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
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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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 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