The history of the Jews in Marche dates back more than a thousand years. Land records as early as 967 show that Jews were owners of vineyards and olive groves. Documents dating from that year record a land sale by Peter, bishop of Ravenna, to Elijah “The Righteous”. Over the centuries, this region had at least thirty well-documented Jewish communities.

By the 1200s, the city of Recanati, located between Ancona and Senigallia, had a reputation as a seat of Jewish learning. Jewish communities in Fano and Pesaro were flourishing in 1214, as mentioned in the “Consulta” of Rabbi Eliezer Ben Joel Ha Levi. The earthquake of 1279 destroyed the city of Ancona. Held responsible for the cataclysm, many Jews were slaughtered. A special prayer is still recited by Ancona Jews on the 9th of April. The prayer for the destruction of the Second Temple also mentions the burning of the Jews of Ancona and the victims of the Shoah.

In the 1300s, the port city of Senigallia was buzzing with lucrative Jewish businesses. The Jewish scholar, Master Daniel, arrived in Urbino from Viterbo to open a bank and establish trade. Other thriving cities include the sea port of Pesaro, and Fermo, a city mentioned by the great poet Immanuel ben Solomon of Rome, who found hospitality there in the house of a wealthy merchant. His great work, the “Mahbarot” was extensively edited in Fermo.

After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1497, waves of Sephardic refugees began to arrive, settling in Ancona and the other port cities. Shortly after, they were followed by Jews from Sicily and the south of Italy who had formerly lived in the Kingdom of Naples. By the 1540s, Pope Paul III had invited merchants from the Levant to settle in Ancona, regardless of their religion. He encouraged the settlement of Jews and crypto-Jews promising protection from the Inquisition. Approximately 100 Portuguese crypto-Jewish families settled in Ancona at this time. Since trade was the life blood of the Adriatic port cities, certain modifications enabling the Jews to continue to trade with Turkey and the Levant were introduced in order to avert a commercial crisis. At this point in Marche, the Jews were divided between those who followed the ancient Italian rite and those following the Levantine or Sephardic rite.

1. Villa Imperiale in Pesaro, Girolamo Genga (Urbino 1476-Casteldelci 1551), Biblioteca Oliveriana. 2. Bernardino Pinturicchio, Aeneas Piccolomini Arrives in Ancona, fresco, 1502-08, Piccolomini Library, 3. Hebrew psalter, Library of Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana

In 1555, the situation changed dramatically for the Jews. Pope Paul IV adopted anti-Jewish measures in the Papal States, which included Marche. The Jews of Ancona were forced to live in a ghetto, prohibited from owning property, and restricted to trading in secondhand clothing. Some Jewish families managed to escape north to Senigallia, Pesaro and Ferrara. Twenty-five crypto-Jews were burned at the stake in Ancona in 1555. Following these events, Dona Gracia Nasi, a rich Jewish merchant, organized a boycott of the port of Ancona. Historians view her actions as the first attempt by Jews to utilize economic power as a weapon against persecutors. In 1569, when Pope Pius V expelled the Jews from the Papal States, Ancona and Rome were the only cities in which they where permitted to reside, due to their usefulness in the trade with the Levant.

When, in 1633, with the death of the last Duke of Urbino, the duchy passed to the Church, ghettos were established in Urbino, Pesaro and Senigallia. Many towns and cities from which Jews had left, petitioned the Pope requesting the return of Jewish bankers to “help the needs of the poor and the emerging wool industry”.

In 1797, the arrival of the French Army led to the opening of the ghettos. It was a short-lived joy. After the departure of the French, repression was fierce particularly in Urbino, Pesaro and Senigallia. Hordes of Sanfedists, at the cry of “Viva Maria” stormed the streets of the ghettos, looting homes, destroying the insides of the synagogue and brutally slaughtering thirteen Jews, including three women. Dozens of wounded and survivors found shelter on a ship sent by the Jews of Ancona.

