“The presence of Jews in Trani has been attested since the 11th century.”
A small Jewish quarter lives not far from the famous cathedral overlooking the sea of ??Trani.
THE JEWS AND THE ARRIVAL IN TRANI
In the heart of the Pearl of the Adriatic, among its narrowest and most charming alleys, stands Giudecca di Trani, an open neighborhood that, just like in other cities of Italy, stood near the walls and the port, or in the most vital and energetic part, among the central streets of the city economy.
The city north of Bari, therefore, is still remembered today thanks to a strong presence of Jews, who from the first half of the eleventh century began to live in Trani. Probably arrived from Islamic Spain to escape the intolerance of Muslims, as reported in the travel diary made between 1159 and 1165 by the Jew Benjamin of Tudela, in those years in the Apulian town there were about two hundred Jews led by the rabbi Elia.
Furthermore, during the Norman-Swabian period, this community was able to enjoy the protection of Emperor Henry VI of Swabia, managing to have the privilege of the monopoly of trade and silk of the Stupor Mundi. It was during these years that the community was able to expand as best it could, building a total of four synagogues, the last of which was completed in 1247.
THE FOUR SYNAGOGUES OF TRANI
The synagogues of the Giudecca of Trani were then transformed into churches: of those of Scolagrande, Santa Maria di Scolanova, San Leonardo Abate, and San Pietro Martire only the first two can still be visited, while Santa Maria di Scolanova has returned to function for worship Hebrew starting from 2004, the year during which the Municipality gave it back its religious character.
Even today it is possible to admire the Jewish cult of the city of Trani through a tour of its iconic places.
Great Synagogue or Museum of Sant’Anna
Among these is the Great Synagogue, built-in 1247 and which became a Catholic church under the Angioni towards the end of the same century. Today it maintains the name it has brought during the last five hundred years of life, that of Sant’Anna, which is now joined by that of the Museum because, after a careful restoration aimed at recovering the stratigraphy of the original building, the synagogue-church houses an exhibition dedicated to the history of the Jewish community of Trani and which embraces the central and most important centuries of his stay in the city, when there were more than two hundred Jewish families.
After the recent restorations, the ancient elements of the synagogal structure have been brought to light: the external walls, the dome introduced in the octagonal drums. The cymoid tympanum on the side entrance of the sacred building was instead the crowning of Aronhakodesh.
It’s most precious finding, however, remains the epigraph of the foundation of the temple, written in Hebrew, which describes the majesty of the synagogue as it appeared at the time and as we can still admire.
Synagogue Scola Nova
The other surviving building, the Scola Nova synagogue, was built in the 13th century and has access to a staircase that climbs from the street to a door on the western side. Overlooking the homonymous Via Scolanova, the structure is built in limestone masonry and has a single portal and four arched single-lancet windows.
The entire building is also dominated by a sail bell tower surmounted by a tympanum on which stands a wrought iron star of David.
A journey via La Giudea, via della Giudecca, vico La Giudea, via Mosè di Trani and largo Scolanova, therefore, allows history to relive not only through its events but also for its important monuments of Jewish tradition and culture.
In fact, there are many common manifestations that are practiced between these streets: from the lighting of the Saturday lights to some norms of mourning, Trani continues to protect and preserve the traditions of its most ancient people.