The Venice Hidden Synagogues

The , where Jews were forced to reside starting in the 16th century. It’s the historical area from which the name “ghetto” was derived. However, it remains a hub of Jewish culture in Venice.

Since the 13th century, Jews have been settling in Venice. However, laws prohibiting Jews from building synagogues were in place even before the Jewish Ghetto was established 1516. The five synagogues found in the ex-ghetto area are hidden. They can be found inside buildings, so they are not visible from the outside. The Museo Ebraico collection includes three synagogues. You can take a guided tour to visit up to four synagogues as well as other Jewish cultural sites.

Below is a brief overview of each synagogue and links to guided Venice tours, both of the Jewish Ghetto as well as more general information about Venice. Photos of the interiors of each synagogue have been included where I could locate them. They are truly masterpieces of art.

Guided Tours of the Jewish Ghetto of Venice

German Synagogue

The German Synagogue is Venice’s oldest synagogue. It was built in 1528. It is located on the fifth floor of the Museo Ebraico building and has been renovated several times since its construction. The German Synagogue houses the museum’s collection Hebrew art. The synagogue is ornately decorated, but it has an irregularly-shaped shape. There’s also an elliptical women’s gallery that overlooks the room.

The first image shows the fourth floor with the four arched windows. These windows are located on the right side of the middle building.

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Canton Synagogue

In 1531, the Canton Synagogue was built. It was a private synagogue built by the families that paid for it, including Germans, French and Swiss Jews. It was rebuilt in 1820. The Baroque period is evident in its decorations.

The Canton Synagogue is represented in the image below.

Levantine Synagogue

Built in 1541, the Levantine Synagogue was established for the community’s Middle Eastern Jews. It is located on the second floor of a Ghetto Vecchio building and retains many of its original features. It was restored in late 17th-century and is still a place of worship.

The synagogue can be seen in the first photo below behind the tall, arched windows on the second level.

Spanish Synagogue

The Spanish Synagogue is Venice’s largest historical synagogue. It was built in 1550 by the Spanish community for Portuguese and Spanish Jews. The interior of the four-story Ghetto Vecchio building has it hidden on the fourth floor. The gallery houses three large chandeliers and an elliptical woman’s gallery. There is also a wooden ceiling with sculpted details. The synagogue continues to be used as a place of worship, even though it was opened in 1550.

The synagogue can be seen in the first photo below behind the tall arched windows and the smaller square windows.

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November 27, 2016, at 1:08 PM PST

Italian Synagogue

As you can guess, the Italian Synagogue was built for the Italian Jewish community. It was built in Venice in 1575. It holds just 25 people. It was built by the Italian Jews, who were among the poorest of the community. Their synagogue was therefore the simplest. It is located on the third floor, and was renovated in 1970.

The image below shows what appears to be a small dome that looks like a church in the back of the buildings facing the square. This is the synagogue. Although I cannot find any photos that can be shared of the interior of this tiny synagogue’s interior, you can view one image on the Museo Ebraico webpage.

Guided Tours of Venice

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