The Origins of the "Spanish Synagogue" of Prague
By Ivan Kalmar
This is an unfinished draft paper. Please do not quote or refer to without the author's permission. Asterisks indicate some of the places where work is still to be done: information needs to be verified, footnotes need to be supplied, etc. Footnotes and special Czech or German characters may not show up correctly on your browser. The transcribed German originals in the Appendices need to be edited for errors. Please address any comments or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
One winter day in 1959, an excited team from the Prague Jewish Museum entered the former "Israelite Temple of Prague," which had just been turned over to the museum by the Ministry of Health. The new caretakers had only seen the synagogue from the outside. It is a measure of the tragedy of Prague Jewry that no ex-member of the Temple, no family memories had remained from the once flourishing community, to prepare the visitors for what they were to see as they turned the key to the desolate building. They switched on a light inside and "lived a surprise."
The "balanced proportions," and especially the fading arabesques that covered every inch of wall space, astonished the visitors. Peaceful and meditative in spite of its rich "oriental" decoration, the synagogue interior makes an impact that exceeds that of its handsome façade. Completed in 1868 to replace the historic Altschul (the Old Synagogue, once the city's oldest), this is an important example of the early phase of Moorish style synagogue building, which held sway from the eighteen-fifties to the mid-eighties of the nineteenth century. In terms of the social history of Prague Jewry, this was the synagogue whose membership included some of the wealthiest and best regarded families in the city. (Among them was the Brandeis publishing family, which had an impact on both sides of the Atlantic. In America, it produced Louis, the prominent American scholar, judge and philanthropist.) The congregation played an important role in the annals of the Reform movement. Leopold Zunz officiated as its rabbi in 1835, when the Altschul was still standing. While the new Temple was contemplated and then built, the congregation's rabbi was the orientalist scholar and writer, Saul Isak Kaempf, author of a standard prayer book used for decades not only by the Temple but by many other congregations.
At last, in 1998, the Temple, now referred to as the "Spanish Synagogue," has been restored to a visual prominence worthy of its artistic and historical importance. Late in that year, the Jewish Museum completed an extensive restoration. Because of their splendid work, the "Spanish synagogue" soon became a major landmark on the thickly traveled tourist itinerary of "Jewish Prague." The increased visibility of the building will, it may be hoped, help it to reclaim the attention it deserves from the scholarly community. For in spite of its relatively recent age (in terms of Prague synagogues), the Temple's history is rather a mystery. My objective is to present a revisionist account of its origins, based principally on primary sources that have not to date been discussed in the literature.
The received contention regarding the origins of the Temple is that it was designed by the architect Ignác Ullmann. This is based essentially on a pamphlet on the Temple's history written by a congregation member, Wilhelm Klein, and published in 1937. Klein's pamphlet, however, is rich in errors. The primary sources reveal that Ullmann did produce a plan for the Temple in 1864, but the community did not go ahead with it. A new plan was worked out in 1867, and it was this that was used to construct the actual building. Klein, who thought that only one plan had existed, confounded documentary information available to him regarding the first and the second plans. It is his confusion that led to the Ullmann attribution. In fact, however, no documented evidence exists to establish Ullmann's role as the architect of the second plan, which alone was used to build the synagogue.
If not Ullmann, then who designed the "Spanish Synagogue"? A definitive answer will have to await further research, and may never be established. The available evidence points to another major Prague architect, Josef Niklas, or even the construction supervisor, the builder-architect Jan Bělský.
Even the synagogue's current name presents a puzzle to the historian. The term "Spanish synagogue" does not appear in written sources until after the Second World War.
The stock explanation of the label is that "the Moorish and Iberian architectural features give the synagogue its name".
This conclusion is untenable on philological grounds. In spite of the literal meaning of "Moorish," the term actually applies to a Western, romantic reworking of Islamic models, and draws its inspiration from Egyptian, Turkish, Persian, and Mogul models as well as Iberian ones. At the time of construction, in Bohemia and throughout the world, "Moorish style" has also been termed "Arabian," or (although erroneously) "Byzantine." A contemporary observer would have used one of these terms; but "Spanish" - never.
An international survey of synagogues would quickly turn up that "Spanish" synagogues there are, but they are so called, not because of their style, but because of the Iberian origins of their congregation. There is nothing Moorish in the appearance of the Sinagoga Spagnola of Venice, or the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of Philadelphia. For until fairly recently, the terms "Spanish," "Portuguese," and "Spanish or Portuguese" were used, in a Jewish context, to refer to the Sephardim.
The appellation "Spanish" was without a doubt given to the Prague Temple for the same reason: it was believed that it had a Sephardic congregation. In this case, however, the belief regarded a mysterious original congregation, which by the nineteenth century had supposedly been supplanted by an Ashkenazic one. Putík and others have demonstrated the falsehood of the *** that are at the origin of the legend of a Sephardic presence in medieval Prague. The well-known late nineteenth-century history of Prague Jewry by Podiebrad, which posits the "Spanish" presence is based on the forgery as well as on some other, equally shaky arguments. For example, Podiebrad points out that at one time the Prague community's leaders included men with names like Josef Neapolis and Abraham Paduensis. These names, of course, indicate Italian rather than (necessarily) Iberian descent. One might add that in 1867 the Prague Jewish community president that attended the building permit hearing for the Temple bore the Italian surname of Tedesco. (Ironically, this means "German" in Italian or, in the Jewish context, "Ashkenazi.")
The likely reason why the Altschul (and not some other site) is believed to have housed the legendary Sephardic community is its location. That the synagogue is at some remove from the core of the Jewish Town is mentioned in most of the accounts of the synagogue's purported Sephardic past. August Stein wrote in the Czech-Jewish Calendar of 1892-93 that
Just as the Old-New Synagogue [the oldest synagogue in Prague then and now] takes first place among the Prague synagogues due to its age, so the new temple in Dušní Street belongs among Prague's foremost synagogues in terms of its wealth and modern execution. At the place where it now stands there had already been a synagogue in earlier times, perhaps even in the twelfth century. By all accounts there was here a separate, foreign Jewish community, of Spanish or Portuguese origin, living in places that to this day belong to Josefov [the Jewish quarter] but which were separated from the rest of Josefov by Dušní Street. Until recently, this area formed a separate territory, provided with two gates. Consequently, what is now Altschul Street formed a courtyard in which, as elsewhere in Jewish Town, there was a military watch.
The synagogue was indeed surrounded by Christian-owned buildings, including the Church of the Holy Spirit. Matters should not be exaggerated, however. The rest of the Jewish Quarter was only a few steps away across Dušní Street. The wall, gate, and watch - the latter was manned by Gentiles - were meant to "protect" the users of the intervening Christian buildings from having to endure the sight and sounds of the Jews. It must be admitted that the masonry surrounding the Altschul quarter did, nevertheless, single it out as a separate area. But it does not follow that because it was separate it housed Jews with a distinctive ritual background.
The legends of the Altschul's Spanish connection dates back to before the completion of the Temple in 1868. Podiebrad's comments were first published in 1870, but originated earlier than that. Nevertheless, Podiebrad did not refer to the Temple as the "Spanish synagogue," but as the "Temple of the Contemporary Rite."
The term "Spanish synagogue" only became established following an article, published in 1961, by Olga Hrebenková. Hrebenková used the term Španělská synagoga in her title, but pointed out that at the time the term "Portuguese Synagogue" was also used. If so, then there could be no doubt whatsoever that it is wrong to seek the origin of the term "Spanish synagogue" in the Temple's appearance. No one could argue that a rational observer would find Portuguese features in the synagogue's architecture. After it became current, of course, the term "Spanish" probably has been getting some reinforcement from the building's Moorish features. But those features do not explain its name.
Explaining the Temple's name by its architecture was undoubtedly a pedantic attempt to avoid referring it to the "Sephardic legend." It was felt that since the legend is false a name that is based on it would be "wrong."
A likely reason why the term "Spanish Synagogue" gained such currency is to be found in the politics of the torturous Czech-German relationship. The Temple did not have a proper Czech name before World War II. As Prague's first Reform congregation, the primarily German-speaking founders of the Temple were the first in town to call their synagogue a Tempel, in conformity with the practice noted by Heine in Hamburg as early as 1844:
Die Juden teilen sich wieder ein
In zwei verschiedne Parteien;
Die Alten gehn in die Synagog',
Und in den Tempel die Neuen.
The official name of the Temple varied, with Der Tempel des Vereins für geregelten Gottesdienst der Israeliten one of the very common ones, but for short it was called Der Tempel zu Prag. Its informal name became simply Der Tempel. Even after other Tempel were established, such as the Kaiser Franz Josef I Jubiläums-Tempel on Jerusalem Street (1906), the term der Tempel continued in use to refer to the "Spanish synagogue," following a practice that was by then well established.
In Czech, the informal name of the synagogue was templ, a direct borrowing from German. This would not to do for the post-World-War-II campaign to rid Czech life and the Czech language of anything German. (At the Jerusalem Street synagogue, the stained glass windows display dedications - some in Czech, some in German - commemorating donors. The German-language inscriptions were blotted out with black bands like those that cover offending body parts in pornography ads.) A simple translation of Tempel would not do. Unfortunately for the patriotic language engineers, for Tempel the Czech language has "chrám." The word "chrám" however, unlike the German "Tempel" or the English "temple," is not reserved for non-Christian places of worship. It applies also to Christian cathedrals. Consequently, in Czech pražský chrám can mean not only "Prague Temple," but also "Prague Cathedral." In the "city of a hundred spires" this expression could hardly be reserved for the temple on Dušní Street. An alternative was required, and so it was that the nickname, Španělská synagoga, "Spanish Synagogue," became the official designation.
In English, though, there is no harm in referring to the building as the Prague Temple. This is more indicative than "Spanish Synagogue" of the historical context In the two other major capitals of the Habsburg Empire, the Reform congregations had already built, with the official sanction of the secular and the Jewish authorities, flagship Moorish style synagogues called Tempel. To the Wiener Tempel and the Pester Tempel was proudly added, in 1868, the Prager Tempel. The same year witnessed the completion of the first Reform "temples" built in America: the Plum Street Temple of Cincinnati and New York's renowned Temple Emanu-El. (This Temple Emanu-El was not the current synagogue, but an earlier, Moorish building. It was built by Leopold Eidlitz, a native of Prague.) The New Temple of Berlin was not yet two years old.
It is not an overstatement that since World War II nothing written on the Temple is based on primary sources, and not much is based on primary sources before that.
The literature gives, as the Temple's architect, either Josef Niklas (1817-1877) or Ignác Ullmann (1822-1897); often Ullmann is said to have been the principal architect, assisted by Niklas, with the latter perhaps the supervising architect.
The Niklas attributions can be ultimately traced back to an obituary in the Prague German daily, Bohemia, and to a single sentence in a detailed guide to Prague's buildings, published in 1903, by a František Ruth.
Ullmann enters the literature much later. Until 1960, the only place he figured as the Temple's architect was the above-mentioned amateur history by Wilhelm Klein. Klein's 1937 pamphlet deals with the history not only of the "new" Temple, as it was called for a long time after its construction, but also of the Association that built it on the site of the Altschul. Its merit is that it is in fact largely based on primary sources. Unfortunately, these sources (the Temple's archive) have not been located. Klein reproduced some important documents, now lost, verbatim, and this is where the value of his contribution is the greatest. Unfortunately, he did not always reproduce documents in their entirety, nor did he necessarily make it clear when he was quoting and when he was using his own words. As we shall see, his transcriptions were often imprecise, the result either of simple error, or of an effort to edit the documents so that they would show a version of the events that made sense to Klein. Such sloppiness is surely excusable for the amateur that Klein was. Unfortunately, it did confuse the record and misled investigators who based their judgment more or less entirely on his booklet.
It was Hrebenová who rediscovered the Klein pamphlet in her above-mentioned article in Židovská Ročenka, and revived the Ullmann attribution (whose plans Niklas was said to "develop" further). From then on, her position has been accepted and repeated by almost all articles on the synagogue and is standard in guide books. Still, even today it is not that case that all those who may be concerned attribute the Temple to Ullmann. A comprehensive exhibition on Ullmann's work, organized at the Prague Technical University in 1994, completely ignored even the possibility of Ullmann's involvement.
The issue can only be resolved by referring to sources contemporary with, and directly related to, the building of the Temple. Such primary sources do exist in Prague, though they have never been discussed in the literature before the commencement of this study. In the building archives of the City of Prague, District 1, there is a number of documents associated with the building application, including the plans for the Temple. The archive of the Magistrate of the Capital City of Prague has the official proceedings of the building committee. The Jewish Museum of Prague has a smallish archive on the Temple that is quite useful. The Museum also has the protocols of the Jewish Community executive, where the building plans were discussed and approved.
In the light of these sources, the hypothesis of Ullmann's involvement may be compared to two alternative hypotheses: that Niklas did not simply aid Ullmann but was in fact the sole architect of the Temple, and that the Temple was designed as well as built by its contractor, Jan Bĕlský. I examine each hypothesis in turn.
