a hospice and the courtyard contains the remains of the former Michlštetrovská Synagogue. At the end of Husova, turn left into the street Alfonse Muchy. At nos. 18 and 20 you will find what are known as the Alfons Mucha houses, in the courtyards of which stand the remains of an Ashkenazi Synagogue. Turn back and keep going until you reach the Upper Synagogue. Just past it at no. 9 you will see a building with painted Renaissance arches and a double-columned entrance arcade. A few metres further on, at no. 8, Hotel Tanzberg stands on the site of a former rabbinate. The building’s façade is adorned with a bust of Alfons Mucha, who stayed there in 1935. Metres further along you will come to no. 4, which at one time housed a school for the deaf and dumb. Then head down the street U Staré brány, which leads you to a mikveh discovered in 2006. From there return to Brněnská where at no. 9 you will find another of the unique local houses. Kozí hrádek St. will then lead you to the cemetery. It is home to an opulent ceremonial hall designed by architect Max Fleishcer and the cemetery itself, one of the biggest in the Czech Republic. It contains two monuments and the Rabbis’ Mount, burial place of the most important Moravian provincial rabbis.

Common Tips

You can taste kosher wine, the only such wine produced in Moravia, at Vinařství Dvořáček in the nearby Mikulčice. In 2005, Vinařství Dvořáček – whose production is supervised by the rabbi of Brno’s Jewish community – became the second Czech producer of kosher wine. The firm’s wine is the very first produced in a non-Jewish environment and has been approved for use at Passover, one of the main Jewish festivals.
 

Transportation

Mikulov is 250 km from the centre of Prague. It can be reached by car in approximately two and a half hours. The journey by train or bus takes four hours.

Day 1

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The Upper Synagogue in Mikulov

The Upper Synagogue in Mikulov is part of one of the most extensive Jewish towns in the Czech Republic, at one time home to the second biggest Jewish community in the Bohemian and Moravian lands. It is the only preserved synagogue of the 12 that were built in Mikulov.
 

Address

Husova 13, Mikulov
GPS: 48.8076878, 16.6361017

Opening Hours

Entry fees

Standard fee: 50 Kč

Children fee: 25 Kč

Family fee: 120 Kč

Senior fee: 25 Kč

Student fee: 25 Kč

Municipal educational trail in Mikulov’s Jewish Quarter

The education trail has 13 stops, is roughly a kilometre in length, leads to the centre of the town and connects with hiking trails. It is designed to introduce visitors to all of the important places where what was once the second largest Jewish community in the Czech lands left its mark on the history of this enchanting Moravian town.

Address

Náměstí 1, 692 01, Mikulov
GPS: 48.806933, 16.638381

The Jewish Cemetery in Mikulov

Though it is unclear when the cemetery was established, it must have been soon after the Jewish settlement began, meaning in the middle of the 15th century at the latest. It was expanded several times for lack of space and it is likely that there are layers of graves. Several important Moravian provincial rabbis are buried on the Rabbis’ Mound.
 

Address

Hřbitovní náměstí, Mikulov
GPS: 48.8095908, 16.6367125

Opening Hours

Entry fees

Standard fee: 30 Kč

Children fee: 20 Kč

Senior fee: 20 Kč

Student fee: 20 Kč

Vinařství Dvořáček

The best wine is always produced by small family firms. One such company is Vinařství Dvořáček (Dvořáček Winery), which is run by owner Lubomír Dvořáček from Mikulčiče and his two children. The family have been involved in wine production for several decades.

Address

Vinařství Dvořáček LTM
Mikulčice 607
696 19 Mikulčice
GPS: 48.820840, 17.053159

Galant Hotel

If you are a food and wine connoisseur, the Galant Hotel will be right up your street, as its restaurant offers not only traditional Moravian dishes and international cuisine, but also tasting of the best wines from the region

Address

Hotel GALANT****
Mlýnská 2
692 01 Mikulov
GPS: 48.808418, 16.640897

Hotel Tanzberg

When the legendary Judah Loew ben Bezalel, better known as Rabbi Loew or the Maharal, was a provincial rabbi in Mikulov between 1553 and 1573 this building served as his home. What’s more, a valuable medieval historical landmark – a cylindrical water tank, probably part of a former mikveh – was discovered in the ground deep beneath the house.

Address

Husova 8, 692 01 Mikulov
GPS: 48.808474, 16.636133

Templ

The restaurant at Hotel Templ is founded on a cuisine that combines the classic food of a historic region of a former monarchy with the latest trends.

Address

Hotel Templ
Husova 305/50
692 01 Mikulov
GPS: 48.805256, 16.634496

Galant Hotel

If you are a food and wine connoisseur, the Galant Hotel will be right up your street, as its restaurant offers not only traditional Moravian dishes and international cuisine, but also tasting of the best wines from the region

Address

Hotel GALANT****
Mlýnská 2
692 01 Mikulov
GPS: 48.808418, 16.640897