Josefov, also known as the Jewish Quarter, is a small barrio of Prague, Czech Republic. The area is represented by a flag with a yellow Star of David on a bright red background. The rich history, heritage and modern significance of this town quarter is profound, thus the area is carefully preserved and protected. Given that the Jewish Quarter is well over seven centuries old, its present appearance still holds a vivid testimony of the events and lifestyles of its early days.
It is estimated that Jewish settlement in Prague started as far back as the 10th century, but by the 1200’s Jews were prohibited from settling anywhere else. They were ordered to set up house within the constrained locality of Josefov. Over time, there was an influx of settlers as Jewish movement and trade was repressed to this neighborhood that was dubbed the Prague Jewish Ghetto. Lack of a refined architectural design and limited resources resulted in gray disheveled houses with narrow streets.
Between 1893 and 1913, most of Josefov was demolished in an effort to develop a more upscale township. Only six synagogues, a cemetery and a town hall were left. Rather than pulling down these structures, they were salvaged for the sake of consolidating, preserving and displaying Jewish artifacts. Numerous remodeling efforts have almost concealed most of the original run-down façade, but the history is kept alive.
The Jewish Quarter is one of the best preserved regions of Jewish heritage in Europe with a myriad of historical sites. The six synagogues include Klaus, Maisel, Pinkas, Spanish, Old New, and the High synagogue. The Old New synagogue in particular is famed for its pristine 13th-century gothic style, original furnishings and stonework. The Old Jewish Cemetery on the other hand is the oldest surviving Jewish graveyard in all of Europe. What is left of the Josefov area paints a vivid picture of the history of the Prague Jews.