The cemetery and the crypt
Trani’s Jewish sepulchral area was situated outside the city’s wall; it bordered on the way to the Dominical convent, on the way that passed “sotto il canneto” (under the cane-field) and on the road to Bisceglie and Ruvo. Its epicentre was the current Calatafimi Street.
After the convertions to Catholicism in 1294 the area was discarded and in 1303 it was given to the Dominicans.
After the revival of the Jewish community the deceased were buried in an area adjacent to the old cementery, along the road to the Colonna peninsula.
The Jewish tradition dosen’t encourage monuments on burials sites. It has however become the custom to set up tombstones on the grave, especially by remarkable families.
Same of these tombstones came up to our days. From the ancient cementery we have the tombstone of Rabbi Adonyah b. Baruch and some tombstones pieces, dating to the 13th century, are built has frames and lintel of a door in the Place Broquier-D’Amely.
The tombstone dedicated to the scholar Rabbi Tanhun b. Mose of Beaucaire and that of Ricca bat Hayym, Astruga bat Mastro Astruc, Bonafiglia “partner” of Yehudah de Bonomo came from the 15th century cementery. The five tombstones are now collected and kept in this Museum. Customary in the epigraphs is the invocations: “ May is soul be bound up in the bundle of life”. The blessing derives from Samuele 25.29.
The Trani’s tombstones used the abbreviated form, is the acronym composed by the initial Hebrew word of the blessing.
During the first decades of the 17th century the confraternity of S. Anna was established in the church of S. Anna, once Scola Grande, and requested to modify and adorne the church.
As in the middle ages it was common for Christians to bury their deceased underground or in crypts of the churches, they built also sepulchral crypt reserved to the brothers and their family members.
The bodies were arranged in side niches and subsequently the remains were placed in the common ossuary, often, as here at S. Anna, dug in the ground.
The crypts were decorated with inscriptions, symbols and paintings that reminded the transiency of life.
Photo: Tombstones used has gateposts at the entrance to the gardens of Casino Lepore in the country-district of S. Elena in Trani.
On the left-hand side, upside-down, the tombstone of Astruga (d.1491); on the right the tombstone of Ricca (d. 1480).