Vercelli

Vercelli is one of Piedmont’s nine provinces, the region of origin of the Italian Royal house of the Savoia.

The earliest written traces of a Jewish presence in Vercelli date back to 1466. They were engaged in jobs usually allowed to Jews at that time, including money lending following a license provided by the Savoia Royal House. No ghetto was established in Vercelli until much after other ghettos had been opened in other cities around Italy. The first ghetto was supposed to be opened in 1727. However, since the designated area was considered by the local Christian authorities and a group of influential local citizens to be too central and therefore to favour too much the Jewish interests, it was only in 1740 that the ghetto was opened in a more peripheral area. Therefore, the ghetto did not last much considering the easing of the restrictions that followed the Napoleonic period in the early XIX century and the emancipation era that started around the middle of the same century. Until this time the local Jewish population was of about 160 people. However, soon following the emancipation, its demography changed drastically booming to 600 people. In the same place of the old small synagogue a new monumental synagogue was completed in 1878 which, like everywhere else in Italy and Europe after the emancipation, had to express the new social, political, and economic status of the Italian Jewish citizens. A famous local architect – Giuseppe Locarni –and famous local painters and decorators – Carlo Costa and the Bona brothers – were hired.  Now it’s opened to the public after a great restoration completed about 20 years ago brought it back to its original splendour. Inside the Synagogue there is also an interesting museum where many historical and religious objects and artifacts linked to the local Jewish community are on display as well as those of other areas of the Piedmont region.

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