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Old Synagogue Erfurt

After more than 650 years in hiding, Erfurt's Alte Synagogue has been rediscovered and restored as a monument to the city's ancient Jewish community.

From: Erfurt, Germany

Old Synagogue Erfurt

ABOVE: Erfurt's long-lost Alte Synagogue is once again a local landmark.

Nearly a thousand years ago, in the 11th Century, Erfurt's Jewish community built a synagogue. The building was improved and enlarged over the next 250 years, and by 1300 the synagogue was several stories high with a stone façade and an annex that may have been used as a women's synagogue or a Hebrew school for boys.

In 1349, Erfurt's Jews were killed or driven from the city during the pogroms that had begun in France a year earlier and spread to other European cities. The synagogue in Erfurt was converted into a storehouse, and over the centuries, it was altered repeatedly and surrounded by other buildings.

(According to the synagogue's official history, the building was used as restaurant and a pair of bowling alleys by the late 19th Century.)

 The synagogue's fortunes began to change in the late 1980s, when preservations began researching and documenting the building's origins. A researcher descended between the old synagogue and a neighboring building by rope and found the west façade of the Alte Synagogue, which was nearly intact after more than 600 years.

The city of Erfurt acquired the building in 1998, and restoration began. In 2009, the Alte Synagogue reopened as a museum.

The museum is interesting not only as an historic and architectural monument, but also for the objects that are on display:

  • Jewish marriage ring - ErfurtIn the cellar, you'll find treasures that were buried in the Jewish Quarter before the 1349 pogrom--among them, more than 3,100 coins, 14 silver bars, jewelry, gold and silver tableware, and a spectacular Jewish marriage or betrothal ring (inset photo) that is said to be one of the oldest of its kind in the world.

  • On the main floor, you can see a collection of medieval Jewish manuscripts that, according to the museum's official brochure, "document the highly developed intellectual life of the Erfurt [Jewish] community."

Other Jewish sites in Erfurt include the Small Synagogue (built in 1840), the New Synagogue (opened in 1952), the Mikwe or ritual bath, and several cemeteries.

For more information on these, visit the English-language Jewish Life in Erfurt Web site, which also has a section on the Old Synagogue.

Visitor information

The Old Synagogue is at Waagegasse 8 in Erfurt's historic center.

For admission prices, or to inquire about guided tours, see Erfurt Tourist Information's Old Synagogue page.

To check current hours, phone +49 (0)361 655 16 08, e-mail altesynagogue (at), or ask at the tourist office when you're in Erfurt.

More about Erfurt:
Erfurt, Germany - 9-page travel guide
Erfurt photo gallery - 105 pictures with captions
Augustinerkloster - The monastery where Luther took his vows
German Christmas Markets: Erfurt
Hotel am Kaisersaal

About the author:

Durant Imboden photo.Durant Imboden is a professional travel writer, book author, and editor who focuses on European cities and transportation.

After 4-1/2 years of covering European travel topics for, Durant and Cheryl Imboden co-founded Europe for Visitors (now including Germany for Visitors) in 2001. The site has earned "Best of the Web" honors from Forbes and The Washington Post.

For more information, see About Europe for Visitors, press clippings, and reader testimonials.

Inset photo: Papenfuss / Atelier für Gestaltung.