Zamosc is the only complete Renaissance urban complex in Poland. Established in 1589, the town was designed by the Italian architect Bernardo Morando and based on the concept of citta ideale (ideal town). Among its main attractions are the bastions including the Lubelska Gate (1588) and the Lwowska Gate (1599); the palace; the Town Hall (1591-1600) and its famous fan-shaped stairs; the buildings of the Zamosc Academy (the second institution of higher learning in the Polish Kingdom, 1639-1648); the cathedral church (1587-1600); the Orthodox Christian church (1618-1631, now Catholic), and the arcaded houses from the 17th century.
City Hall, photo: A.Olej&K. Kobus:
In 1992 UNESCO declared the historical monuments of Zamosc a World Heritage Site.
Jews settled here some eight years after the town was founded. The area around Rynek Solny (the Salt Market) and ul. Zydowska (Jewish Street), now ul. Zamenhofa, was designated as the Jewish quarter. In the 18th century, Zamosc became a centre of intellect and home to scholars such as Eliezer Lipman ben Manli and Shlomo ben Moshe. This is perhaps why later on the Jews of Zamosc shared a fate unlike many of the others from the Lublin region. At the beginning of the 19th century the Haskalah under the leadership of Josef Cederbaum, Yakov Eichenbaum and Salomon Ettinger triumphed here. Zamosc was home to Hebrew print shops, a Hebrew secondary school and even a Jewish weekly, "Zamoishcher Shtimme" (The Zamosc Voice). In 1939 Jews made up 45% of the town's population (12,000 people). Of these 5,000 managed to escape to the East. The Germans imprisoned the rest in the ghetto, from where they were deported to the death camp in Belzec.
Many 16th and 17th-century buildings situated in the former Jewish quarter remain in good condition. In accordance with the plans made when the town was being established, the district once inhabited by Jews is spread over the north-eastern part of the town centre. It is delineated by ul. Pereca, ul. Zamenhofa and Rynek Solny. The centre of the former Jewish community was situated in the middle section of ul. Zamenhofa. There was a synagogue here, the kahal house and the cheder. Jews also lived in the Jewish suburb stretching from Stara Brama Lwowska in the direction of Nowa Osada set up at the beginning of the 19th century. There were once two cemeteries here. On the site of the Old Cemetery from the 17th century there is now a house of culture. In 1950 the new one in ul. Prosta was turned into a lapidarium in the form of a memorial made from the remains of matzevot. It is crowned with tablets bearing the inscription "Thou shalt not kill".
The other synagogue in Zamosc is at ul. Gminna 32 in the Nowa Osada district. It was erected in 1872 and extended from 1909 to 1913. In 1948 it was turned into a kindergarten.
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The texts presented here were originally published in the guide Where the Tailor Was a Poet...
, by Adam Dylewski (Pascal).
Erected from 1610 to 1618, this Renaissance building, made of brick, was a place of religious worship until the outbreak of the Second World War, when the Nazis destroyed the interior and converted it into a joinery. Renovation work was undertaken in the 1960s.
This beautiful synagogue now houses a library. It is quite a stounding that a historic monument of this class is not a museum. This situation, however, is due to change. In 2003 the library will move and maybe then the synagogue's richness will shine in all its glory.
The Synagogue, photo: A.Olej&K. Kobus:
The present condition of the building does not mean that you cannot have a quick look inside. The main prayer hall is its oldest part, while the prayer rooms for women were added in the middle of the 17th century. The one on the north side was destroyed by the Germans during the Second World War and rebuilt in the 1960s. The vestibule was added in the 18th century. The attic has a rather interesting story. It was taken down in the 18th century and put back 200 years later. The entrance takes you through the Renaissance stone portal to the vestibule in which there is a reading room and an information desk. The ceiling in the main hall has been lowered. Between the bookshelves you can see the recess for the aron ha-kodesh. There is no trace of the bimah. Rich adornments, such as the crown of the Torah over the recess and the vessels (jugs and bowls used by Levites), are quite extraordinary. The walls here used to bear very rich paintings and numerous Hebrew inscriptions. The interior is begging to be renovated.
The synagogue is situated on the corner of ul. Zamenhofa and ul. Bazylianska. The library is open 7.30am-6.30pm.
The Kahal House and Cheder
The building at ul. Zamenhofa 11, adjacent to the synagogue, is the former kahal house and cheder. The original building dated from the 17th century and served as a schoolmaster's lodgings. The kahal house and cheder were set up here in the 18th century and extended in the 19th, with another floor being added. After the Second World War it was transformed into a hotel.
The mikvah building from the middle of the 18th century, remodelled in the 19th century, can still be found ul. Zamenhofa 3. The ritual bath was located in the cellars.
You can go inside during the opening hours of the local club, from 6pm to 10pm.
You may want to end your walk around the Jewish monuments of the Old Town in Rynek Solny (the Salt Market). The houses on the northern and eastern sides of the square once belonged to Jewish merchants. Initially one-storied, they were built on in the 19th century.
The Main Square in Zamosc, photo: A.Olej&K. Kobus:
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