‘scola nova’ synagogue

The “Scola Nova” was built in the tipycal Romanesque style – the Apulian version, to be precise. It has a double level rectangural plan with barrell vaulting, a “chiancarelle” style roof and single–light openings, common elements in civil style buildings and in medieval Europian synagogues.

The side aisles are characterised by two side arches, a pointed arch in the upper storey and fully arched at ground level.
The numerous niches and openings on both storeys communicated with the adjacent buildings and were probably used for Talmud Torah, or the mehizah. The latter was reserved for women, who were separeted from the worship area by openings closed by thick greatings or small doors.

The building faces east, towards Jerusalem. The Aron ha-quodesh, the holy arch and the cabinet where the Torah is kept are found on the upper level. This was built following the local tradition, with double lancet windows and an arched lintel, but the overall effect is reminescent of the synagogues of the same period in Sopron, Hungary. The aron had to have a set of stairs to allow convenient access to the scrolls. The centrale niche still retains the jambs of the wooden shutters and the hinges carved into the wall. After the convesion to church,a Mary and Child, icon of the Byzantine period of Galaktotrophousa type, was painted in th background.

There are no traces of the bimah, the pulpit where the rabbi and the cantor wuold pray, read biblical texts, preach and sing. This usually had a wooden structure, as appears in most miniatures,and its position was variable. In this case, it was set in a central position, completing the worship area, with the aron in the east and the wooden benches around it, typical of many synagogues in Prague and Worms.

The staircase, now giving access to the room on the upper floor of the synagogue, was clearly of later construction.
Beneath, a spaciuos curved arch constituted the original entrance. Here, the presence of a room suggest a miqweh, area used for ritual bathing.

The Scola Nova has now resumed its original function as a synagogue, and is under custody of the Jewish community of Naples, section Trani.

Photo: Scola Nova. interior of the hall with Aron ha-quodesh aedicula (Torah Shirine). Photo from 1992.

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