The Great Synagogue of Rome
The Great Synagogue of Rome
- The story of the oldest continuous Jewish community outside Israel goes back to the year 160 BC when an allegation from Judea came to Rome seeking an alliance. In Fact, the Jews in Rome are commonly named “Ebrei” meaning Judah’s for being a direct path of these people who first came from Judea. With such a long history at one place it’s not surprising that they are an autonomic flue in the Jewish world, the “Romanim” and have their own rite called “Nusach Italki” (with the other two being “Ashkenazi” for all east European Jews and “Sephardic” for all eastern and African Jews).
- After the unification of Italy in 1870, when Rome was captured and the Papal State ceased to exist, the 300 year old walls around the Jewish Ghetto of Rome were demolished and Jews were given equal rights as citizens of the Republic. The Ghetto was in a bad shape after years of negligence, and some of its buildings were demolished, among them a building that housed five different Jewish study halls under one roof. As a result, the Jewish community wanted a new synagogue with all members of the community donating money to the project. The synagogue is the largest of 13 synagogues in Rome and was built from 1901-1904 on the eastern bank of the Tiber River, overlooking the old Jewish Roman Ghetto. The chosen location, between Capitoline and Janiculum hills, is very symbolic as on the Capitoline you can find the monument of vittorio Emanuele II and on the Janiculum a monument dedicated to Garibaldi, both men responsible for the ending of the papal state and the emancipation of the Jews.
- The Synagogue was designed by Vincenzo Costa and Osvaldo Armanni. The eclectic style of the building makes it stand out even in a city known for notable buildings and structures. The attention-grabbing Art Deco design was a deliberate choice made by the community at the time who wanted the building to be a visible celebration of their freedom and to be seen from many vantage points in the city. The dome is the only squared dome in the city and makes the building easily identifiable even from a distance.
- On 13 April 1986, Pope John Paul II came to visit to the Great Synagogue and prayed with the former Chief Rabbi of Rome, Rabbi Elio Toaff. It was the first known visit by a pope to a synagogue since the early history of the Roman Catholic Church.
- The Synagogue, which celebrated its centenary in 2004, is more than just a house of worship; it serves as a cultural and organizational center for the Jewish community of Rome, and also houses the offices of the Chief Rabbi of Rome and a Jewish Museum. Commemorative plates honor the local Jewish victims of Nazi Germany and of a Palestine Liberation Organization attack in 1982.
We will pass by the Great Synagogue on our following Segway Tours: