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40 years of active presence

Saturday, June 10, 2023

    EVERYDAY LIFE – The Jewish Quarter

    The Jews of Corfu initially resided on Erisvouni (“Jewish Hill”), which is now known as Campiello Hill. In 1425, with the erection of the new fortifications by the Venetians, they spread out across the town, residing alongside Christians and sometimes close to churches. This development elicited complaints from the Christians, who, from 1524 to 1622 repeatedly requested the Venetian authorities into delimiting the area from the Royal Gate to the Spilia (“Cave”) Gate and from the eastern ramparts of the New Fortress to Palaiologou street. This area has more or less remained the Jewish Quarter. The neighbourhood seems to never have functioned as a ghetto in the conventional sense, but was more of a defined residential area. The perimeter of the outer walls of the densely built houses offered a degree of separation. Every night the main roads were closed, giving some additional sense of safety to the inhabitants.

    Besides, the existence, apart from the synagogues, of five churches indicates that Christians also lived there. The high population density did not favour hygiene, at least until the time of British rule, when an aqueduct and the first sewers were constructed.

    The neighbourhood is densely constructed, with characteristic narrow streets and the absence of any squares, apart from some wider spaces in front of some churches and the Scuola Greca Synagogue, on present-day Velissariou street. Palaiologou street was the location of the Scuola Pugliese Synagogue.

    During the German bombardment of 13 September 1943, the Scuola Pugliese was destroyed, as were almost half of the buildings of the quarter. Despite the existence of a comprehensive rebuilding plan, the inability to actually apply it and the planless reconstruction of the postwar decades have detracted much from the neighbourhood’s erstwhile character.

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