Where’s the Golem Statue in Prague?

 If you're visiting the capital of the Czech Republic, you're sure to run into some reference to the Golem of Prague. For those who aren't familiar with the story of the golem, drawn from mystical traditions of Judaism, the Prague golem might seem to be just another touristy trinket. But the golem and its legacy stand for so much more.

With that in mind, it's no surprise that you'll find the Prague golem throughout the city. From baked goods to monuments, you can come face-to-face with this legendary figure all over the city. Once you begin to notice the golem, you won't be able to stop seeing its representations everywhere throughout Prague.

The Golem Legend

The story of the golem comes in countless forms, but each version follows a similar plot. In the most common version of the legend, the creation of the golem is tied to Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the Maharal of Prague. Rabbi Loew, a real historical figure in the Jewish tradition, created a clay creature to protect his people from the blood libel, pogroms and other antisemitic violence. According to the legends, the creation of a golem happens one of two ways: by inserting a shem (a clay tablet inscribed with the sacred name of God) into its mouth or by carving the Hebrew word emet (meaning "truth") into the creature's forehead. In the latter, removing the first letter would leave the word met (meaning "death"), deactivating the creature, while the shem would be removed from the golem's mouth in the alternative tale.

In the tale of Rabbi Loew and the golem of Prague, the creature becomes violent and must be deactivated for good. Regardless, he's lived on through the years in myths, pop culture and tourism throughout the city of Prague and beyond.

The Golem of Prague Today

Whether or not you know the legend of the golem before entering the city, you'll quickly become familiar with his form. The golem makes his presence known in modern-day Prague through souvenirs, statues and even in cookies! Perhaps the most common appearance is in miniature statuettes, sold throughout the city. Made in the most common image of this popular figure, these miniature golems can serve as your own personal protector as you move through the city. A particularly endearing likeness can be found at Golem Biscuits, where you can "taste the legend" with traditional (and vegan-friendly) biscuits shaped like the golem.

As for statues of the golem throughout Prague, you have a few options to consider. It's not as simple as finding one statue in the ciity—Prague becomes a sort of scavenger hunt in your search for its hidden golems. In Prague's Old Town, for example, you'll find a unique version: a faceless golem holding Prague-native author Franz Kafka on his shoulders. Outside of City Hall, you'll find a related figure, a statue of the golem's creator, Rabbi Loew.

One particular golem statue acted as a point of contention in recent years. Inspired by the 1950s film The Emperor’s Baker/The Baker’s Emperor, a statue stored by the Czech Industry Ministry went into hiding in 2008. A 2010 court battle charged the Prague Wax Museum, which hosted a wax replica of the statue, violated the rights of the designer's descendents to its image. Courts decided that Dagmar Dományová, designer Jaroslav Horejc's daughter, holds the rights, meaning the Wax Museum was orderd to pay damages.

Other Landmarks

If you struggle to find the golem's statues throughout Prague or run into too many crowds in the process, there are other landmarks from the legend to be visited. At the Old Jewish Cemetery, you'll find Rabbi Loew's grave, where visitors leave pebbles in accordance with Jewish burial tradition. Or you can visit the Old New Synagogue, where the golem's lifeless form allegedly lies in the attic to this day. While visitors can't visit the attic to search for the golem itself, it's still a must-visit spot in Prague's golem story.

Today, the golem doesn't take to the streets of Prague to protect the Jewish community from antisemitic attacks. But that doesn't mean you won't find his likeness throughout the city. Visit one of the statues featuring the golem, purchase a keychain, bite into a golem-shaped biscuit, or stop by a point of interest in the story of the golem of Prague. Take a moment to remember the folktale and its importance to the Jewish community of the Czech Republic, and its lessons about how hatred and violence should be stopped lest they infect everyone with their poison. We can still learn a lot from this simple folktale and its lessons today.

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