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The Vigna Randanini catacomb on the Via Appia is the only site currently open to visitors. The underground or hypogeal area is now accessed via a passageway which dates to the period between the 1st century B.C. and the 1st century A.D. The arcosolia (chambers with lowered vaulted ceilings) are thought to date from a later period, as is the black and white mosaic flooring. Inside the catacomb loculi or tombs arranged along the walls, and kokhim, tombs that are perpendicular to the walls of the gallery, dug just beneath the floor, typical of the Middle East. Those at Vigna Randanini are the only example of such tombs in the Roman Jewish catacombs. Along the various galleries, other burial spaces are organized into cubicula (chambers for multiple burials).
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The ruins of the Ostia synagogue, discovered in 1961, are a crucial piece of evidence, telling us as much about the Jewish presence in the region as they do about the most ancient Jewish diaspora organisation. The primitive section dates from the 1st century, when the port built by Emperor Claudius turned the city into a multi-ethnic trading centre. The building had many rooms, and was later renovated and enlarged, particularly in the 3rd and 4th centuries. The sanctuary was accessed through a vestibule with three entrances and an intermediate passageway with tall Corinthian columns. The tevah is thought to have been on the slightly curved wall at the back of the room; on the opposite side you can still see the 4th century apse which made up the Aron, framed by an aedicule originally with trabeated columns.
The Municipal Rose Garden at the foot of the Aventine was once the Jewish cemetery, prior to its transfer to the Campo Verano. The previous cemetery at Porta Portese had been abandoned, having been fenced off and reduced in 1587 and eventually seized. A new site at the foot of the Aventine Hill was purchased, expanded several times, and remained operational from 1645 to 1895. However, in 1934 the Jewish Community was forced to sell the now unused burial ground because of the plan to free the Circus Maximus and open up Via di Valle Murcia. Three hundred and seventy-two tombs and several monuments from the more recent section were transferred to the Campo Verano. In memory of this place’s previous identity, the pathways of the Rose Garden were laid out in the shape of a menorah, the concentric seven-branched candlestick described in the Bible as being among the ritual ornaments Temple of Jerusalem.
The imposing building of Tempio Maggiore (The Great Synagogue of Rome) stands on one of the four large blocks put up after the ghetto had been demolished. Its monumental proportions symbolize the new-found freedom and citizenship rights granted to the Roman Jewish community that had been living in the city for twenty-two centuries. The building was designed by Vincenzo Costa and Osvaldo Armanni, and inaugurated in 1904. Their choices in style led to an eclectic architecture, with Greek-inspired elements that were felt to be in keeping with the shape of the main local monuments, a style influenced by Assyrian-Babylonian motifs . The building has a Greek cross plan with a segmented dome above, clearly visible in every panoramic view of the city.
For a long time, Trastevere was the focal point of the Jewish community in Rome. Then, in the Middle Ages, it gradually shifted to the Sant’Angelo District, where the ghetto was later built. The building at 14, Vicolo dell’Atleta is commonly identified as the site of the old medieval synagogue in the Trastevere area. The building has a brick façade with a wide two arched loggia, surmounted by a cornice with small arches resting on ledges. The column of the loggia bears an inscription in Hebrew with the name Nathan Hai. This might refer to Rabbi Nathan ben Jehiel, who is thought to have had a mikveh or ritual bath and a synagogue built in Trastevere in the late 11th and early 12th centuries.
The majestic triumphal arch is dedicated to the Emperor Titus and was constructed in the years following his death in 81 CE. The monument celebrates his victory over Jerusalem in 70 CE. and the annexation of Judaea to the Roman Empire. A depiction of the divinization of the emperor, shown flying upon an eagle can be seen at the centre of the coffered soffit. On either side of the archway are reliefs with scenes of his triumph. On one side they show the entrance of Titus, and his coronation, surrounded by allegorical figures; on the other, the procession going through the triumphal arch, carrying the spoils looted from the destroyed Temple: among them the menorah, the large seven-branched candlestick stands out.
A new synagogue was built in 1914, a few years after the large Tempio Maggiore was opened. The aim was to cater for a Jewish population that by then lived throughout the city, having left the ghetto area after Emancipation, or having come from other Italian cities at the time. The hall bears some of the synagogue features from the Emancipation especially as to the lay-out and various decorative elements. The tevah and Aron are brought together in a single space, enclosed by a balustrade. They are at the end of the hall, in line with the entrance and facing pews in two parallel rows along the centre. The women’s gallery is above the entrance. The Oratorio Di Castro also has furnishings which previously belonged to the Cinque Scole: the candelabra on the tevah, the ner tamid and the lamps hanging in front of the Aron are all from Scola Castigliana.
The place is associated with the years under Nazi occupation, and commemorates the massacre by the SS as retaliation for the Partisan attack in Via Rasella when thirty-two German soldiers were killed. On the evening of March the 24th, 1944, three hundred and thirty-five people were rounded up from the city’s prisons – among them, seventy-five Jews – and taken to Via Ardeatina, where they were slaughtered. The underground passages were then blown up to conceal traces of the massacre and the bodies were retrieved only after the war. In the large area at the centre of the quarry stands the sculpture I Martiri (“The Martyrs”) by Francesco Coccia, made to commemorate the victims, represented by the figures of an artisan, an intellectual and a teenager, bound by the wrists (1950).