In the nineteenth century, the Jews of Marche contributed soldiers and large sums to the cause of the Risorgimento. Through funding from companies such as Moisé Salmoni & C. and Sanson Vivanti, the Jews also supported the underground activities of the secret societies Carboneria and Giovane Italia. Yet their participation in the Risorgimento had dire consequences. In 1860, by order of the Pontific General Lamorcière, just before the unification of Italy, the Spanish-Levantine synagogue of Ancona was destroyed.

The Italian synagogue of Ancona followed the same fate in 1932, when it was demolished by the Fascist authorities under the pretext of the construction of Via Stamura. Of the 157 Jews of Ancona deported to Germany during the war, only 15 returned.

The Jews of Ancona at Beit Hatefutsot

Toponomy and Jewish last names

Marche is the Italian region that originated the largest number of Jewish last names. These were the “place of provenance” names, adopted by families to distinguish themselves from those of more recent immigration. In 1569, following Pope Pius V’s expulsion of Jews from all of the Papal States, with the exception of Ancona, many took the name of their town of origin as their last name. Today many Jewish Italian last names bear testimony to the Jewish ancient presence in the towns and cities of Marche, among others: Ascoli, Barchi, Belforte, Cagli, Camerino, Cingoli, Da Fano, D’Ancona, Della Pergola, D’Urbino, Fano, Iesi, Macerata, Mondolfo, Mondolfi, Moresco, Moreschi, Osimo, Pesaro, Pergola, Recanati, Senigallia, Senigaglia, Tolentino, Urbino, Urbini.

Trade and professions

Jews in Marche were renowned for the currieries and tanneries, where they developed their own techniques to preserve and decorate leather.

They had brought with them expertise in ceramic arts from Spain and silk processing (thus the last names Seta and Della Seta) from Sicily. Most towns and villages along the rivers had at least one Jewish family of dyers, originating the last name Tintori. By the end of the 1400, many Jews were attracted by the fascinating new art of printing. Abraham Gershon Soncino, of the great Jewish printing family, was active in Pesaro. Jewish high quality printing presses were established also in Fano, Pesaro and Ancona. Their output was unfortunately burned in great part in 1553, by edict of Pope Julius III. The same Pope forbade Talmud printing, resulting in about 12,000 copies being destroyed.

Last names like Orefice and Sarto (Goldsmith and Taylor) are reminders of the trades Jews once mastered and taught to Christian apprentices. Later, with the establishment of guilds, each under the aegis of a saint, Jews were excluded and relegated to ‘strazzeri,’ or peddlers. They were allowed to keep the practices of medicine and money lending, regulated by special laws, as well as taxes and licensing contracts.

The tradition of Jews in medicine hails back to Maimonides and the Arab world. Medical licensing was common among Jews and not only in Marche. Frederick II had invited Jewish physicians to the renowned Salerno School of Medicine and, with very few exceptions, the Pope’s personal doctors were Jewish. One of Marche’s most famous physicians, Elijah Sabato, was from the city of Fermo. He was called to Rome in 1405 as personal physician to Pope Innocent VII. In 1410, he became chief physician for Martin V and later moved to England to the court of King Henry IV. He was appointed chief physician by Pope Eugene IV, later the Viscontis, in Milan, and finally the Estes, in Ferrara.

Emulating the higher clergy, the aristocracy also preferred Jewish physicians, a circumstance that would later contribute to resentments against the Jews. Their medical knowledge was later linked to accusations of ritual murder.

Thanks to their entrepreneurship and mobility, the Jews made Marche into one of the most active trade centers in the Mediterranean, often raising concerns of rivalry with powerful the Venetian Republic.


Camerino was one of eleven towns between Ancona and Rome where Jewish merchants were known to be active in trade. The town, and its Jewish community, began a rapid decline in 1545, with the incorporation of Camerino into the Papal States. At that time, the Jews were forced to move into the area between what […]

San Severino

  ” template=”/home/jitaly/public_html/wp-content/plugins/nextgen-gallery/products/photocrati_nextgen/modules/ngglegacy/view/gallery.php” order_by=”sortorder” order_direction=”ASC” returns=”included” maximum_entity_count=”500″] There were Jews living in San Severino since the end of the thirteenth century. Surviving thirteenth century documents refer to an ancient and now lost municipal status regulating relations with the Jews. These were granted the freedom of religious practices and protection from assaults and thefts. Jews were […]


