Although they had to constantly renew their privileges, Sabbioneta’s small Jewish community was mostly tolerated and protected, firstly by the Gonzagas and later by Austrian government, neither of which established a ghetto.
The presence of the community is documented from the year 1436, when a pawnshop opened and its members were mainly traders. In the 1550s and 1560s, a significant printing industry started by Tobia Foà flourished in the town. As equal rights were gradually granted in the nineteenth century, many Jews became members of the upper middle class, and held important public positions. In this period, the old seventeenth-century synagogue underwent major renovation, completed in 1824 by the architect Visioli who years later designed the Viadana synagogue that was never finished. The main hall is a double-height room concealed in the middle of the block, in compliance with regulations to limit its visibility from the outside.
The interior has a neo-classical feel with trabeated columns and square pilasters, holding up the light-filled cloister or pavilion vault with stucco, made in 1840 by Pietro Bolla, a Swiss-Italian. At the end of the hall is the aron ha kodesh, an imposing brick portal with bright polychrome surfaces plastered using a marble imitation thin plaster, known as scagliola. A wrought iron gate in front of it encloses the space of the tevah, which consists of a simple lectern. Public seating is parallel to the longer walls, facing the centre of the room; the women’s gallery or matroneum is above the entrance, screened by a wooden grille.
Before reaching the Hall of the Synagogue, there is an exhibition area with liturgical objects and items witnessing the long standing Jewish presence in the city: scrolls of the Torah, scroll wrapping fabric, the Scroll of Esther’s (Megillath Ester) and a showcase on publishing.
Via Bernardino Campi, 1
Second floor, no access by lift
For visits, information and bookings:
Infopoint Sabbioneta – Associazione Pro Loco
Via Teatro Olimpico, 2 – 46018 Sabbioneta MN
Tel. + 39 0375 52039