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Venice- Cannaregio-The Jewish Ghetto (part 1)

Cannaregio contents

But let's enter the ghetto. Do that by passing through the Fondamente Cannaregio. 
In the beginning Jews were not really bothered and treated differently from other minorities. They were only allowed to be pawnbrokers and all commerce concerning the handling of money. 
Jews received permission to unload in the port of Venice from the 14th century on, but in an imposed limit of 15 days a year! But the Doge, who was not a fool, realised that the money, commercial skills and wealth of Jewish merchants could advantage Venice and he allowed them to settle down. Soon, they proved their grand utility in managing buildings, becoming great scientists and excellent physicians. But in 1492 the Jews were banned out of Spain and this provoked reactions in Venice. The authorities decided that the Jews should reside in a sort of isle, which was reserved until that time to foundries ("geto" in Venetian), with two access bridges, which could be closed at night, isolating the Jews from the rest of Venice from dawn to sunrise. The Ghetto was born! But we must add that in exchange of these harsh conditions, the Doge granted the Jews total liberty of religious worship and protection. Useless to say that the name "ghetto" travelled all around the world in next centuries!
Life was not easy. Guards were hired to survey the regulations and had to be paid by the Jewish community themself. Reminds me that the Nazis made the deportees pay single fare train ride to Auschwitz! Jews had also to wear yellow hats, a wall was built and all exterior windows were blocked to protect the citizens of Venice from the Jews. Space was so narrow, that high rise houses and buildings were the only solution for the growing population. You can still see some today high narrow buildings, often more than 6 floors. They are the darkest and most sad dwellings in Venice. Notice that the Jewish population was never bigger than 5,000 and only about 1,800 remained when Bonaparte arrived in 1797. He abolished the iron fences and chains blocking the accesses, but it's only in 1866 that the Jews were allowed to live wherever they wanted. At the beginning of WWII, a third of the remaining 1,000 Jews were deported by the fascists.
Today, only 650 Jews still live in Venice but mostly not in the ghetto area. Only about 40 frequent the synagogue on Sabbath. 
Next article, a visit to the area with its Museo Ebraico on the Campo del Ghetto Nuovo and five synagogues (called "schole" today). 


Jewish Life in Renaissance Italy, by R. Bonfil (Berkeley, University of California Press1994), Culture and Society in Venice 1470-1790, by Oliver Logan (London, B.T. Batsford,1972. ]-Encyclopaedia Judaica (ed. 1972, vol. 16, page 94) - A thousand Years of Culture and Civilisation, by Peter Lauritzen-Heures Italiennes, by Henry James (La difference 1985)--Culture and Society in Venice (1972) by O. Logan, -Venice and the Renaissance (1989) by M. Tafuri