Requesting Permission to Build: 1864-1867
Ullmann had been baptized Ignatius Adalbertus, and normally referred to himself as "Ignaz." Such a German name would not do, however, for some Czech nationalist historians (specifically, F. X. Harlas), and so, some time after 1900, they began to promote the Czech equivalent of his German middle name (Adalbert): Vojtěch. Thenceforth the architect has been typically referred to as "Ignác Vojtěch," and often even as "Vojtěch Ignác." (It was forgotten that Ulmann did, apparently use a Czech name on occasion, but it was the Czech equivalent of Ignaz, "Hynek.)
Confusion has rained also regarding the architect's surname. The older publications refer to him as Ulmann, but he seems later to have acquired a second "l". In this case, however, the "modern" spelling is the correct one: the architect's signature quite clearly uses two "l's."
The spelling confusion is an indication of the degree to which the once celebrated architect became forgotten in his old age. No obituary announced his death in such major Prague papers as Bohemia or Národní Listy, or in the architecture trade magazine, Zprávy spolku architektů a inženýrů. (All three were in the habit of reporting the deaths of major architects.) An obituary in the Horymír, the local paper in Příbram, devoted much of its space to the kindly manners of the old man who retired in the provincial town. Among his architectural achievements, the paper referred specifically only to his work in Příbram and unsuccessful proposals for the Prague National Theater and for Vienna's city hall.
The memory of Ullmann - as Vojtěch - was eventually revived perhaps because of his portrait by the celebrated nationalist painter, Josef Mánes. The architect began to be pictured as a Czech patriot, zealously beautifying his beloved capital. The neo-Renaissance masterpieces he built were seen as distancing the city from the Habsburg-sponsored Counter-Reformation architecture, which so heavily defines its historic landscape.
In actual fact, Ullmann's role, if any, in the Czech national movement was hardly remarkable. In his prolific oeuvre Ullmann applied and developed ideas he had learned in Vienna as a student of van der Nüll and Siccardsburg. It is quite true that he was quite programmatic in his preference for the neo-Renaissance. But this style is probably better seen, in Prague as elsewhere, as an icon of the ascendancy of the nineteenth-century urban bourgeoisie, rather than of the Czech national revival - much as the two things were related. Fittingly, it was a bank building that introduced the new style to the city. The German-speaking leadership of the Bohemian Savings Bank entrusted the building of their new headquarters to Ullmann and to Bělský, a duo who had already worked on the cathedral of Karlín. For the bank, Ullmann designed a palazzo (1858-1862), with a façade reminiscent of St. Mark's Library in Venice. Subsequent Ullmann buildings were equally decisive for the appearance of nineteenth-century Prague. His preference for massive windows with round arches, his own version of the then fashionable Rundbogenstil, is evident in the Girl's Normal School, whose façade bears a certain resemblance to that of the Temple.
By asking such an accomplished local architect to give them a design for their new Temple, the Association for Regulated Worship among the Israelites (Verein für geregelten Gottesdienst der Israeliten) intended to impress the community, the city - and the building commission. Yet, I shall argue, while Ullmann did agree to provide them with a design, it was not he who was to give shape to their new Temple.
The following is the crucial section of Klein's manuscript that mentions Ullmann's alleged role in the building of the Temple. In my translation, I have attempted to preserve the odd grammatical constructions and other apparent errors. Swinging abruptly back and forth from the telegraphic to the bureaucratic, Klein evidently mixes his own summary with bits of original text. Building Style
Moorish, or at any rate Byzantine. The exterior should correspond to the dignity of a House of God. Windows onto Spirit Street are required, if the lights through the side windows do not suffice, the same should be achieved through a dome from above, without, however, allowing the acoustics to suffer. (…)
Architect Ullmann should complete the required situation plan and detailed plans (Detailpläne) and fix the amount of the honorarium. On March 14, 1867, Johann Bělský contracts with the Executive Committee of the Association for Regulated Worship to complete the construction of the Israelite sanctuary (Temple no. 141-142/5) that has been entrusted to him, according to the plans provided by the Commission and according to the cost increase prepared and signed by him, namely in the amount of 42,000 guilders.
The development of the plans was entrusted to Prof. Niklas of the Technical University of Prague, and the realization of the construction to Architect Bělský.
Clearly, the passage about Bělský's contract (emphasis added) is excerpted from some document. Klein had given a detailed account of the history of the Association earlier in the pamphlet. Were he writing this passage in his own words, he would not at this stage have felt a need to name it in full officialese; nor would he have chosen to introduce the number (141-142/5) of the building in this context; and he would not have changed from the past to the present tense.
In addition, he made a crucial transcription error. His text reads:
Johann Bělský verplichtet sich am 14. März 1867, dem Vorstände des Vereines des geregelten Gottesdienstes den ihm übertragenen Bau des isr. Bethauses (Tempel No.141-142/5) nach dem kommissionell gefügten Plane … auszuführen.
Klein had evidently tried to make sense of the documents he was reading by implying that a Temple commission asked Ullmann to prepare a Moorish or Byzantine design, and then supplied the plans to Bělský. Consequently he uses the phrase kommissionell gefügt ("provided by the Commission"), which, in the face of evidence not consulted by Klein, is erroneous. Deliberately or not, Klein wrote kommissionell gefügt in place of kommissionell geprüft, or "examined by the Commission," which, without a doubt, was the phrase used in the original document that he was copying from. Klein was thinking of a Temple commission. But we know that on March 14, the very same date that, according to Klein, Bělský signed his contract, the city Magistrat issued a permit to build the Temple. The standard phrase for the approval of building project by a municipal building commission (called Lokalcomission) was kommissionell geprüft. And indeed, the plans and other documents preserved in the building archive of Prague 1 are severally marked kommissionell geprüft. They note that the Localcommission examined (geprüft) and approved the application on March 8, 1867, instructing the Magistrate to issue a permit, which it did six days later. The commission mentioned in whatever document Klein was copying from was the city's Localcommission, and not the building committee of the Temple.
When Klein cut and pasted, he did not always paste in chronological order. The passage about Niklas and Bělský comes on the tail of the report on the Bělský contract. But there would be no need for Niklas to "develop" (ausarbeiten) the plans after they had already been approved by the building committee. The committee would have required detailed plans before it could rule on them. Its proceedings (see Appendix 2) clearly record discussion of structural engineering and safety standards.
One might object that what Niklas was asked to develop were only the working plans for the construction workers, after the architect's plans were basically complete. Why, however, the Temple would have asked Niklas to do this for Bělský is a mystery. The latter, a builder of great reputation as well as an architect, was perfectly capable of doing so himself, as we shall soon see. The passage about Niklas developing Ullmann's plans most likely belongs before the text on Bělský's contract. It might be saying that Ullmann designed the first plans, Niklas developed them, and then Bělský was given the contract to actualize them. This, of course, does not challenge the Ullmann attribution; on the contrary, it accords well with the standard history of the Temple, which I am contesting here.
The two building applications
The Ullmann attribution becomes questionable only when one considers an essential fact that has escaped both Klein and subsequent commentators. There have been not one but two building permit applications. One was heard on November 11, 1864. Although the permit was granted, building did not proceed. The Temple community came back with another application (the one resulting in a contract for Bělský) in 1867. It is this second permit that the congregation used to build the synagogue.
The first building application was signed by Ullmann ("Architekt"). The contractor was to be Franz Havel (signed on as "Baumeister") and not Bělský. The second application, on the other hand, did not carry Ullmann's signature. It was signed, in addition to community representatives, only by Bělský ("Baumeister"). The building plans for the first application have not been found. The plans and other documents for the second application carry, in addition to the signatures of the community representatives, only that of Bělský.
If architects always signed their plans and building committee applications to realize those plans, then we could immediately conclude that Ullmann prepared the first design, and Bělský the second. Unfortunately, our task is not as easy as that. In Prague as elsewhere, architects did not always sign their plans. True, Ullmann did sign in on the first application and was present at its hearing. The second time around he not only did not sign and did not come - he was not even invited. But still, he might have prepared the second project and then simply decided to play a less active part in the permit procedure.
There are, however, other reasons to exclude Ullmann as the architect of the definitive design. We have no plans, but we do have a verbal description of the original Ullmann design, coming from the 1864 building committee proceedings. This can be compared with the same taken down during the 1867 hearing, as well as the actual plans signed by Bělský. The two projects were very different.
The original Ullmann project (Appendix 2) envisions an octagonal building topped by a dome. It appears that the dome was to repose, not directly on the octagonal wall structure, but rather on an eight-cornered supporting structure, and the entire roof, including the dome, was to be covered with shingles. In the words of the building committee proceedings, it was proposed
… to build a new synagogue building with an octagonal ground plan … The new synagogue should be built according to the said ground plan and provided with two projecting additions in front ** RW with ref. to German original (Risalitenachtig?), which comprise the entrances to the synagogue and two side staircases; on the upper floors they shall also include some additional elements.
The current synagogue also has two entrances, each with an entrance to the men's area on the main floor and a staircase to the women's gallery upstairs. However, in the actual Temple these side staircases are built one each side of a rectangular building inside genuine Risaliten, and not, as was proposed in the plans signed by Ullmann, in front of an octagonal structure. Moreover, the current building has one gallery, while the original plan foresaw two galleries. (The recording secretary at the proceedings curiously referred to these as Chören, i.e. "choirs." The error came from a misunderstanding of Jewish worship. The secretary was probably told that the galleries are where the choir would be, but not that they were to accommodate the female congregants.)
Leading to both synagogue entrances are wide and comfortable, freestanding stone staircases, on whose sides are placed the steps into the cellar. Both side staircases shall be freestanding (freitragend) … and made of stone, and leading up to the second choir (sic). (…) From the same, entry to the choirs shall be gained via their own entrance halls (mittelst eigenen Vorzimmer). (…)
The synagogue itself shall be supplied around [its perimeter] with two choirs, one superimposed over the other; and it shall be provided with a domed upper structure, which latter is to be constructed over eight strong stone [pillars] and six weaker, narrower pillars, also made of stone and attached to the main pillars. The superposed dome structure shall be attached (verspannt) to each of the eight corners with strong, arched ribs. [This structure] shall be extremely carefully constructed, anchored fast with iron [?] and thus united into a solid Whole. The domed roof …, it is proposed, shall be covered with tiles, and likewise the rest of the sides of the roof (Dachseite) of this building shall be covered with tiles.
Ullmann may have seen or known of the plans for the Oranienburg Street Temple of Berlin, completed two years later in 1866, whose roof prominently features a large structure topped by a 50 m high dome. But the Prague architect's design is, primarily, evidence of his Italianate tastes and historicist education. The Berlin dome was covered in zinc, with gilt external ribs - its resemblance to the dome of the Royal Pavilion of Brighton has been frequently noted. It rested on a twelve-cornered structure. The tiled dome proposed by Ullmann is more reminiscent of Renaissance structures such as Brunelleschi's famed cupola on the Florence duomo. Near that cathedral stands the octagonal baptistery, which may have inspired Ullmann's concept of a tall, octagonal synagogue. The baptistery also has an entrance extension that may have suggested to Ullmann his concept of synagogue entrances from "projecting additions." It is impossible to tell, from the scant description provided by the proceedings, whether Ullmann was influenced by these well-known sites on Florence's Piazza del Duomo. (It is not clear, for example, if the Temple's "ribs" were to be inside or outside the building, or what is meant by the "rest of the sides of the roof.") But it may be permissible to speculate that, having impressed his contemporaries with a free-style adaptation of Venetian renaissance architecture (in the above-mentioned Bohemian Savings Bank building), he was now ready to interpret something of renaissance Florence. Alternatively, he might have been thinking of the Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem, octagonal and topped with a famous dome, and occupying the site of the ancient Temple.
In any case there is little, apart perhaps from the side entrances, that Ullmann's bold original design shares with the actual Temple. (And as for the side entrances, they were not uncommon in synagogue architecture even at the time.)
Three years later, the proceedings of the building committee meeting of March 8, 1867 appear to lay special emphasis on the difference between the plans the committee was examining and the earlier design. Early on, the proceedings state that "no use was made" of the earlier building permit and that "The [Temple's] executive has this time presented a newly conceived design for the rebuilding of this house of prayer." The committee paid special attention to the geometry of the ground design, evidently to differentiate it from the octagonal plan submitted by Ullmann. The awkwardly worded reference to walls rising all the way to the top was probably meant to refer to the fact (to which we return later), that this time no dome was to project over and above the roof line:
The new Temple shall face the Kreuzgasse [as Spirit Street was called in German before its name was changed to Geistgasse]. It shall consist entirely of a parallelogram-shaped space, enclosed in walls to the full extent of its height.
The parallelogram design was probably a more efficient use of space than Ullmann's octagon had been. It may have been lack of space that caused Ullmann to project two women's galleries rather than one (though there may have been stylistic reasons for this, and there was precedent in several earlier Moorish synagogues). The design now before the building committee, however, envisioned only a single gallery:
For the upper floor the plan projects galleries for the female worshippers, to be placed over each nave and also in the middle along the main façade.
