The Jewish presence in Pitigliano has been ascertained since the 15th century; in 1608 with the annexation of the southern counties to the noble Medici family, Pitigliano became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany; a few years later (1622) the Grand Duke Cosimo II de’ Medici, with an edict, forced the Jews to abandon their homes and move to the Ghetto. Many were deprived of their commercial activities and forced to wear a distinctive sign.
Centuries have passed since then but that bitter social story is still remembered through the eviction, the traditional dessert of this community.
In 1765 Peter Leopold of Habsburg, known for his liberal ideas, changed the Jewish condition by favoring complete freedom. Unfortunately, not many years passed and the new political fervor resulted, on June 16, 1799, in the retaliation against the Jews; the Christian population did not remain helpless and intervened in defense of the community by chasing away the aggressors. Such was the gesture that in Pitigliano earned him the nickname of La Piccola Gerusalemme.
Today, in the old quarter, a gate protects the entrance to the Synagogue, inside which a gray rectangle commemorates its completion in 1598 (5358) with the contribution of Jehudah, son of Ben Shabatai. In the small square in front of the Temple, in the luxuriant panorama, we see the ancient Jewish Cemetery from the 16th century below. As soon as we leave the Synagogue we reach vicolo Marghera which was the Ghetto; catapulted into a unique reality we can visit the spaces that welcomed the Jewish community. Inside, a large room carved out of the rock was adapted for the creation of the ancient ritual bath (mikve); opposite, a room houses the permanent exhibition of ritual objects of Jewish religious culture and fragments of painting, which probably belonged to the ancient oratory.
The route continues along the alley, meeting the old butcher’s shop, used for the livelihood of the community and, in the adjacent room, some tubs dug out of the tuff which were used for the maceration of the hemp from which fabrics and other furnishings were made. Finally we enter the sweet atmosphere of the ancient oven, composed of two communicating spaces: one used mainly for the processing and preparation of the mixtures of unleavened bread and sweets, the other for cooking.
The Jewish cemetery
Just outside the town of Pitigliano, along the Provincial Road S.P. 74 is the entrance gate to the Jewish cemetery. Located under the current Christian cemetery, it traces its founding origins back to the mid-sixteenth century, when David de Pomis, personal doctor of Count Niccolò IV Orsini, asked for an area to bury the mortal remains for his sweet companion who died prematurely.
Inside the cemetery, on the degrading slope, the primitive and simple tombstones can be identified among the centenary cypresses. Of particular sculptural interest are some monuments that show all their nineteenth-century artistic splendour. Made of finely crafted marble, they stand out for the human figures, such as a little girl lying on a marble carpet, and a little further on, an angel with large wings.
The evocative panorama of the tuffaceous ridge of Little Jerusalem creates in us that magical moment of deep reflection, and the light that spreads animates the plastic sculptural expressions and in the silence our prayers blown by the wind settle down like pebbles on the white tombstones.
Vicolo Marghera, 11 - I-58017 Pitigliano (GR)
+39 0564 614230