Synagogue, Senigallia, 17th century
The Italian synagogue is situated in Via dei Commercianti 20, in the heart of the ghetto. An older synagogue used to be located on Via Arsilli, but it had to be moved inside the fence of the ghetto. The synagogue, of Italian rite, always welcomed also Ashkenazi and Levantine Jews, who came to Senigallia because of the famous fair. Portuguese Jews who fled persecution came as well.
The building’s entrance opens onto Via dei Commercianti. Five tall windows dominate the front of the building. On top of them, a row of blind windows is a reminder of the additional floor that was demolished after the earthquake of 1930.
The large staircase that leads to the entrance and the ample entry hall, speak to the economic prosperity and substantial size of the community. There were about 600 local Jews. During the Fair, many more Jews from Germany and Hungary sojourned in the city and made use of the community services.
Today the women’s gallery and the prayer hall are located on the first floor. The furniture here was re-arranged so that tables and benches are in the center of the room, while others are huddled along the walls. The room thus acquires the appearance of an Ashkenazi school, an unusual feature in an Italian synagogue.
Everything was destroyed in 1799 when, after the French departed, a horde of Sanfedists , leading the local populace, invaded the streets of the ghetto, killing thirteen people and injuring hundreds. The survivors found refuge in Ancona and in the countryside, but the synagogue was looted and set on fire.
In 1801 Pope Pius VII called the Jews back to Senigallia where they rebuilt the Synagogue. The aron and tevah were rebuilt in the new Empire style; with a walnut dome above the aron. The monumental door and the staircase, testimony of the grandeur of the past, have remained intact.
The podium, which was accessed through a double staircase leaning against the side walls, was supported by six columns with Corinthian bases and bordered by a finely carved and gilded wood balustrade. This used to be placed against the wall opposite the aron, according to the classic Italian structure. Today, the beautiful balustrade is the only original piece of furnishing that survived the devastation of 1799. The aron, which dates to the early nineteenth century, is painted white with gold tooling in Empire style. Wood panels cover the lower part of the walls through the entire length and serve as backing for the benches against the walls.