Significantly, the construction methods were to be different - more contemporary - as well. The second application says that the ground floor "shall consist of a single space, interrupted only by some iron supporting pillars." On the other hand, Ullmann had envisioned, as we have seen, a rather elaborate system of stone pillars. Later on in the proceedings we hear of the cement domed roofs to be built over the rear corners of the women's gallery - another example of the "modern" techniques employed here, but not in the Ullmann design.
It was in fact not unusual for a synagogue building to use bold new techniques. Almost as much as railway stations and exhibition grounds (in other European countries frequently built in the Moorish style also), the Reform synagogue was a type of building that was relatively unburdened by the weight of architectural tradition. But there is no evidence that Ullmann availed himself of this opportunity in the first plan.
In short, the second design was radically different from the first. There is no positive evidence for Ullmann's involvement in the second design, which alone has been realized. The attribution of the Temple to Ullmann is based entirely on Klein's confusion of the two different building plans. It should now be abandoned.
This leaves two questions open. What happened between the time the Temple community received its first building permit in 1864, and the time they submitted a different design in 1867? And who, if not Ullmann, created the new design? Let us turn first to the first question first.
The history of the rebuilding project
The attitude of the Association, the secular authorities, the community executive, the Rabbinate, and the Temple's own rabbi are each relevant in this context. The idea of building a new synagogue had to be passed by the governor's office and the city building office. The Association also had the moral and probably the legal obligation to gain the official approval of the official Jewish communal authority, and to seek rabbinical consent. This was so even though it seems that from the start the financing of the project was to be born largely or entirely by the congregation.
The Association for Regulated Worship among the Israelites was founded in 1837 as the Prague branch of the new movement we now call Reform Judaism. Reform Judaism had already taken roots in Hamburg, Berlin, Pest, and most importantly, Vienna. Established in Germany, the movement did not appear to the Prague Jews as a foreign import. As is well known, in the mid-eighteen-hundreds the main language of the Prague Jews was German, and they maintained close social and family links with Jews in other German-speaking Jewish communities. Indeed, the Prague Reform community was, through its scholars, rabbis, and publishers one of the most important in the German-speaking world. Of course, communal and family links with Eastern Europe did exist as well. But even the offspring of relatively recent immigrants from Galicia or the Russian Empire often insisted on their difference from the "Polish" Jews (they were not yet called Ostjuden); in this, too, the Jews of Prague were like other German-speaking Jews.
Like elsewhere in the German-speaking world, the struggle between the Reformers and the traditionalists translated into a conflict between German-oriented "assimilationists" (not their own term) and the Orthodox, who maintained stronger ties with the great communities to the East. In the middle of the nineteenth-century, the reform-inclined Jews generally held the upper hand in all official Jewish institutions. The conservative party, however, presented a significant opposition. They were more successful in the Rabbinate than among the official lay community leadership.
The Rabbinate (Oberjuristenkollegium) at the time was led by two rabbis with the official title of Oberjuristen. Of the two Oberjuristen, Solomon Judah Rapoport, an important Jewish scholar, was an important proponent of the "science of Judaism" movement, the intellectual branch of Reform. Klein makes it appear that by mid-century the aging rabbi was left behind by developments. The Temple's rabbi at the time the new temple was planned and then built was Saul Isak Kaempf. Klein says that Kaempf received praise from the major German-Jewish paper, the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums. The paper, says Klein, contrasted Kaempf's growing popularity with the waning influence of Salomon Rapoport. For this it blamed, Klein says, Rapoport's strict "Polish" orthodoxy. But the Allgemeine Zeitung did not appear on the date given by Klein, January 27, 1846. Nor has it been possible to date to locate any similar censure of Rapoport in other issues of the widely-read German-Jewish weekly. Kaempf himself seems to have thought highly of Rapoport, who had recommended him for his position at the Temple. On Rapoport's death, the younger man held a speech in which he proposed that the Rabbi's memory would best be perpetuated if a Jewish seminary for Western Austria were founded in Prague, in order to spread the "light" of the "science of Judaism.,"
The other Oberjurist, Samuel Freund, however, seems to have been much less keen on revising old forms of worship and communal living, and did, indeed, turn out to be a serious obstacle in the Association's way.
The Rabbinate possessed certain legal powers over the religious life of the Jewish community, which it shared, in ways that were not always transparent, with the community executive known as the Representation (Representanz). An indication of the Representation's ties with Reform is that Solomon K. Frankl and Georg Feigl, the Association leaders most involved with the building plans, were also among the less than a dozen Prague Jews who constituted the Representation. Frankl was in fact the Association's Treasurer.
Both the Rabbinate and the Representation were subject to the final authority of the secular state, and this included the Imperial and Royal governor (Statthalter), the city, and even the police.
On occasion the Representation as well as the Rabbinate knew how to play the secular authorities. In Klein's version, in 1820, two "ruling" rabbis (Oberjuristen), both of them traditionalists then, wrote to the emperor to protest against Reform practices. In response, a group of liberal Jews, a forerunner of the Association for Regulated Worship, met in 1832 to counter the Orthodox initiative, again in large part by appealing to the secular power. Among the members of the group was Moses Israel Landau, the President of the official Jewish community, whose publishing house did much to spread the ideas of the Haskalah, in Bohemia and beyond. The Gentile powers that be were quick to warm up to the advances of the Reformers. Count Chotek, the governor of Bohemia, favored the enterprise, and on January 30, 1835 issued a decree empowering the Association to take charge of the Altschul. The building was dedicated to "regulated worship" on February 12, 1835. Renovations followed. When the building reopened as the "Temple" on Passover Eve, April 19, 1837, Chotek appeared together with the commanding chief of staff for Bohemia and his wife. Such a high level of official presence was unprecedented in a Prague synagogue.
The renovation and the ceremony were meant to give Reform a strong presence in Prague. However, the conflict between the Reform and the Orthodox, as it then was, ought not to be exaggerated. No one seriously entertained an organizational split between the two "factions." In fact, as was typical for the earlier phase of Reform, the Association's Reform practices were considerably less concerned with the substance of Jewish law and ritual than with its form. The congregation's main objective was, as its name makes clear, a "regulated" style of worship that could be accepted as dignified by Gentiles, and by Jews who had assimilated Gentile beliefs about proper behavior. One of the leading Reformers wondered how even at the first "regulated" service held on February 12 1835,
… even without the code of conduct regarding the rite being known to the Association members and to others who were mere visitors at the event, all improper behavior and misuse [of Jewish custom?] that is otherwise common in synagogues disappeared all at once as though at the stroke of miracle, and the best order, deepest repose, and most celebratory silence made itself present.
We have no direct evidence of what the code of conduct mentioned here was about. However, an undated, unsigned manuscript in the Prague Jewish Museum archives claims to be restating the "order of service" established in 1835 and "kept to this day." It states that
Festive silence during the presentation of the prayers [by the cantor], and quiet prayer during the passages meant for the quiet contemplation of the community, are the first requirements of each public service. Likewise, the dignified behavior of the worshippers, avoidance of noise and disturbance upon entering the House of God [etc.] are the indispensable conditions of a regulated service.
The congregation, in short, was extremely concerned with decorum and especially noise ("It is noisy here like in a Jewish school" is a common phrase throughout Central and Eastern Europe, and it probably refers to a shul or synagogue.) To avoid the hustle and bustle of many traditional synagogues, preschool children were not allowed in. School-age children were not given a seat, but had to stand throughout the service, taking care that they did not block the walkways between the pews.
It was thought that a commanding musical accompaniment to the prayers was indispensable for ensuring that the congregation engages in quiet synchronized prayer rather than the expressionist cacophony typical of a traditional shul. Organ music was introduced, and original music composed - by Gentiles, for the most part, to be performed by the choir at the services. (One of the music directors of the Temple before the rebuilding was, from 1836 to 1845, the popular composer František Škraup, author of the Czech national anthem. Legend has it that he knew Hebrew.) There was stained glass inside and there towers outside, all anathema to the more radical among the Orthodox.
Still, arguments over the halachah rather than over dignity and decorum were absent in the Association's program. Temple members continued, or were supposed to continue, to respect the dietary laws, the Sabbath, and most ritual practices including the separation of men and women during prayers. The Temple was, in fact, particularly conservative even for its time, when few Reform congregations dared to bring in the bold innovations that became common only later, and mostly in America.
Rabbi Kaempf, in a letter to the Association before his 1836 appointment, wrote that, by choosing him, the Association has proven its independence from the "endless commotion of the reckless reformers." "No Israelite clergyman," he added, "could wish for the edification of our lofty Judaism more than I. But I wish to edify a positive, historical Judaism, I demand organic development and not mechanical fixes (mechanisches Flickwerk)."
Such attitudes made it possible for the Prague community, like that of Berlin or Vienna, to avoid an organizational split along "denominational" lines. Rabbi Rapoport was an important moderating influence. But even Rabbi Freund, the "enemy" of the Association's plans, was hardly given to uncontrolled invective when it came to expressing his relatively conservative views. A symptom of the extent to which "German" Jews in America kept up their links with Central Europe was a letter sent by Freund to his St. Louis relatives who forwarded it for publication in a Cincinnati Reform Jewish paper. * The relatives were involved at that time in the purchase of a former Presbyterian church with a built-in altar that faced North. They wanted to have the Rabbi's opinion about bypassing the traditional requirement that the Ark be in the Easter wall. Freund suggested that since everything that was then known about astronomy was based upon knowledge of the old world, maybe in the new world the sun rose somewhat to the northeast, so maybe they could get away with it. Such sarcasm left room for being interpreted as gentle irony, though it expressed the Rabbi's disapproval unequivocally.
Given that the real tensions that existed in Prague Jewry were combined with a relatively conciliatory attitude on most sides, the Association knew that its building plans would meet with opposition, but would succeed if handled with some finesse.
The would-be builders had to deal with four parties: the Representation, the Rabbinate, the Governor and the city building department. .
The Representation's approval was taken for granted. It appears, indeed, that long before the Representation officially approved the building of the new Temple, it acted informally on the Temple Association's behalf. For at least one person from the Representation met with the Governor regarding the Temple's plans.
It is not clear whether this personal meeting took place before or after the Association's official request to the Governor and his decision on the matter. But at any rate, the Governor did approve the building plans, and his office communicated the decision on Jan 25, 1864. The disappointing part was that, unwilling to involve himself in internal Jewish squabbles, the Governor stipulated that the Representation must consult the Rabbinate, and that each of the two Oberjuristen be asked for an affidavit (Gutachtung) on the matter.
Frankl and Feigl, who as we have seen were both members of the Representation and the moving spirits behind the Association's building plans, might have been expected now to get a formal approval from the Association. Instead, they bypassed the official community body for now, and went ahead with the first stage in the building permit process. They asked the City to delimit a site for the project. The request was granted on June 9, and confirmed by the Governor's office on June 22. The two Association leaders obtained in this way some ammunition to use at the official Representation meeting, where the Governor's directive regarding the rabbinical affidavit could not be ignored.
Thus when the Representation first recorded an official discussion of the building proposal - a month later, on July 10, 1864 - it was clear that refusing the request would go against both the governor and the city's approval in principle. Nevertheless, the meeting referred the matter to one of the members, Lieben, for appraisal. Lieben brought back his report on September 11. His recommendation was that the Representation approve the building plans, but put them on hold until the rabbis have expressed themselves. One member opined that the Representation should even delay its approval until the rabbis have spoken, so as not to "give the rabbis a chance to pronounce a veto." However, Frankl insisted and an approval, conditional on hearing from the rabbis, was issued immediately.
That same day the Representation requested the Rabbinate for their affidavit, giving the rabbis four weeks to respond.
The rabbis took their time. When the four weeks were over and the rabbis had still not responded - on October 31 - Feigl and Frankl felt justified to approach the city Magistrate with a request for a building permit hearing. Obviously, they had not slowed down preparations waiting for the rabbis' decision: Their application was accompanied by 15 plans. The hearing took place on November 11 and, as we have already seen, the city approved the application.
Two weeks later the Representation wrote to the rabbis again, urging them to respond. Their answer, however, caused more problems than it solved.
When the Association approached Rapoport for an affidavit on their building project, the Rabbi predictably approved it with only minimal reservations. When the Representation discussed his letter, members remarked that the rabbi was mainly using the opportunity to complain about the proposed installation, without the rabbinate's approval, of a Dr. Stein as rabbi of the Meisel Synagogue. Where he did comment on the plans for the new Temple, he wrote that he had no objections, because the rebuilding was taking place for "genuine" reasons and not for the purpose of installing a new rabbi.
Rabbi Freund, on the other hand, was strongly opposed. According to the Talmud, he said,
… in the case of an existing synagogue (other than where there is a threat of instability or impending collapse), it is not allowed to even begin removing it unless the synagogue to be used in its place has been fully prepared for its purpose. (…) Moreover, on many grounds that it is not opportune to enumerate here, the removal of the still serviceable temple and the building of a new house of prayer, especially at the available location, is to be abandoned and because of religious considerations deserves to be called Not good (Nicht gut geheißen zu werden verdiene).
