The Multi-Layered Old Jewish Cemetery of Prague

Nov 27, 2015 1 comments

In the past when a cemetery ran out of space and there were no more land to expand, a new cemetery was created by layering more soil over the old graves. This was what happened in the Old Jewish Cemetery, in the Jewish Quarter of Prague. Not once, or twice, but twelve times.

The Old Jewish Cemetery is among the oldest surviving Jewish burial grounds in the world. It was founded in the early 15th century, with the oldest gravestone dating back to 1439. The last burial took place in 1787. Between these two burials, a period of approximately 350 years, more than 100,000 people were interred here stacked on top of each other up to twelve layers deep.


Photo credit: Sarah Ackerman/Flickr

In those times Jewish people from Prague were not allowed to bury their dead outside the Jewish Quarter of Josefov. Even though the cemetery was enlarged on several occasions in the past, the area remained totally insufficient for the Jewish community. The Hebrew faith also forbids the moving of headstones, so when the cemetery ran out of space and purchasing extra land was impossible, more layers of soil were placed on the existing graves, the old tombstones taken out and placed upon the new layer of soil. Today there are 12,000 tombstones visible in the cemetery tightly packed together fighting for space.


Photo credit: Lauren Rauk/Flickr


Photo credit: Garrett Ziegler/Flickr


Photo credit: Ulf Liljankoski/Flickr


Photo credit: Garrett Ziegler/Flickr


Photo credit: Jacqueline Poggi/Flickr


Photo credit: Jorge Royan/Wikimedia


Photo credit: Maros M r a z/Wikimedia

Sources: / Wikipedia


  1. Yet another incredible article! Seems as though another 1,000 years should be worth one solid tombstone...and about 25 more layers.


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