Jewish Quarters and Ghettos

A conception of Jewish separation, even isolation, has been central to the study of late-medieval and early-Renaissance cities in Italy — particularly after the sixteenth century, when the prototype of the ghetto was invented in Venice. However, the giudecca of Trani was compact in size and diverse in architectural character and largely open to the city around it, indicating that this ghetto model may have been far more limited in time and space. Indeed, the elaborate spatial arrangements of Trani’s giudecca indicate a specific form of coexistence the lasted five hundred years.

The original Giudecca, where Jews freely chose to live together, extended from the cathedral all the way to the harbor, all within the Byzantine/Longobard walls. The area corresponds today to the San Donato neighborhood, where street names evoke the Jewish past: Via Sinagoga, Via della Giudecca, Vico La Giudea, Via Mosè da Trani and Largo Scolanova. With the arrival of more Jews during the 15th century, a second Giudecca was established near Porta Nuova.

Trani is today the center of a Jewish revival, a unique phenomenon to all of Europe. Groups of people who may or may not be descendants of Jews and Marranos have started to convert to Judaism. A new Jewish community is being reborn and two former synagogues have been reclaimed.