In spite of Freund's interdict, when the Representation took up the matter again, at their December 4 meeting, any caution about building the Temple had disappeared. Everyone was united in their desire to approve the construction. Clearly, even those Representation members who had wished not to act before the rabbis spoke were just being diplomatic, and their support for the new Temple was never in question. Now that one of the rabbis voiced a negative decision, even Lieben, who as referee had suggested waiting for the rabbis to express themselves, proposed that they be ignored. He pointed out that the governor only required that the latter's affidavits be "heard" (Anhören) and not necessarily obeyed.
The debate focused on the best means of bypassing Rabbi Freund's intended veto. Various legal opinions were expressed for striking the affidavits from the agenda. Dr. Wiener pointed out that the law no longer required the governor to decide on building permits. This was now the prerogative of lower level, and especially city, authorities. The old usage, whereby the governor had to be consulted for synagogue building permits, therefore no longer applied. Consequently, the governor's decision that the Representation must "hear" the rabbinical affidavits did not need to be obeyed. To this Dr. Tedesco replied that the governor's decision was not a building matter but one grounded in the Jewish community's practice as a religious community (Cultus). (The designation, Cultus, entailed autonomous religious, legal and political practices that were recognized by the state and were subject to the arbitration of the governor.) However, Tedesco pointed out, the practice of the community was such that "even if both rabbis were against the construction, the Representation would be in a position to approve the same, for the Rabbis have only a consultative … voice."
The only member who wished to debate the rabbis' affidavits seriously was Dr. Randnitz, who suggested that one cannot ask a person for an affidavit and then refuse to put it on the agenda. However, even to him it was clear whose side the Representation was on, for he added that as "the two Rabbis are of two different opinions, the Representation should go by the affidavit that is the more advantageous to it."
In the end, it was decided not to debate the content of the affidavits. "Thereby," the proceedings of the meeting concluded, "the rebuilding of the Temple, i.e. of the Altschulsynagoge, according to the plans that have been already approved by the Magistrate, is approved by the Representation."
Between the two applications
Nevertheless, the Temple was not built according to those plans. Further research is required on what went on between late 1864 and early 1867, when the Association resumed preparations for building a new Temple, this time according to a different design. It is quite certain, however, that Rabbi Freund's opposition played a large part in the delay. Some proposed moving rather than rebuilding. This would have neutralized Freund's "veto," which was ostensibly based on a religious prohibition against demolishing functioning synagogues.
The commotion must have lasted quite a while, for on February 3, 1866, that the issue was still being debated in a General Meeting. (This is the date given in a letter appended to the Representation's proceedings of March 5, 1867.) Klein says that the committee in charge of the project proposed moving, but those who were more conciliatory to the rabbinate lost out, and it was decided to rebuild the Altschul rather than to relocate.
Klein adds that the rebuilding was to proceed nach den vom Baumeister Ulmann angefertigten Plänen ("according to Baumeister Ulmann's already completed plans"). This sounds like Klein's own words. He was not likely to be copying a document here, as Ullmann spelled his name with two "l"'s and, more importantly, referred to himself as Architekt rather than Baumeister. It is not clear what source Klein is basing himself on here. However, even if we accept his text at face value, then we must conclude the Temple design caused a controversy along with the Temple location. Otherwise the meeting would not have explicitly decided to go with the original plans.
Evidently, the leadership has presented to the general meeting a new plan, which was rejected. The rejection might have been due, not to any attachment to the Ullmann design, but to money problems. In other words, the membership decided to stay with the old plan, whose cost was known, rather than venturing on a new path suggested by the leadership, which evidently posed the risk of increased costs.
Consequently, the Association leaders apparently understood their mandate not so much as a direction to go back to the original design, but to lower the costs. The new design that the membership had turned down was not necessarily the final one signed by Bělský. The Association, at any rate, proceeded to obtain a new, cheaper design, and Bělský's costing of it fit the bill. We have already mentioned a letter dated March 3, 1867, from Frankl and Feigl to the Representation. The letter states that
The undersigned are pleased to enclose the new building design and the cost estimate, which does not exceed the sum of 60,000 guilders, approved by the General Meeting held on February 3 of last year.
On March 14, 1867, as we have seen, the City approved the project, and Bělský obliged himself to carry it to completion for only 42,000 guilders. This probably excluded some major costs such as his own fees, and there were probably the usual cost overruns that occur in most building projects.
What is certain, however, is that the financial conditions for building the Temple were satisfied.
A matter of detail regarding the debate about financing the Temple needs to be elucidated through further research. Frankl and Feigl's letter refers to a
decision of the honorable Representation of December 12, 1864, in which the Association for Regulated Worship was given consent for the building of a new sanctuary, on condition that the building plans are supplied to the honorable Representation, that the synagogue will not take on debt, and that the Community (Cultusgemeinde) as such will not be drawn, out of sympathy, into taking on any financial responsibility."
The date, December 12, 1864, poses a problem. As we have seen, the official proceedings of the Representation state that it approved the original Ullmann plan on December 4, 1864, with no conditions attached. (Nor had there been any discussion of financial problems.) In its next meeting, on December 11, 1864, there was, according to the proceedings of that meeting, no discussion of the Temple project. On December 12 there was no meeting of the Representation. The Community journal, too, refers to no matter dealing with the Temple.
Very likely, the date is wrong. The conditions raised by the Representation might have been more recent, and were required because the Association was now planning a different project, and the Representation, like the Temple membership itself, feared escalating costs. If, for example, the Representation met not on December 12, 1864, but late in 1866, then the rest of the text makes good sense. Now there were new plans, and it was these that the Representation wished to see.
Frankl and Feigl's letter was discussed by the Representation in their meeting of March 5, 1867. The item was described in its proceedings as concerning the "approval by the Representation of the rebuilding of the Altschulsynagoge according to a new building plan." The group agreed to debate the Temple's request for an approval of their new project as an "urgent matter" that had not previously been put on the agenda. It seems that everyone agreed to vote yes, although the Representation president, Tedesco, wanted to make sure a committee was struck to verify that sufficient funds for the new Temple are indeed in place. He added that
one has to be careful, if only for ritual reasons, because a synagogue may be wrecked only if the new building is certain [to be built].
The comment shows that, although the rabbinical affidavits did not even come up in the Representation's debate, Rabbi Freund's ruling on building new synagogues was still at least in some people's minds. Perhaps Tedesco's concern (against wrecking a synagogue without making sure that a new one will be built) represented a modified position by Freund, achieved in negotiation among the parties concerned.
The Moorish Style
Little is available in the way of documents regarding the choice of the Moorish style for the Temple. From what we know about synagogue architecture at the time, however, it is safe to conclude that style was heavily loaded with ideological significance. As we have pointed out, the Reform movement was still concerned much more with the manner of praying than with any serious questions of religious Law. In their worship, the congregation sought a degree of decorum that could be presented as genuinely Jewish, yet capable of arousing the respect, if not the admiration, of the Gentiles. They wished to realize the same goal through the appearance of their sanctuary.
In some ways the two goals - a respectable prayer service and a respectable building style - coincided. For example, Reform temples were built with lofts to accommodate a choir. The choir was usually supported by an organ. The effect was to overpower, sonically, the praying and singing of individual worshippers. As in a large church, the congregants were reduced to praying and singing along, preferably quietly, to the lead of the cantor, organ, and choir. It was a sure way to eliminate the "noisy," individualistic and somewhat cacophonic davenen of a traditional congregation.
The mere size of the Reform temples, too, both reflected and influenced the pattern of religious practice. Traditionalists gathered twice a day in small prayer rooms near their place of work and/or abode. The more liberal Jews came only for the High Holy Days, with a small core of devotees attending also on the Sabbath. (This pattern, still familiar to us today, was already well in place in the mid-nineteenth century.) On days of rest, it was feasible to walk farther; and no doubt many congregants even violated the injunction against driving and arrived in a coach. Consequently, the Reform congregation needed one large Temple in place of the many little prayer halls used by the Orthodox.
The names of Reform synagogues often reflected these innovations. In Eastern Europe, they were often called "Choral Synagogue," as, for example, in Moscow and in Bucharest. Their size and the fact that they drew worshippers from a large radius earned the name "Central Synagogue" for some of them, as was the case in London.
The Orthodox Opposition
The Reform temples' size, their use of an organ, as well as another violation of tradition - the use of stained glass windows - irritated the Orthodox. What they objected to was what they saw as aping church architecture. Their protests extended to some features of detail. They were particularly irked by towers and domes.
The Prague Orthodox were relatively conciliatory, but more intransigent attitudes from farther East must, given the level of interaction between Prague Jews and those in Hungary and Russia-Poland, have been well known to them.
In late 1865, for example, twenty-four of the most radical Orthodox rabbis of Hungary gathered in a country town as a self-declared legislative body, and laid down a set of rules regarding synagogue buildings and practices. Among their dicta were the following:
The Temple was to have many of the offending characteristics: an open women's section, towers, and a choir loft. To this list of innovations add others, equally odious to the Orthodox: an organ and, worse, a dome.
Domes became emblematic of a Reform temple, and eventually were to be found even on some large Orthodox synagogues. At the time, however, the Orthodox could not countenance one. In the eighteen sixties an insensitive architect, Ignatz Feigler, prepared, for the new Orthodox synagogue of Bratislava, a Moorish design with a huge central tower topped by a dome, and two side "minarets." Samuel Sofer, chief rabbi and a formidable spokesman for the Orthodox party, refused to officiate unless the dome was removed. It was. Since the work to remove it began in the night, a legend took hold among some of the Orthodox, according to which the dome had disappeared through a divinely ordered miracle. (Somehow they were not concerned that the angels failed to take away the turrets.)
Ullmann / Christian
The building proposed by Ullmann in 1864 would have set a new landmark in Christianizing synagogue architecture. The tall, octagonal domed building would have made no reference to any other Jewish building. On the other hand, such designs are common in church architecture.
What if the Temple leaders found out about the mystic reference to baptism that is embodied in octagonal Christian buildings? To the seven days by which even God at first reckoned his time, the risen Christ is seen as adding an infinite eighth day in Paradise. It is this octava dies that is evoked by the eight-cornered baptisterio, typically found on the main piazza of Italian cities, in recognition of the belief that only those who have been baptized can partake of the Paradise with Christ. The Brunelleschi dome in Florence, which may have inspired Ullmann, is known to have been built with eight corners to further underline this message - hardly an appealing one, one would think, to the members of the Association for Regulated Worship.
But even if the Temple leaders (and Ullmann?) knew nothing of the baptismal symbolism of the octagon, they did know that the design given them by Ullmann was revolutionary. No one had ever built an octagonal synagogue then, nor, it seems, has anyone built one in our own days. (Octagonal tower shafts, however, have been built on several synagogues, including the Temple itself.) An innovation such as Ullmann's was certain to irk the traditionalists who railed against anything new in synagogue architecture, especially if it resembled a church.
One may reasonably speculate that this was one reason for rejecting the Ullmann design, in a context where traditionalist objections had to be met before the Temple could be approved.
A desire for appeasement may be graphically demonstrated by the difference in the position of the dome between the 1864 and the 1867 designs. What had been Ullmann's bold dome was ingeniously hidden by the new architect under a roof and, though it appears quite majestic from inside, only its skylight is visible from the outside. Ironically, such circumspection was nothing new for a Jewish community. It had been a widely followed custom, often sanctioned by the law, to hide synagogues from the view of the Gentiles. The Altschul itself was hidden behind a wall. And, when submitting the 1864 situation plan to the city, the Association still entertained the option that the building might be surrounded by a wall. It is not unlikely that the Temple leadership, acting in accordance with a tradition of enforced modesty, hid the temple's "real" character in the symbolism of the interior, making the exterior of the building look relatively conventional. Only this time, it was the Orthodox Jews and not the Gentiles whose gaze had to be avoided.
If, as we are supposing, the Moorish elements of the Temple were either introduced or intensified in the second design, the reason would have in part be the same as hiding the dome. There were many reasons why Jews built Moorish style temples, but one was to make them look less like churches.
The Moorish style was considered the choice architectural option for synagogues by many Jews and Gentiles who believed that
as every Nation has stamped its own history in [its] monuments, and most of all its religious monuments, so a building with the said function must manifest at first sight a marked character that recalls the dates and the places that are of most interest for this Religion, and a character such as cannot be confounded with the religious or secular monuments of other Nations and Religions.
