Chapter 4 of the Exhibition Catalogue GOLEM
Chapter 4: Legendary Prague
Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the Maharal of Prague, was a significant philosopher and scholar of his time, though he probably never actually created a golem. The story about him and his soulless assistant was not ascribed to him until two hundred years after his death. Rabbi Loew lived in sixteenth-century Prague during the reign of Rudolf II, a patron of the arts and sciences with eclectic interests. Rudolf II moved his residence from Vienna to Prague and maintained close contact with astronomers, mathematicians, artisans, and painters, and he was particularly interested in Jewish mysticism. Evidence of this intellectual atmosphere is Rudolf’s Kunstkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, containing the most diverse collector’s items from all over the world.
The spirit of the age, inspired by magic and the occult, by alchemy and astronomy, was an ideal screen on which to project the invented legend of the golem of Prague, the setting most closely tied to the story of the golem. No golem creator has gained greater fame than Rabbi Loew. The myth of the Prague golem carries on to today: in the storefront windows with their souvenir figures, at mythical sites such as Rabbi Loew’s grave, or with the rumor that the remains of the golem are still located in an inaccessible attic room of the Old New Synagogue in Prague. The legend lives on.