THE ISLAND OF ORTIGIA
TOURISM IN SYRACUSE, SICILY
|THE ISLAND OF ORTIGIA| Arethusa Fountain| Judaica. Exploring Jewish Siracuse| The Seaside| Piazza Archimede| Piazza Duomo| Palazzo Bellomo| St. John the Evangelist| Santa Maria della Concezione| The Temple of Apollo|
Judaica. Exploring Jewish Siracuse
Up until their expulsion by the Spanish sovereign occurred in 1492, Jews constituted a very important part of Syracuse, amounting at times to a third of the population, which is to say several thousand
The Jewish community of Syracuse was, in fact, the most populous in Sicily after that of Palermo.
The Jewish presence in Syracuse is already documented in Roman times and counted among its ranks numerous and rich merchants and bankers.
Although the Jewish presence preceded the date in which all of the Jewish population
of the Catholic countries was obligatorily locked in ghettos (starting in 1555), a large part of this population preferred to collect voluntarily in “Jewish quarters”, for very practical and emotional reasons, moreover for understandable self-protection,
that gave birth in modern cities to “Italian quarters”, “Chinese quarters”, and
These neighborhoods were called in Italian "Giudecche" ("Jewries"), and that of Syracuse is defined by the principal street that continues to
bear the name today of "Via della Giudecca".
Here arose not only homes but also the seat of the community: the synagogue,
the schools, the kosher butchers’ shops and bakeries, in short, everything that was of service to the
Many buildings were constructed around a courtyard at the center of which, according
to ancient custom, soared a palm tree and a citrus tree, that in several cases
survive even today.
The shops opened up along the street, while the true and proper homes were on
the floor above.
The catastrophe of 1492 forced the community to choose between forced conversion to Catholicism or the
selling off of assets within three months and leaving.
Those that remained became “New Christians”.
Via della Giudecca in Syracuse
The wealth of the community was evident in the exteriors of the buildings, even
if the reconstruction of the quarter after the destruction caused by the earthquake of 1693 gave them a strong baroque flavor that now reveals, at least on the facades
of the houses, very little of the Jewish period.
Actually, many apparently modern buildings have incorporated the structures of
the Jewish period, as is revealed little by little by the restoration work that
was done in this part of Ortigia.
Thanks to this work the discoveries (and surprises) are not few.
The most sensational is that of the Mikvah or Mikweh (ritual Jewish bath).
Recent discoveries moreover made it possible to locate the space occupied by
the synagogue (which was previously identified with the church of San Filippo
the Apostle) in the church of San Giovanni Battista (San Giovannello), transformed into the church of the community of newly baptized who stayed put.
How to reach the Jewish quarter of Syracuse from the Algilà Ortigia Charme Hotel.
The former Jewish quarter (Giudecca) of Syracuse is situated a few hundred meters
from the Hotel Algilà.
For this reason one is advised to reach it by foot, following the streets that
still maintain, after more than two millennia, the "comb teeth" structure given
to the city by the Greek architects.
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