Synagogues in Trani

The cities of the Jewish diaspora are often situated close to the city’s boundary walls, in proximity to harbours and markets due to the inherent commercial benefits, but also next to churches and castels for security reasons.

In Trani, the Giudecca is located in the upper part of the city close to the Longobard wall, the harbour and the cathedral. A giudecca (a.k.a giudea, giovecca, giuderia, giudaica, ebraica) is an open neighbourhood not be confused with a ghetto. A ghetto is a closed area originally decreed by law in northen Europe during the 13th century when Jews were forced to live in settlements. The term itself was first used in Venice in 1516.

In the heart of the Jewish district in Trani we find the synagogue which functioned as a meeting place (Beth Kenèseth: “synagogue” is the translation from Greek) where the community would pray and listen to the cantor. It was used as a study venue (Beth Midrash) where the Rabbi would teach Torah, as well as a palce to administer justice for ritual and non-ritual matters.
Other services for the community were the butcher’s shop, the bukery, and the cementery, the latter outside the wall but in view.

The prosperity of Trani’s giudecca is characterised by the for synagogues transformed into churches and dedicated to SS. Quirico and Giovita (subsequently S. Anna), S. Maria of Scolanova, S. Leonardo Abate and S. Pietro Martire (Lambertini, 1572). Today, only the churches of S. Anna and S. Maria of Scolanova remain; the other synagogues were last documented at the end of the 14th century and appear to have been situated close to S. Anna.

The place names used in the Giudecca can still be found today. The church of S. Anna faces Via della Giudea and the Scola Nova synagogue stands in Via and Piazza Sinagoga.

This square is the result of the demolition of a building called ‘Casa del Rabbino’ (Rabbi’s House) which had a double lancet window facing the synagogue.

This was certainly known has “Scola Nova”; the other simply “the Synagogue”, perhaps owing to its centrale role in the community, but now called “Sinagoga Grande” (Large Synagogue) o Scola Grande (Large School).

The Sinagoga Grande was consructed in 1246-47.

None of the Scola Nova foundation documents have come to light, but the architectural elements suggest that the constraction took place around the 12th century or early in the 13th century.

Presumably the Scola Nova antedates the Sinagoga Grande evidence of the flourishing community during the period under Swabian rule.

Photo: Toponyms of the Giudecca (Jewish quarter) in Trani. STRADA DELLA GIUDEA.

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