This comment was made in an official letter from the Florentine Academy of Fine Arts, who were advising the Jewish community to build in an oriental style so that their tempio would be distinguishable from a church. It was made about a decade after the Prague Temple had been built, but the attitude it expressed was nothing new. Though conceived by Gentiles and sometimes, as in the case of Florence, practically imposed on the Jews, the idea that Jews should build in the Moorish style was on the whole espoused with enthusiasm by the Jews themselves, or, more precisely, by the Reform Jews who were in constant dialogue with their Gentile neighbors. By the end of the century a Jewish architect (and major community leader) such as Wilhelm Stiassny of Vienna would build synagogues whose Moorish elements were much bolder than anything found in the work of the earlier, Christian architects such as Gottfried Semper of Ludwig von Förster.
The Moorish "style" (really a bundle of decorative ideas compatible with more classical European styles) was known in secular architecture well before John Nash's Royal Pavilion in Brighton (the earliest "famous" example, at least in the English-speaking world), which was completed in 1815. "Moorish" was only one term in use for the style. It was also called "Arabian," "Saracen," and, as in Brighton, "Mahometan." Although the term "Moorish" is the only one now in use, it would be a mistake to take it too seriously as an indicator of the style's origin. A fine summary description of the style is given in the only full-length volume ever dedicated to it, by Miles Danby:
"Moorish style" is a Western concept and in its widest sense denotes a style derived from Islamic design elements found in countries ranging from Spain, in the West, to Mogul India, in the East.
In the course of the nineteenth century, Moorish style became particularly popular for public entertainment projects, such as beech pavilions and Great Exhibitions. However, when used in a Gentile context Moorish architecture always embodied a dose (generally a heavy one) of amusing and amused, carnivalesque exoticism. It was, in fact, part of orientalist entertainment that ranged from displaying real "natives" at world exhibitions to raunchy burlesque houses to opera buffa. (Mozart's unknown opera, "The Goose of Cairo," suffered a flopped revival in Vienna a few weeks before the dedication of the Prague Temple.)
Synagogues are just about the first serious use to which the Moorish style was put.
On the rather rare occasions that contemporaries explained why they built Moorish temples for "Israelites," the most immediate reason given was that they were trying to make them look like the Temple of Jerusalem. The idea was appealing for several reasons. Freemasons, who often included both Reform rabbis and architects, thought they possessed some secret knowledge about the building of Solomon's Temple, and thought of Hiram, its builder, as their direct intellectual ancestor. More importantly, the thought of building local "Temples" appealed to Reform Jews, who were more and more prepared to stop waiting for a Messianic return to Zion, where a new Temple to the Lord would be built. "Prague is my Jerusalem," a slogan pronounced in 19 ** by **, would probably have shocked the builders of the New Temple of Prague. But erecting synagogues called "Tempel" was among the first steps that were to lead some Jews to give up the hope of returning to Zion.
When the New Israelite Temple of Hamburg (frequented by the "new" Jews that Heine lampooned) was dedicated in 1844, its rabbi, Gotthold Salomon, entitled his sermon "The Glory of the Second Temple." In the sermon, Rabbi Salomon metaphorically likened the new Hamburg temple (350 seats for men and 290 for women) to the Second Temple of Jerusalem, which the Prophet Haggai had described as more glorious than the first.
When looking for the style of their "new temple," the Reform Jews and their architects worked on the assumption, common at the time, that the beit haMikdash, the Temple of Jerusalem had been an "oriental" building. For it was believed that the mikdash had influenced both Islamic and Byzantine architecture - both of which, the Byzantine included, were thought of as oriental. ("Byzantine" and "Moorish" style were often used interchangeably.) The idea fit in well with Jewish orientalism. At the stone-laying ceremony in Hamburg in 1842, the congregation sang about a German-Jewish synagogue uniting East and West: "West und Osten schön verbinden." (Well put, for the objective of Jewish orientalism was never - not even in its Zionist versions to be discussed later - a complete separation from the West, but rather the enriching of a Western-dominated world by the Jewish East.) Building a "new temple" to recall the Temple of Jerusalem was fully compatible with the Jews' self-assertion as an oriental people. Contemporaries would have seen no contradiction between the two.
The nature of nineteenth-century thinking on the subject was well illustrated by Ludwig von Förster, a Gentile architect of the seminal Moorish synagogues in Vienna and Budapest. Förster, too, thought that the ideal Israelite house of worship would resemble the Temple of Solomon. However, since we did not know enough about what that Temple looked like, it seemed right to him to
choose, when building and Israelite Temple, those architectural forms that have been used by oriental ethnic groups that are related to the Israelite people, and in particular the Arabs and thereby in general to allow the introduction of only such modifications that are occasioned by the climate and by new discoveries in the art of building.
Such thinking alone made it possible for the Jews to accept the Moorish style - a frivolous, carnivalesque nineteenth-century recapitulation of oriental architecture - as appropriate to their Houses of Prayer. In short, many Jews construed orientalism as an expression of admiration for the East.
If the beit haMikdash was one pole of Jewish orientalism in architecture, the Alhambra was the other. Any serious survey of Moorish synagogues must conclude that it is wrong to believe that the Moorish style expressed a nostalgia for the Jewish past in Spain. (Although some of the major Spanish synagogues of the Moorish period were known in Europe at the time, there was never an attempt to imitate them.) Rather, Spain played a part because Westerners considered the Alhambra of Granada to be perhaps the most important example of the Islamic building arts. Certainly, Owen Jones and Jules Goury, who published a widely read illustrated report on the Alhambra in 1845, thought so.
As late as 1928 when a Swedish Jew, Marcus Ehrenpreis, visited the famed Alhambra, he was overcome with an image of the lofty oriental spirit that he claimed as his own:
Here I feel at home: The Alhambra, one of he greatest wonders of our earth, is perhaps the most mature expression of the oriental way of feeling and living (Orientalismus als Lebensgefühl).
Ehrenpreis was not speaking of the old synagogues of Spain but of a Muslim palace; not of the Iberian-Jewish, but of the "oriental" way. That an Ashkenazic Jew could feel "at home" at the Alhambra shows how European Jews identified not only with the Jewish past in Spain, but with the Muslim world in general, seen not only as generous hosts to a Jewish Golden Age but also as racial relatives. This explains why, in building Moorish synagogues, the architects did not address themselves primarily to the surviving synagogues of Spain, but rather to Arab, Turkish and Near Eastern architecture in general. The Plum Street Temple of Cincinnati, completed in America in the same year as the Prague Temple, sported thirteen domes and two extremely tall minarets that, like its portals, recall the mosques of Isfahan, but no explicit reference to Spain.
It is with an understanding of the pan-Islamic image that the Moors had for European observers that we must consider the role that the Temple's rabbi, Solomon Isak Kaempf, may have played in proposing the Moorish style for the new building. Kaempf was a professor of Semitic languages, was a well-known admirer not only of the Arabic language, but also of the Moors, the Arabs, and of Islam. Kaempf's major work was on Judeo-Arabic poetry in Andalusia. He pointed out that his favorite poet, Charisi, praised the Arabic language as "incomparable, its harmonious sound unreachable" and believed that in the "holy art of poetry" the "son's of the Arab stand on the highest ground." As a theologian, Kaempf was fond of making parallels between Judaism and Islam.
At a less formal level, the Temple's rabbi tried his hand at an orientalist play, "Suleiman." In it, the chief protagonists are all Muslim, and there is no attempt to give the work a Jewish agenda. There was nothing unusual about Kaempf's attachment to Arabic themes. Reform rabbis of the time were often Semitic scholars; and Jews have been writing orientalist romances at least since Benjamin Disraeli's father, Isaac D'Israeli, wrote the first such production in English, Mejnoun and Leila, the Arabian Petrarch and Laura (1797).
Strange as it may seem when looked at through the veil of decades of Arab-Jewish strife, Jewish orientalism can be demonstrated in the writings of not a few nineteenth century Jews, great and small. Benjamin Disraeli, Queen Victoria's favorite Prime Minister, was a baptized Jew to whom his Semitic race meant a reason to continue thinking of himself as a Jew - as it did to the public in general. When he declared that "God never spoke except to an Arab," Disraeli of course included Moses and Jesus along with Muhammad, for to him, the Jews were an "Arabian tribe," and the Arabs, "only Jews upon horseback."
Moses Hess, among other things Karl Marx' editor on the Rheinische Zeitung, wrote in Rome and Jerusalem, published in 1862, that history has been the doing of the two great races: the Indo-Germanic and the Semitic. The Indo-Germanic was limited to what is ultimately "contemplative egoism." Only the Semites were racially equipped to deal with social progress.
Some later manifestations of Jewish orientalism may be mentioned as well. (These would of course have had no bearing on the Prague Jews in the eighteen-sixties.) In the eighteen seventies, the important orientalist Daniel Chwolson wrote that he "as a Semite" found Semitic philosophy to be "simple" and "rational," and concerned "only with such philosophical questions that have, to some extent, immediate practical implications for Life." To prove his point he repeatedly expounded on the "philosophy of the Arabs and later of the Jews."
David Levi, a risorgimento politician in Italy, published in 1884 his magnum opus, a play called "The Prophet, or the Passion of a People." Levi thought of the Jews as a "hero people" who, among other praiseworthy things, help all humans to develop their religious thought. This was a typical "oriental" task, as the following passage from the play's long preface reveals. Other than exhibiting his potential for producing truly bad writing, Levi is here making the familiar opposition between the materialist West and the spiritual East:
The Occident investigates, experiments, decomposes and recomposes matter in order to discover its laws. The Orient, as a historian says, is the anxious work of humanity managing its God.
Finally, let us mention Martin Buber. In a lecture to a Prague audience in 1905?*, Buber argued that the Occidental was a "sensory man" whose principal avenue of knowledge was the sense of sight, and the Oriental a "motor man" who perceives the world as "limitless motion, flowing through him." Buber, the mystic, left no doubt as to which he preferred. The Jews he placed squarely on the oriental side of the divide.
Jewish orientalism enabled Reform Jews to articulate a self-respecting response to the Aryan nationalism that was growing, especially in the German-speaking world. It also made it possible for atheists and apostates (like Benjamin Disraeli, a passionate Jewish orientalist) to reckon themselves Jewish. Finally, and in our context this is the most important thing, it made it possible to use the Moorish style and to claim that it was distinctively Semitic, i.e. NOT church-like. In other words, the Moorish style was used to reinterpret the church-inspired nature of towers, domes, and other architectural elements of a synagogue. As the supposed product of a Semitic civilization, such elements could be presented, in the European context, as genuinely and distinctively "Jewish."
It is a fine irony that the Moorish style, born of an effort to ensure that synagogues did not look like churches, proved to the Orthodox that the Reform wanted to worship like Christians. The Orthodox were, as a rule, not involved in the contemporary secular debates on racial origins and on the "spirit" of East and West. They did not "see" the orientalist decoration but looked straight through at the architectural structure of nave, aisles, dome, and towers.
And it is certainly true that Moorish style was merely decorative phraseology on buildings produced by a genuinely Christian architectural grammar, no matter how that grammar may have been derived from Israelite traditions. But it is equally certain that Temple members felt that the Moorish style of their sanctuary proved that they were not trying to look like the goyim. They felt, instead, that they were making a symbolic reference to the deepest historical and geographical roots of the Jewish People.
When decided on Moorish
When was it decided to give the Temple a Moorish look? Since decoration was by its nature not a major issue in building permit hearings, neither the 1864 nor the 1867 building permit hearings paid much attention to it.
At the 1864 hearing, with Ullmann present, it was stated only that
The decoration of this synagogue building, as both façade plans prove, is one that thoroughly agrees with its purpose, and conforms in every detail to its style.
The 1867 hearing, attended by Bělský, produced a slightly longer comment:
The main façade is richly architecturally decorated in a style that corresponds to the purpose of the building, while the rear façade, although its decoration also harmonizes [with the style] shall be less richly decorated.
In both cases, we learn only that the façade was to be decorated in conformity to the building's purpose and style, which seems to have been a standard phrase in building committee proceedings. The second design alone, is, however, described as presenting a "rich" (reichhaltig) decoration. The Moorish style has always been characterized by a desire to evoke "oriental splendor." The first committee saw no need to comment on how reichhaltig the decoration of Ullmann's temple was to be. Possibly it was not going to be reichhaltig at all, at least not in its architectural features, which for the most part was all the committee was interested in.
The new design brought to the committee by Bělský did include unmistakably Moorish elements in the design of its façade. The drawings preserved in the building department's archives show the horseshoe windows and the mini-towers, the ornamented panels andother embellishments seen on the building today.
It is safe to conclude that the original Ullmann concept either included no Moorish elements, or at any rate displayed fewer Moorish elements than the final design.
Who Designed the Temple?
Now back to the major question we are facing. Who was the "real" architect of the Temple?
The literature is practically unanimous that the architect and builder Josef Niklas was involved in the project in one way or another. Those who see Ullmann as the Temple's architect usually add, following Klein, that Niklas played an ancillary role. Often, it is said that Niklas designed the interior structure (although not the decoration). This contention comes from Arno Pařík, who felt that he recognized, in the technically advanced conception of the space, "the technical and construction-engineering" expertise of Niklas.
Other writers have kept alive an earlier "Niklas tradition," according to which the Temple was built by Niklas alone.
