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Venetian Ghetto

The Venetian Ghetto was the area of Venice in which Jewish people were required to live under the Venetian Republic. From its name, the word "ghetto" is derived.

The Ghetto is an area of the Cannaregio sestiere of Venice. It is named for the iron foundries ("geto") located there in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Unlike much of Europe, the presence of Jews was usually tolerated in Venice from the late fourteenth century. Restrictions on their movement and permitted trades varied, but moneylending, running pawnshops, dealing in second hand goods and tailoring were common occupations. In 1516, the Venetian Senate voted to compel all Jews in the city to move to the area known as the Ghetto Nuovo. Surrounded by canals, the area was only linked to the rest of the city by two bridges, which were closed at night and during certain Christian festivals, when all Jews were required to stay in the Ghetto.

Despite the restrictions on movement, the Jewish population thrived, and in 1541, the quarter was enlarged to cover the neighbouring Ghetto Vecchio, and in 1633, the Ghetto Nuovissimo was also added.

The area had such a dense population that uniquely in Venice buildings rise to six or more stories. There were numerous benevolent institutions, and it is still home to five synagogues connected by a secret corridor. They are known for their interiors, the oldest (Schola Grande Tedesca ) dating from 1528. Most having fairly plain exteriors, although the Scola Levantina is a grander, Baroque building. The Scola Spagnola contains the Museum of Hebrew Art .

Last updated: 02-10-2005 10:14:00
Last updated: 02-27-2005 19:23:42