For centuries and without interruption, this site was the focus of Jewish life. Following restoration work in the 70s and 80s, the former Jewish quarter can now be experienced in its original design.
Only the stone foundation panel of the first synagogue building (1034) has survived.
After the destruction in the crusades of the 11 th and 12 th
centuries, a new synagogue was built in the Romanesque style typical of the
cathedral workshop. In 1212/13 an annexe, the “women’s synagogue“, was added to
this “men’s synagogue“. This was followed in 1185/86 by the addition of an
underground ritual bath, a mikvah.
The men’s synagogue stands on two columns and has two naves, with the torah ark
set in an apse. There were alterations as a result of several instances of
damage (pogroms), and in 1624 a small yeshiva
(Talmudic schoolroom) was added (called Rashi’s Chapel). This whole complex was
the focal point of life for the ancient and important Jewish community in
Worms. It was burned down and torn down between 1938 and 1942, and the
synagogue was rebuilt using some of the original building material and then
consecrated anew in 1961. There is no longer a Jewish community in Worms, and
responsibility for the synagogue lies with the community in Mainz.
Jews lived in the area enclosed by the north-east section of the medieval city wall with its typical buildings several storeys high from the late 10th century on. The first synagogue that is mentioned in records dates from 1043. Information about the exact circumstances is given in the donor’s inscription set in the stonework near the entrance to the present Late Romanesque men’s synagogue. It says that Jakob ben David and his wife Rahel used their wealth to build “a house”, the synagogue, and decorate it with ornamental work. This synagogue was built of stone and stood on the site of the present yeshiva (the Rashi House).
A necessary condition for building such a synagogue was the existence of a sizeable community. A yeshiva (Talmudic school) of considerable reputation was attached to this first synagogue, but there is no building on the synagogue site that can be identified as having housed it. The student at this school who later acquired great fame as one of the most important scholars and teachers of western Judaism was Rabbi Salomon ben Isaak from Troyes (France), called Rashi. He studied here around the year 1060. A monument to him, the work of the artist Wolf Spitzer from Speyer, stands in the courtyard of the synagogue. This first synagogue was damaged during the crusade of 1096.
A new synagogue was built in 1174/75 at the
same time as the new Romanesque cathedral was built. Craftsmen from the
cathedral workshop were active in the construction of this new synagogue. Thus
the ornaments on the portal and on the capitals of the columns inside the
synagogue can be compared to those of the cathedral.
The men’s synagogue faces east and has a double nave with two columns in the middle which support the interior vault. The impost of the eastern capital bears an inscription that refers to the year 1174/75. These capitals were among the most finely executed examples of the so-called Worms or Strasbourg capital.
The original capitals were destroyed during the devastation of the Nazi period. The portal, however, is the original one.
An Early Gothic vaulted
room with a middle support was added on the northern side in 1212/13 as a
women’s annexe. Today this room serves as a memorial room for the Jews of Worms
who were murdered during the Nazi period.
The outer face of the entrance portal (inside the vestibule) shows
typical features of the Worms school of architecture.
According to a further Inscription, which has also survived, the ritual bath, the mikvah, was built in 1185/86. The supports here have simple square capitals. The synagogue was frequently damaged and restored, both in the Middle Ages and in modern times, and it was also altered during modernizations. The pogroms in 1349 and 1615 caused severe damage. According to an inscription, the Rashi yeshiva was built in 1623/24 adjoining the men’s synagogue and to the west of it, and the porch to the square in front of the synagogue was also added at this time.
The mikvah is closed at the moment due to restauration. You can see the mikvah in an online animation.
During the “Pogrom Night” in 1938 the synagogue
was burned down, and in the following years the ruins were vandalized. Because
of the synagogue’s special importance, both religious and historical, the city
of Worms, the State of Rhineland Palatinate and the German Government decided
after the war to rebuild it. This rebuilding work was done in 1961, using much
of the original building material of the old synagogue and despite the fact
that no new Jewish community had established itself in Worms. Part of the
original wall can still be seen at the north-west corner of the men’s synagogue
up to a height of about 1.5 metres. The present synagogue in Worms with its
adjoining buildings has the appearance of a medieval synagogue complex with a
strong Late Romanesque element.
The Jewish community in Worms ceased to exist as a result of emigration and the murder of its members during the Nazi period. However, the synagogue is once again used for religious services by its present owner, the Jewish community in Mainz.
In 2011, the Jewish
Community of Mainz-Worms and the City of Worms celebrated the 50 th
anniversary of the rebuilding of the synagogue. Numerous members of the
community and also representatives of from the fields of politics and public
life were present at the celebration.
Stella Schindler-Siegreich, Chairwoman of the Jewish Community of Mainz-Worms and Lord Mayor Michael Kissel welcomed as guests of honour the President of the Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, the Consul General of Israel in Munich, Tibor Shalev-Schlosser, and the Prime Minister of Rhineland Palatinate, Kurt Beck.
daily 10 am - 12.30 and 1.30 – 5 pm
daily 10 am - 12 and 2 pm – 4 pm