The 1995 Encyclopedia of Czech Fine Arts attributed the building squarely to Niklas. Its source: a discussion of the Temple by Emanuel Poche in 1985. Poche, however, gave no source for his contention that the synagogue is "ascribed to Niklas." Clearly he was referring simply to a received tradition. In fact, he personally found it difficult to see the hand of Niklas in the building.
In 1907, the general encyclopedia, Ottův slovník náučný, had credited him with bringing the neo-Renaissance style to Prague even before Ullmann. Perhaps, but Niklas could be very flexible. Indeed, rather than a dogmatic partisan of one style or another, or even of stylistic purity in general, he appears to have been one of the earliest eclectic architects in Prague.
His magnum opus, an unrealized design for the National Theater, was bluntly rejected by a conservative committee who felt that it lacked respect for the integrity of historical styles:
… hardly can we become friends with the facades, where we see so little peace and simplicity. Approaching to some extent the facile style of Harduin Mansard, the same facades are filled here with strictly antique details and there again with overly modern ones; thus, for example, the arched windows of the peak and the decoration of the side windows belong to completely different styles. (…) Finally, we cannot but point out … that in general the ancient Greek style would suit the features of Niklas' design better than baroque formations, or the so-called rococo.
Niklas might have been especially wounded by that last remark. In 1865 there appeared a book in Czech that Niklas co-authored with František Šanda. It was entitled Building styles from the earliest times until the present time. Here Niklas and his colleague correctly foresee eclecticism as the wave of the future.
They also condemn the "late renaissance" of 1600-1800 (the term "baroque" was only beginning to be used) as "tasteless" because of its lack of respect for past styles. The aberrant baroque style had been, Niklas and his co-author felt, accidentally engendered by Michelangelo, who showed "with his bold spirit that it is not necessary to keep to ancient forms and thus he spoiled his followers, who, not possessed of his excellence, slid into complete chaos.". If Niklas thought he was Michelangelo, the National Theater committee obviously disagreed.
The National Theater competition is not irrelevant to the issue of the Temple's authorship. The preparatory committee for the Theater included one single representative of the architectural and building professions. He was Jan Bělský, who was to be the Temple's builder (and, we shall argue, perhaps even its architect.) Whether Bělský was the author of the report that rejected Niklas is difficult to say, but he could not but have had a hand in it. The review could not have created warm feelings between the two men, who are not known to have worked together on any project before or since. It is almost impossible that either one would have chosen the other to work on the Temple.
Of course, they may not have been given the choice. Their professional reputation was untarnished, and we must assume that they could have cooperated if the Association for Regulated Worship paid them to do so.
Why, in the circumstances, the Association should have wanted to do that is, however, unclear to say the least. Nevertheless, if they did get Niklas and Bělský to collaborate, then it is likely that Niklas would have had no difficulty coming up with an eclectic design that incorporated Moorish elements, as the Temple does.
In the book where they condemn the baroque, Niklas and his colleague also devote a few pages to the "Muslim style." They add that the "Moorish" style is the worthiest of all Islamic styles. At the time of writing, however, Niklas had no intention of building a synagogue or anything else in the Moorish style, which he and his co-author considered "unsuited to our life style and totally inadequate to the requirements of our age." There is no indication that the authors were considering the fact that Moorish structures existed in non-Ottoman Europe. They ignored Förster's synagogues in Vienna and Budapest, both of which were already standing. (The Vienna synagogue may have served as an inspiration to the Temple's architect. Its three-part façade shows similar proportions, and the shape of the rosary the same geometric pattern.) Clearly, as he was preparing his manuscript Niklas knew of no plans to build a Moorish style synagogue in Bohemia. This does not, however, exclude the possibility of Niklas' inolvement. The manuscript may have arrived at the publisher's before Niklas was approached (perhaps) with the synagogue commission.
There are, indeed, some documents in existence that could be taken as providing some evidence of the "Niklas hypothesis."
We have already quoted Klein, who states that the "development of the plans was entrusted to Prof. Niklas of the Technical University of Prague." This makes it appear that Niklas was to develop the 1864 Ullmann plans. Given Klein's cut-and-past methods, however, he might also have been quoting from a document relating to the second project, of 1867. "The development of the plans" might in that case mean developing the plans from the start, rather than from a previous design by Ullmann. But we are dealing here with possibilities rather than real evidence. Even if taken as intended by Klein, the passage only states that Niklas was asked to develop Ullmann's plans. In the absence of further evidence, it is quite conceivable that he either did not actually develop them, or that he did develop them but his work, like that of Ullmann's, was never acted on.
Equally inconclusive is the typescript preserved in the Niklas archive at the Technical University of Prague, where he was a professor. This brief document, signed in the nineteen sixties by the architect's grandson, is essentially a list of Niklas' commissions and proposals. It does not refer to the Temple. There are several copies of the memoir in the archives, and it is true that on one of them someone scribbled, in pencil, "Synagogue on Dušní Street." It is, however, impossible to know if Niklas' grandson himself was the author of this correction, or if it came from a researcher or a staff member.
Stronger, but still not entirely conclusive evidence comes from Niklas' obituaries.
Niklas' death on October 10, 1877 was noted in the leading Czech and German papers of Prague. Národní Listy, the major Czech newspaper, and the German-language Bohemia published an almost identical list of Niklas' achievements. Both papers copied verbatim an earlier list that appeared in an 1869 volume of the Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich. The Lexikon entry does not mention the Temple. It does mention such detail as his design of the bronze chandelier for Sophia Hall in Prague, or of an altar in an unnamed church in Russia. Surely an editor who pays attention to such detail would not have missed the New Israelite Temple of Prague. The Lexikon was published a year after the new Temple began to function, but it may have been composed long before publication.
The Národní Listy obituary is a very complete copy of the Lexicon text, with some additions from among the architect's later works; but the Temple was once again not mentioned. This expanded list was reproduced in later reference works such as the standard Czech encyclopedia, Ottův Slovník Náučný (1890), or the once equally authoritative encyclopedia of Czech and Slovak artists edited by Toman. Judging by these Czech publications, Niklas had nothing to do with the Temple.
There is, however, a crucial difference between the Národní Listy list and its descendants, and the obituary that was published in the leading German-language daily. The list of Niklas' achievements given by Bohemia is identical to the list given in Národní Listy (y compri, once again, the chandelier). The one difference is that Bohemia added the "new synagogue in the Geistgasse," i.e. the Temple.
What happened? Presumably, some master list of Niklas' achievements - an expansion of the earlier Lexikon entry - was used by both the Czech and the German paper; alternatively, one paper copied the list from the other. However that may be, either Národní Listy took the reference to the Temple out, or Bohemia put it in.
Anti-Semitism could be the only possible reason why the Czech paper would have taken out a mention of the synagogue, thinking that building it was not to the credit of the deceased. This, is, however, unlikely. The Czech national movement, of which Národní Listy was an important mouthpiece, was increasingly prepared to take on anti-Jewish overtones (largely directed at the Jews as supporters of the Bohemian German cause). But Czech anti-Semitism rarely rose to the pitch common in neighboring countries, and Národní Listy itself was founded by a Jew. Národní Listy probably did not refer to Niklas building the Temple because it did not know anything about his building it.
If the Czechs did not take the Temple reference out, then the Germans must have put it in. The readership of Bohemia, unlike that of Národní Listy, was heavily Jewish. (In what is today perhaps best remembered as one of the vehicles for Kafka's fiction, there were regular announcements of High Holy Day services and ads for kosher products.) A likely scenario is as follows: Bohemia receives from some outside source the same list of Niklas works that was used by Národní Listy. The staff, which includes Jews familiar with the Temple, receives the list. One or more people remark that, as far as they know, Niklas also built the Temple, and the editor decides to add the reference.
For it is very likely that within the Jewish community there was a belief that the Temple was built by Niklas. The fin-de-siècle guide to Prague streets by Ruth attributes it to "Nyklas" (sic). If Ruth were consulting primary sources, he would probably not have misspelled the architect's name. He was simply repeating a tradition. (He also reports that the final cost of building was a suspiciously round 100,000 guilders, a contention repeated by Klein and which, too, was no doubt part of community lore. As we have seen, the budget limit voted for the project by the General Assembly of the Association was 60,000 guilders, and Bělský agreed to complete the project for 42,000.)
The Bohemia obituary and the Ruth recollection are certainly better evidence for Niklas' involvement than anything in Klein's problematic pamphlet, and they both mention Niklas as the sole architect. Niklas must therefore be entertained as a serious possibility.
On the other hand, the existence of the two different designs that confused Klein may also have confused the editors of Bohemia and Ruth, and those later writers who, without seeking to consult primary sources, took at face value the attribution to Niklas. True, the obituary was written much closer to the building of the Temple, when survivors might have corrected any misconceptions. Still, nine years had elapsed since the completion of the Temple, and it would be attributing too much interest in contemporary architecture to the average Prague Jew to presume that journalists and other non-specialists (who were not perhaps even associated with the Temple) necessarily remembered - or indeed had ever been aware of - the change of plans between the first application and the second.
In conclusion, Niklas' authorship must be accepted as a much more serious possibility than Ullmann's, but there remain important problems with it. He might have received the commission sometime between 1865 and 1867, using it in part to apply in practice what he knew about the "Islamic style." His engagement may or may not have followed on the heels of his being asked to develop the unrealized Ullmann project. All this is, however, conjecture, and I would like to now entertain another, equally serious possibility. The Temple might have been not only built, but also designed, by Jan Bělský.
Though largely forgotten today (in Prague I have heard him described as "only a builder, never an architect"), Bělský (1815-1880) was more celebrated in his own time than either Ullmann or Niklas. He embodied in his own person the rise of the Czech nation during what is now, and was then, referred to as its National Renaissance. Born of a simple farmer father, Bělský rose to prominence (asdid his brother, a mayor of Prague) through opportunities afforded by a progressively more liberal Austrian regime and its growing bureaucracy. He was a leading member of the Freethinking Party. As an alderman he took on major responsibility for Prague's water supplies. What Czech patriots praised most, however, was that, as we have seen earlier, he was intimately involved in the planning for the National Theater. Národní Listy remembered him as "the spirit and the most dedicated activist from among the construction trade, of the [movement aiming for the] building of the great national theater."
Ullmann died almost forgotten in a provincial town. Niklas was burried with considerable honors at the important Church of Saint Mary of the Snows. But Bělský's funeral, with the service held at Prague's central and historic Tyn Cathedral, was an important national and nationalist ritual. "Morana's [goddess of death] merciless hand reached into the ranks of our best men!" exclaimed Národní Listy, "Jan Bělský dead!" As the black flags of mourning flew over city hall, the Rudolfinum, and the Artists Center, large numbers of wreaths in "Czech and Slavic colors" were being laid at the Cathedral. Then, a long procession to the cemetery began, led by Bělský's colleagues. Among those marching were the mayor, all aldermen, and the organizing committee of the National Theater.
His obituaries pointed out that Bělský was not only a builder but also an architect. As early as 1847, Bělský built a classicist façade facing the yard ofthe Thun Palace (now the Italian embassy) in Prague's prestigious Malá Strana. In the same year he is said to have designed a large tenement in the style of a palace, located near the famous Charles Bridge. He left his mark on even more important buildings in the area. In 1848 he is believed to have built the landmark "Charles Baths" (Karlovy Lázně) near the famous bridge. On Old Town Square, he had been entrusted in 1853 with designing a new staircase for the southern wing of Old Town Hall. As well, across the square, a fine late classicist building is said to have been both built and designed in 1858 by Bělský.
Bělský built many other buildings of note, and is considered to have been the architect of some of them as well. The architectural society of Bohemia published a special death announcement of the "architect and builder" in their trade journal. The list of his achievements they gave read as follows:
In Prague, Novotný's Mill on Francis Quay, the Bohemian Savings Bank building on Francis Avenue, designed by architect Ullmann; the Karlín cathedral according to the plans of Prof. Rösner; the new synagogue on Svatodušní Street; Joseph Barracks on Joseph Square; the building of the Imperial and Royal Post Office on Jindřich Avenue; as well as others. Furthermore [he built] the Piarist School and chapel in Nepomuk, and besides rebuilt the imperial palaces in Ploškovice and Zákupy.
It would have been logical to mention Ullmann (and/or Niklas) as responsible for the design of the synagogue; Ullmann was, after all, mentioned as the author of the Savings Bank. The obituary writer, however, did not remember anyone but Bělský as involved in the building of the Temple.
Bělský had practical experience with structures that in one or another way would have prepared him for working on the Temple. The barracks on Joseph (now Republic) Square may be the Prague building that most closely resembles the façade of the Temple:" like the Temple, its has a three-part facade with a taller central section, is decorated with round friezes under the eaves, and has arched windows. The Church of St. Francis of Assisi, pivotally located near the Old Town end of Charles Bridge, has a nearly square quadrangular floor plan topped by a large dome, as does the Temple. Bělský renovated the church's interior in 1862.
