Religion and culture

Religion was the central, defining element of life for people in the Middle Ages. This was true both for Christians and for Jews. Just like today, some people lived out their faith more closely than others. Faith and religion were nonetheless omnipresent. They shaped how the people of Regensburg thought and acted and thus pervaded almost all areas of life.

In mediaeval Judaism, it is not possible to separate culture from religion. The Hebrew manuscripts, some of which are still of huge significance today, often reflect both aspects in both content and style.

Regensburg's mediaeval Jewish community was known as kehila kedosha, a holy community, and is still of enormous importance for Jews around the world. Throughout the centuries, brilliant scholars lived and worked here in the city. Some of them were buried in the Regensburg cemetery, for example Rabbi Jehuda bar Samuel heChassid (the Pious; c. 1140/1150–1217) in 1217. He had lived in Regensburg and written his work Sefer Chassidim there. The Jewish cemetery was called beit olam, the House of Eternity. This was not just a resting place for the deceased, but also a place of reflection and pilgrimage for the living.

At the heart of Jewish life was the synagogue, in which services, weddings and other gatherings were held. Regensburg's mediaeval synagogue was also of great architectural interest. The Regensburg painter Albrecht Altdorfer (c. 1480–1538) recorded the interior of the synagogue and the vestibule in two etchings before the building was torn down in 1519. It became a model for newer synagogues, such as the Altneuschul in Prague.