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40 years of active presence

Friday, December 1, 2023

    RELIGIOUS LIFE – The Romaniote synagogue

    The Romaniote community used the Scuola Greca or Tempio Greco Synagogue. It can be dated to the beginning of the 17th century and, the only one to have emerged unscathed from the 1943 bombardments, remains in use. It is built in the Venetian manner, with the ground floor reserved for community offices and auxiliary spaces, while in the courtyard there is provision for a communal sukkah (for Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles) and a room for washing and preparing the deceased for burial. The synagogue itself is on the first floor with a high ceiling. The balcony comprising the women’s gallery, which is no longer accessible, had an entrance from a separate, external staircase. The interior is open, without columns with a bipolar axial plan: The Ehal is on the eastern and the Bimah on the western wall. Both are made of wood, provided with columns decorated in the neo-Corinthian style. The domed Ehal is a hexagonal structure and is surrounded by a railing, while access to the Bimah, a raised platform with the reader’s desk and a wooden, golden-sculptured canopy, is by steps from the two sides. The opulent decorative style of the furnishings is clearly influenced by the interior of the Baroque synagogues in Venice, and creates an appealing contrast to the plain decoration of the prayer room. The seats for the men are in bank form, running the length of the building along the axis. The Sephardic influence is manifested in the use of an inner Parohet, hung behind the doors of the Ehal, a characteristic normally not found in Romaniote synagogues. In February 2020, the well going down from the ground floor of the synagogue to the Mikveh (ritual cleansing bath) was cleaned and opened up.

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