As a builder-architect, Bělský was a fine choice for clients who worked with restricted budgets. As we have seen, the Association fit that category. By not hiring a separate architect, costs would be kept down. Such a choice, it is true, would not always be prestigious. However, Bělský, who was being probably the most important builder in the city and, as we have seen, also had a fine record as an architect, was not someone to be ashamed of. (Nor were his political connections something to scoff at when it came to dealing with the civic authorities.) Any community, including one with the Temple's real and aspired social standing, could be proud of having Bělský build its representative edifice.
In turn Bělský showed extraordinaryzeal in carrying out his duties on what the building committee described as "his project". We have already seen that he went so far as to personally appeal to the authorities to allow the Temple to be unofficially opened in 1868, while the leadership decided on how to apportion the seats. It is possible that he was particularly heavily involved because of his attachment not only as a builder but also as architect.
The extremely modern features of the construction style may also be reckoned in the favor of the "Bělský hypothesis," rather than necessarily pointing to Niklas. Such elements show the experienced builder's touch.
One thing that must count against the Bělský hypothesis is that all the buildings Bělský is credited with as architect are rather conservative in outward appearance. It is difficult to see that Bělský would have been the choice for engaging in the adventure of using the Moorish style, which had been little, if at all, employed in Bohemia before.
Perhaps, however, Bělský did not design the Moorish elements himself. These are, after all, minimal in the façade, apart from the horseshoe window "inserts." (The outside frame of the windows sports a typical European arch that is totally compatible with either the neo-Romance or the neo-Renaissance style. The horseshoe windows constitute a second, inner frame.) The towers are reminiscent of minarets more by their slender dimensions than by their overall design. In fact most of the orientalist impression comes from the interior: from the embroidered finish of the arches and the Torah ark, as well as from the arabesque decoration. Such elements would normally be the creation of the decorator-designer, rather than the architect. In churches it was quite common for artist decorators to design both the ornamentation and much of the stone work, including the altar. There is a strong possibility, and some circumstantial evidence, that Bělský might have had the help of such an artist decorator.
According to Klein,
In 1880 began the rich polychromatic paint decoration of the inside of the synagogue, following the design by the architects Baum and Münzberger.
A decade or so after that a commentator wrote that Baum had directly imitated arabesques found at the Alhambra. (If true this would likely mean that he consulted one of the available reference books on the famed Islamic monument of Granada.)
All postwar writers agree - without documentation - that the interior decoration began only in the 1880's. Many, for some undocumented reason, refer to a prolonged decoration. Fiedler writes that it took place between 1882 and 1892. (This would take the work considerably beyond Baum's death in 1886.)
Once again, we are probably dealing with a piece of erroneous information deduced from Klein's pamphlet.
The contention that at the synagogue opening the decoration was unfinished is based on the following remark in Klein:
The ritual opening of the new Temple in the Kreuzgasse took place on May 26, 1868, at 6:30 p.m. The festive act of dedication has been reserved for a later time, when the inner embellishment of this Temple has been completed.
A similar text appears in an announcement carried in Bohemia on May 15:
Next Tuesday the 26th, at 6:30 p.m., will take place the ritual dedication of the local, rebuilt Israelite Temple in the Kreuzgasse. The festive act of dedication has been reserved for a later time, when the inner embellishment of this Temple has been completed, and when the dignitaries of Prague etc. will have been invited.
Klein continues with a description of the Temple that may have been lifted out of the same news report as the announcement about the delayed "festive opening." Then, in the same paragraph he jumps anachronistically to Baum and Münzberger's decorative work begun in 1880. The fact that Klein mentions the 1880 decoration contract right after his remark on the deferred "embellishment" of the Temple at its opening might give, on a quick reading, the impression that the decoration was delayed until 1880. In fact, however, Klein was not saying that the decoration, even if postponed, had to wait twelve years. (See Appendix 1)
So far, no record has surfaced of the promised grand opening with the dignitaries present. However, Bohemia carried regular announcements of Temple services, proving that the congregation was meeting there regularly after its opening. There is nothing to suggest that they felt their Temple was not adequately decorated.
Indeed, an incomplete decoration of the interior structure may not have been the reason for the delayed official opening at all.
One day before the de facto opening, Bělský went to the building authorities to ask for their approval for the "provisional" ceremony.
Baumeister Johann Bělský as the project director for the Temple of the Community for Regulated Ritual appears and announces in the name of the same that, [while a solution is being sought for] the final manner in which the seats are to be placed and apportioned in the Temple, the said ritual community plans to hold on a trial basis in this new building, which has been completed except for its interior arrangement, the Pentecost services of May 27 and 28, 1868, and requests that the [city authorities] acknowledge this announcement, as the definitive taking of possession [by the Community] will be petitioned in due course in the ordinary fashion.
Bělský uses the terminnere Ausstattung "arrangement, furnishing, equipment," rather than Ausschmückung "embellishment" (literally, "bejeweling"). Ausschmückung, the term used by Klein and Bohemia, does suggest a gleaming interior decoration with gold and gold paint, but does not exclude "embellishment" through the use of interior furnishings. Bělský makes it clear that it was furnishing of a rather prosaic kind that was the main problem: the assignment and placement of the seats. Who sits where has serious social significance in a synagogue: "The rows of neat pews," writes Carol Herselle Kinsky about the nineteenth-century Reform temple, "revealed the status of congregation members, since those who sat closest to the east enjoyed the greatest wealth or prestige." It is difficult to reconstruct the jockeying for position that went on at the Temple, but it probably went on in private. In public, it would have been more expedient - especially where a congregation devoted to decorum was concerned - to blame the unfinished walls for causing a delay of the official opening.
That the 1880 decoration substantially altered the 1868 version is, of course, a possibility, although no more than that. The Association was, after all, forever on the lookout for improving the Temple's appearance. (In fact, building yet another, completely different Temple was even considered by the congregation at only a slightly later date.) But it is safe to conclude that some sort of Moorish decoration had been there right from the start. Rich interior decoration was practically an obligatory feature of orientalist architecture. The Temple likely had a "rich" orientalist interior from the start, even if it were to be improved or added to in 1880.
It is true that the interior views submitted by Bělský in 1867 did not show the "embroidered" stucco decoration on the arches, the Ark, and elsewhere.
The Ark, however, was "Moorish" in that its upper edges replicated the patterned stone fretwork of the façade's roof line. Such fretwork was sine qua non for the Moorish style. In other ways, too, the Ark was to be an echo of the building's exterior: a three-section structure with a raised central part. Evidently, the Torah scrolls were to be kept in the raised central section, while the two wings were purely decorative. The existing Ark does not have the wings. It does have not only the fretting but the rich "embroidered-arch" ornamentation characteristic of the rest of the building.
An image of the interior published in 1870 already shows the existing Ark - as well as the typical stalactite stucco work on the arches. The decoration of the walls is unclear from the picture. But the kind of shading used by the artist can easily be read to represent the rich arabesque work that most decisively defines the interior as it has come to be known.
At any rate, it was part of the Moorish style not to leave the walls bare. The fact that major paint work was done in 1880 does not mean that ornate arabesques were not applied to the Temple walls at the start, as was the custom in all other Moorish temples.
In fact, there was nothing new about the preliminary paint work right away, and redoing it later. As Förster had explained about his synagogue in Vienna, it was impossible to apply the stucco base for the decoration immediately upon finishing a building.
The side walls were to be covered with marble stucco and then painted in the oriental manner. As one began to take steps to do this, however, the building was still too damp, so that the marble stucco would have soon fallen off. The side walls were therefore painted for now with a design of intertwined curves and palm tree motives in the hope that after some time the required marbling will be carried out.
The same or other delays of a technical nature most likely took place in the Prague Temple as well. The 1880 work may have been as substantial as is generally thought today - or it may have been simply an update on the existing décor.
Once again, the lack of sufficient primary sources frustrates any definitive answer as to who might have designed the original Ark and interior. However, a plan for the interior decoration by the artist Friedrich Wachsmann is reported to have been preserved until recently. Wachsmann had worked on the decoration of another important structure built and probably designed by Bělský: the chapel of the Piarist School in Nepomuk (Bohemia). There, the painter's contribution was substantial. It appears to have included masonry decoration and above all the altar. Wachsmann was very fond of ornate, abstract and vegetal arabesque decoration that could easily be adapted to give a "Moorish" impression. It would have been quite unsurprising if Bělský asked his artistic designer on the Nepomuk project to establish the orientalist character of the Temple. (It is perhaps not out of place to speculate, too, that the Piarist reference might have been appreciated by some Temple members. Many Bohemian Jews were educated in Piarist schools.)
Also in favor of this hypothesis is that Wachsmann decorated part of the Cathedral of Sts. Cyril and Methodus in Karlín (now part of Prague). As mentioned earlier, this major cathedral (1851-1863) was built by Bělský who, some think, may even have been involved in its design.
If Wachsmann did design the interior, it is likely that he also designed (or redesigned) the altar, as he did not only in Nepomuk but also in Karlín.
The Baum and Münzberger decoration mentioned by Klein may have been extensive, but did not alter the basic interior design. In 1880, when Klein says their work began, there was no major work left for an architect to do. The Prague 1 building department has no record of a permit being obtained for any significant renovation during this period. The firm of Baum and Münzberger was probably consulted to do the additional decoration that was required. They then either hired or recommended Kruger and März, the two artists mentioned by Klein as having carried out the work under Baum and Münzberger's direction. (Little is known of März. Kruger is said to have been entrusted, later, with embellishing the skylight and the halls of the City Savings Bank of Prague.)
We must conclude that the original Moorish decoration was done by someone other than Kruger and März. It may have been done by Wachsmann.
In summary, the standard contention that the "Spanish synagogue" was built according to a design by Ullmann with additional design work by Niklas, and that its interior decoration began in 1880 according to plans by Baum and Münzberger, must be revised. In its place, we ought to substitute something like the following: "The Israelite Temple of Prague," now known as the Spanish Synagogue, was completed in 1868 by Jan Bělský following either his own design or one by Josef Niklas. Its Moorish decoration, especially in the interior, may have been originally designed by Friedrich Wachsmann, and was completed starting in 1880 by two artist decorators working for the firm of Baum and Münzberger.
Wilhelm Klein, 100 Jahre. Verein für geregelten Gottesdienst der Israeliten an der Altschule in Prag, der ältesten Synagoge daselbst, Prague, published by the Verein, pp. 56-57.
The 1864 building committee proceedings
Pr. 30. Mai 1864
aufgenommen von Seite der prager Magistrats am 11. November 1864.
Ist ad No. 67710 die Prüfung der Plane zum Umbau beziehungsweise Neubau des israelitischen Bethauses in No. C. 141V/42 / I
Unterm 8. November l.J. hat der Vorstand des israelitischen Vereins für geregelten Gottesdienst die Pläne zum Erbauung eines neuen Bethauses statt der bis herigen überweicht und um die Consentirung dieses Baues das Ansuchen gestellt. In folge dessen würde eine Lokalkomission auf den 11. November l. J. angeordnet und bei derselben folgendes sichergestellt:
Mittelst … Statthaltereierlasses vom 19. Juni 864 Zhl 36310 wurde die Regullirungslinie für das zu erbauende Bethaus wie sie bei der Comission um 9. Juni 864 ermittelt im Situationsplane mit blauer Farbe angezeichnet und mit den Buchstaben a b c d e f und d g h i k bezeichnet wurde für den fall, als die Umgebung des Bethauses mittelst Mauren oder Gittenn umgeschlossen würde, genehmigt und für den fall, als die Umgebung frei bleien sollte, die Regullirungslinie c b resp. a b c d festgesetzt.
