The Jewish Ghetto is located south of the Piazza delle Erbe in Padua. Although it was closed in 1797, the neighbourhood is still called the “ghetto”. It is now an area of small shops and wine bars and is considered one of the nicest parts of the city.
Jewish Ghetto Padua
Address, opening hours and admission
Name in Italian: Ghetto Ebraico. Address, opening hours and admission: Not applicable. The main street of the neighbourhood is the Via San Martino e Solferino.
History and description
The former Ghetto Ebraico of Padua consists of a labyrinth of narrow streets to the south of the Piazza delle Erbe. The Jewish Ghetto was founded in 1603 and abolished in 1797, when the Jews were declared free citizens with equal rights.
The first Jews to settle in the city arrived in the 12th century. It was not until the end of the 14th century, however, that they started forming a sizable proportion of the population.
At the time, the University of Padua was the only one in Europe that accepted Jewish students.
Jews were not allowed into the guilds of arts and handicrafts, however. They were permitted to be money lenders (an activity forbidden to Christians) and, but only on a small scale, to deal in second hand goods. The commerce in used objectss was called strazzeria.
Initially Jews of different origins lived in groups in different parts of the city. In the 15th century both the Spanish and the church started confiscating properties and other possessions from the Jews. Since Padova was a lot more tolerant, many Jews moved to the city. They moved to an area near the Piazza delle Erbe, which was the centre of commerce in the city. This area became the Ghetto.
At night, the Ghetto was closed off by four gates, guarded by one Jew and one Christian (but both paid by the Jewish community). Jews were not allowed to leave the area after 2 AM. In 1797, when the Ghetto was abolished, the gates were destroyed.
You will notice that the houses in the Ghetto tend to be higher than usual. Since Jewish people were not allowed to take up residency outside the ghetto, they had to keep on adding floors to the existing dwellings.
Jewish people, when outside of the Ghetto, were supposed to have a sign identifying them as Jewish.
The main street of the former ghetto was the Via San Martino e Solferino. On the corner with the Via Roma, two plaques in Jewish and Latin still remind the world of the curfew the Jews had to undergo in those days.