The first mention of Jewish presence in Recanati dates back to 1337 and refers to the absolution of 20 citizens of Recanati, among them Gullielmutius Consilii Judeus, from any accusation of arson, theft, injuries, insults and murder, and all penalties incurred both financial and personal. In 14th century Civil Acts, we find a mention of […]

Belforte del Chienti

A Jewish presence in Belforte can be traced back to the end of the 1300’s, as indicated by legal documents from that time. By 1458, documents regarding loans by or to Jews were drafted differently than Christian ones.  The recurrence of Jewish names such as Aronne, Emmanuel, Simone, Salomone, in legal documents is further proof of their […]

San Ginesio

Jewish presence in San Ginesio can be dated back to 1295, when Jews provided financing to a company involved in the wool industry. The Jews resided mainly in the Alvaneto district, which extended from Piazza dei Gentili to what is currently piazza Thomas Eskine Holland. The Jewish cemetery, called “Garden of the Jews”, was located […]


Throughout history this town has been known by a series of different names – including Pausula, Castello di Monte dell’Olmo, Montolmo and Castelvecchio – before finally taking up the name Corridonia, a tribute to Filippo Corridoni, a union leader active in the region before World War I.  Jews have resided in the town since 1436.  Documents attest to […]


Macerata’s public library contains a number of documents attesting to Jewish money lending activities in the city as early as 1287. Though today there is no longer a Jewish community, its history is well documented. Inside the Municipality building there is a Hebrew tombstone inscription dating 1553, possibly transferred there from the former Jewish cemetery […]


Jewish presence in Matelica has been recorded since the 13th century, documented by a great number of parchments, contracts and letters of loan that are preserved by the City Archives. In 1287, the first money lending license was granted to Dattolo, son of Maestro Gaudio Ebreo. No trace remains of the Jewish community in the […]


A document preserved in the monastery of  Santa Caterina attests to loans made by Jews in Cingoli as early as 1296. The Jewish community prospered between the 13th and the 14th century, as Jews mastered the wool trade. Though Jews could not be part of the “Arte della Lana” guild, they excelled in weaving and dying wool. The last name Tintori (dyers) […]


Jews were living near Ancona since the first century. By 1300, they had organized a Jewish community within the city. A letter from that time, sent by the poet Immanuel ben Solomon of Rome, pleaded for exemption of the Ancona community from heavy taxation, due to economic hardship and persecutions. Jews engaged in money lending […]


Jews settled in Pergola in the early 13th century. The city was part of the Duchy of Montefeltro and offered Jews a tolerant environment. The two rivers favored trade, as well as the activities of the dyers and tanners. The synagogue was originally located in a building that still stands in Via Don Minzoni, 9. The […]


Placed strategically between Umbria and Marche, Cagli saw the establishment of a Jewish community with thriving businesses and money lending activities. Cagli was originally built by the Pope in 1289, over an ancient town that had once been destroyed by fire. Shortly after, it became part of the domain Montefeltro and the Duchy of Urbino and would remain […]


Senigallia came under Papal rule in 1631. At that time, the Jewish community consisted of about 40 families, comprising a few hundred people. During the course of the following century and a half, this number increased to approximately 120 families. Jewish loan bankers made their appearance there in the 14th century. As a result of […]


The synagogue in Apecchio, which has not been in function since 1633, is still clearly recognizable today. The site of this ancient synagogue was identified by the narrow pathway, only a little more than a foot wide. It went around the synagogue, separating the Jewish houses from the Christian ones. The path is still visible […]


Federico da Montefeltro (1444-1482), Duke of Urbino, was known for his liberal policy towards the Jews. He invited them to settle in his Duchy, which included Gubbio, Cagli, Fano and Sant’Angelo in Vado. Jews were given license to practice trades and professions and some representatives of the community sat in court as the Duke’s advisors […]


Jews had settled in Pesaro by the early 15th century. Money lending to the poor was the most conspicuous, but by no means the most important, of the many activities of Jewish bankers. Jews supplied floating capital to local artisans and merchants, as well as providing financial support to farmers in anticipation of the crops. […]