Nach den vorgelegten Bauplanen in dupplo, welche zwei Plane über den alten Bestand des Krales 141& 142 dann zwei Grundrissplane, 1 dachwerk..tzplan, 1 Profilplan und 2 ..pläne bezüglich des Synagogenbaues & 2 Grudrisspläne bezüglich des zu adaptirenden Wohnhauses umfaßen, geht der Bauantrag dahin, daß bestehende Synagogengebaude u. einen Theil des gegen der Kreuzgasse gerichteten an ersteres angebauten einstöckigen Wohngebäudes zu demoliren und ein neues Synagogengebaude nach der Grundform eines Achteckes neu zu erbauen u. gleichzeitig der zu belassende im Eckhaus bildende Wohngebäude zu gleichem Zwecke zu adaptiren. Die neue Synagoge soll nach der erwähnten Grundform durchgeführt und mit zwei Risalitartigen Vorbauten versehen werden, welche die Eingänge in die Synagoge und zwei Seitentreppen, in den Obergeschoßen aber einige Neben[?]bestandtheile in sich setzen. Im Souterain sollen zwei Luftheitzungen angelegt und mit runden Kaminen bis über das Dach aufgeführt vorsehen werden. Ausßerdem sind im diesem unterirdischen Geschoße eine Sakristei mittelst einer Stiege aus der Synagoge zugänglich und zwei Seusse [?]vorzurichten projektirt, im Übrigen aber soll der Grundbau durchaus voll zur Ausführung gelangen. Zu den beiden Synagogeneingängen führen breite u. bequeme steinernen [sic] Freitrappen, an deren Seite die Kellerstuffen (sic) anzulegen kämen. Die beiden Seitentreppen sollen ..rmig, 4' breit, freitragend von Stein bis zum zweiten Chore aufgeführt, ein Plafond mit einer verrohrten Sturzdecke versehen und von denselben die Zugänge zu den Chören mittelst eigener Vorzimmern gewonnen werden, aus welchen lätzteren der Zutritt zu den Seiessen ermöglicht erscheint. Die Synagoge selbst soll ringsum zwei übereinander legende Chöre erhalten und mit einem gewölbten Kuppeloberbaue versehen werden, welcher auf acht steinerne runde, starke und sechs dazwischen gestellte schwächere gleichfalls steinerne mit den Hauptstäulen gekuppelte Säulchen ausgeführt und der Oberbau der Kuppel an den acht Ecken mit starken gewölbten Rippen verspannt in seiner construktiven Durchführung aber ausßerst sorgfältig hergestellt u. in allen Abtheilungen mit starken standhaft verankerten eisernen Schlüssen zu einem soliden Ganzen verbunden werden soll. Das Kuppeldach am Häng- und Sprangwerk ist frei aufzusetzen und mit Schiefer einzudecken beantragt, sowie auch die weiteren Dachseite dieses Gebäudes mit Schiefer eingedeckt werden sollen. Die dekorative Ausstattung dieser Synagogenbaude ist wie die beiden Façadepläne nachweisen, ein dem Zweck durchaus zusagende und in allen Theilen Stylgerecht durchgeführte.
Belangend von Einpans * erwähnten Adaptirungsbau des Eckhauses, so wird bewirkt, daß sich derselbe lediglich auf die Anlage einen neuen freitragenden, steinernen 4' breiten Wendeltrappe, welche bis zu dem Dachboden führt und auf einige unwesentliche Umanderungen in der Eintheilung der Fenster u. Thüren sowohl als der innere Räumlichkeiten, dann die Aufführung neuer Komine .. … erstreckt, im Übrigen soll dieses Gebäude in seinem alten Stande ihre weitren Veranderung über vorhandenen mit … umgedeckten Daches belassen u. die Vorrichtung zur Fagung der Kamine eusterhalb des Dachbodens angebaucht werden.
[conforms to approved Regullirungslinien]
[conforms to all requirements but must be carried out dilligently and carefully and using the best materials]
[approved with only the requirement that Baumeister Franz Havel must work with care (sorgfältig)]
Signed by three individuals for the authority, and Ernst Wehli; Salomon K. Frankl, Vorsteher des Bethauses; I. Ullmann, architect; and Franz Havel (the grandfather of President Václav Havel?), builder.
The 1867 building committee hearing; application and proceedings
AMP, Magistrát hl. m. Prahy, písmeno D, perioda 1865-1870, sign. D 2/1394.
[summary text and:]
Mit 9 (illegible) Plänen
Nachdem der Verein für geregelten Gottesdienst in Prag den israelitischen Tempel N 141, 142 V umzubauen beabsichtigt * so legt der gefertigte Vorstand die auf diesem Bau bezugnehmenden Pläne in Simplo vor, bey welchem Antrage die bereits consentirte Straßenlinie in der Kreuzgasse streng angehalten, gegen den Altschulgaße aber dem nunmehrigem Antrage derart angepaßt ist, daß hiedurch die Passage in dem … G.. erweitert wird. Der gefertigte Vorstand stellt die Bitte, ein * löblicher Magistrat gerufe * wegen Erwirkung der Bauconsenses für diese Tempelumbau eine Localcomission möglichst bald anzuordnen.
Der Duplicat der Plänen wird bey der Comision vorgelegt.
Prag am 5 März 1867
Vom Vorstande des Vereins für geregelten Gottesdienst
Salomon K? Frankl
aufgenommen vom Prager Magistrate am 8. März 1867
ist … No 20853 die Prüfung des Planes über den Umbau des israelitischen Tempels in der Kreuzgasse No 141 & 142 - V.
Mit dem hohen Dekrete der k.k. Stattshalterei vom 19. Juni 1864 Z 36.310 würde für dem Situationsplane vom 9. Juni 1864 bestimmt und würde auf Grund ..teser Regulirungslinie der vom Vorstande des Vereins für geregelten Gottesdienst beantragte Umbau dieses Tempels nach den am 11. * Dezember 1864 kommissionnell geprüften Plane mit dem Magistratsbescheide vom 17. November 1864 konsentirt. Von diesem Konsente würde jedoch kein Gebrauch gemacht und es hat das Vorstand dermalen einen neu verfassten Plan über den Umbau dieses Bethauses vorgelegt, zu dessen Prüfung ein Lokalkommission auf den 8 März lJ. angeordert würde.
Durch die vorangeführte Regulirungslinie würde für den Umbau die Baulinie zur Seite der Kreuzgasse bestimmt, und wurde für den rückwärtigen Theil der Baustelle die Regulirungslinie nach der damals beanragten Form des Umbaues festgesetzt.
Die der.. projektirte Form des Umbaues weicht von der konsentirten ab und wird beabsichtigt unter Einhaltung des bestimten Regulirungslinie zur Seite der Kreuzgasse an der rückwärtsigen Seite von der Regulirungslinie abzuweichen.
Die kommission muß jedoch diese Abweichung als vortheilhafter bezeichnen, weil das schmale Kommunikatives gasschen an den schmalsten Punkten erbreitert wird, und muß ferner diese Abweichung als untergeordneter Art anerkennen, weil dieses schmale Kommunikatives gäßchen nicht befahrar, bloß zur Kommunikation für die Fußpassage dient.
Nach dem doppelt vorliegenden Antrage soll das alte bestehende Tempelgebäude sammt der dermaligen ..achfahrt bis an das gegenwartige, 1 Stock hohe Eckhaus NC 141 & 142-V beziehungsweise bis zur die letzter bestehen Aufgangsstiege, demolirt und dann an dieser Stelle vom Grunde aus ein neues Bethaus mit Einfaltung der zur Seite der Kreuzgasse für diesen Tempelbau bereits genehmigten Regulirungslinie, welche aus dem am 9. Juli 1864 kommissionnell geprüften Situationsplane in den Plan über den alten Bestand des dermaligen Tempels, welchem Plane zugleich die Situation der anramenden Gassen angefügt ist, übertragen wurde, aufgebaut werden.
Die neue Tempel soll mit seiner Hauptfronte gegen die Kreuzgasse gerichtet und blos aus einem in ganzer Höhe mit Mauren umschlossenen parallelogrammförmigen Raume bestehen, welcher ebenerdig aus einem einzigen blos durch einige eiseren Tragsäulen unterbrochenen Lokule besteht, dessen Mitte auf einem beiderseitig durch Sufen zugänglichen Emporium über die beiderseitigen Flügel herausgebaut ist, woselbst an der Oststirnfronte die Thora angebracht werden soll.
In dem obern Geschosse sind ob den beiden Seitenschiffen dann in der Mitte längs der Hauptfronte, Gallerien für die weiblichen Betenden projektirt, während in dem ganzen unteren Raume, in einer, die ganze Mitte einnehmendem Abtheilung, mit Freilassung von 4' breiten Durchgängen sowohl zu beiden Seiten als rückwärtig, noch zwei Reihen Betbänken für das männliche Publikum angebracht werden sollen.
Das ganze Mittelschiff soll kuppelartig, die beiden Seitenschiffe jedoch blos mit einer Seymentwölbung überwölbt und zu diesem Behufe in der ganzen Länge und Breite des Bethraumes Gurten gespannt werden, welche an ihren beiden Endpunkten einerseits in die Hauptfrontmauer, und anderseits in die Hauptmauern des Thoraemporiums eingespannt, an ihrem Tragsäulen von 11' höhe gestüztes und Oundere konstruirtes Wiederlager eingewölbt werden sollen, ebenso ist auf das Thoraraum durch eine Gurte in seiner Vorderfronte gegen den Betraum hie überspannt und soll dieser durch eine aufgemauerte runde Glaslaterne ein Oberlicht erhalten. Zur … der rückwärtigen Gallerie längs deer Hauptfronte des Bethauses sind ebenfalls 3 Gewölbgurten projektirt, welche beiderseits in die Hauptmauern des Gebäudes eingespannt, an ihren Verbindungspunkten aber gleichfalls in die vorgenannten Oundersteinwiderlager, ob den … diesen letztere befindlichen Tragsäulen eingewölbt werden sollen, wobei bemerkt wird, daß zur Tragung der Obergurten der Gallerien … mit den … der untere Säulen ebensolche eiserne Tragsäulen im Antrage haben, und daß unter die Gallerien …….. angelegt werden sollen, welche auf einem Roste gegen den inneren Raum aufrehend vorzurichten kommen, welcher letztere …. auf eigenen … Tragsäulen aufzuruhen kommt.
[p. 4: in "Prague: Spanish" file]
hergestellt und mit Schiefer eingedeckt werden.
Die Seitenschiffe sollen Pfetenyultdächer, und die Anbauten der Stiegen aber solche Konstruction erhalten, und gleichfalls mit Schiefer eingedeckt werden; wobei bemerkt wird, daß zur Verschäuerung der Façade die Abdachung der beiden Stiegenanbauten noch rückwärts geschehen soll, und somit zur Gassenfronte keine Dachrosche sichtbar wird. Sowohl das Dach am Mittelschiff als die Dachröschen der biden Seitenschiffe sind gegen die Gassenfronten abgewalmt, werden aber rückwärt mit Giebeln abgeschlossen.
Die Hauptfaçade ist reichhaltig architektonisch und in einem dem Zweck des Gebäudes entsprechenden Baustile dekorirt und der rückwärtige Theil soll aber eine ebenfalls harmonirende, jedoch minder reichhaltige Dekorirung erhalten.
Der beeidete Baumeister Herr Josef Kaura findet das vorgelegte Bauprojekt technisch ausführbar, bedingt jedoch vor, daß alle Umfangsmauern des Gebäudes und alle Gewölbgurten mit hinreichend starken Schließen unter gehöriger Verankerung durchgezogen, daß zur Bindung … größerer Tragfähigkeit des Daches ob dem Mittelschife, bei jedem Bundgespären die im Plane eingezeichneten Hängsäulen u. Strebebänder angebracht, das Fundament unter die eisernen Tragsäulen, sowie auch die der Gewölbfüße für die in dieselben einzuspannen kommenden Gurten von … hergestellt, u. die Säulen, die vom Baumeister angegeben würde mit Eisenbahn, … kunstgerecht mit einander verbunden werden.
Nachdem ferner auf den eisernen Tragsäulen, in welche die Gewölbgurten einzuspannen kommen nicht nur die ganze Spannlast dieser Gurten, sondern auch die Last [missing] auf diese Gurten aufzusetzen kommenden Ge.. der beiden Seiten mauern des Mittelschiffes mit ihrem vertikalen Druck aufruhen wird, so … sich die unumgängliche Nothwendigkeit feraus, daß diese Säulen in den den tatischen Gesetzen entschprechenden Stärke, und die Kapitälköpfe derselben, auf welche die Gewölbfüsse aufzuruhen kommen, eine kunst ..erechte Konstrukion und auch eine dem entsprechenden Verbindung mit dem Säulen, so wie nicht minder eine entsprechende Stür - Dimension erhalten; und nach dem ein [Det?]ailplan über die Konstruirung dieser Säulen zur Beurtheilung deren Zweckmäßigkeit nicht vorliegt, es übrigens Sache des ausführenden Baumeister ist, eine kunstgerechte [?] Durchführung seines Projektes allen Fleißes sich angelegen sein zu lassen, so wird seitens der Kommission derselbe für eine entsprechende Durchführung ohne Gefährdung der öffentlichen Sicherheitsrücksichten, werantwortlich gemacht.
Durch den Bauantrag wird nach Abschlag des alten Bestandes eine Wehrtfläche von 49 3/4 ' … Maß verbaut, wofür eine Kanalgebühr von 17f42 entfällt.
Bělský applies to Magistrat for early opening of the Temple
aufgenommen beim Prager Magistrat am 26. Mai 1868.
Es erscheint Baumeister H. Johann Bělský als Bauführer beim Tempel der Gemeinde für geregelten Kultus und zeigt Namens derselben an, daß behufs Ausmittelung der besten Art, wie die Sitze im Tempel zu stellen und zu vertheilen wären, von Seite der gennenten Kultusgemeinde beabsichtigt werde, in diesem bis auf die innere Ausstattung vollendeten Umbau probeweise die an den Pfingstfeiertagen (27 und 28 Mai 1868) Statt habenden Andachten abzuhalten, und ersucht, diese Anzeige zur behördlichen Kenntniß zu nehmen, da die definitive Übername seinerzeit ordnungsmäßig angesucht werden werde.
Joh. Bělský, A?
Geschlossen und gefertigt