Lifelong Learning Programme

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission.
This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

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The Synagogue of Rome, known as the Tempio Maggiore, is one of the largest synagogues in Europe and overlooks the stretch of Lungotevere between the ancient Ghetto and the Tiberina island. Visible from Sunday to Thursday and Friday morning; on Saturdays and during Jewish holidays it is entirely dedicated to worship. With a Greek cross plan oriented to the east, towards Jerusalem, it is surmounted by a pavilion dome. The project, conceived after 1870, by Vincenzo Costa and Osvaldo Armani is inspired by Assyrian-Babylonian architectural forms, with Art Nouveau decorations. It was built between 1901 and 1904. Inside the building is divided into two floors, one of which is underground, dedicated to the rich museum of the Jewish community of Rome and to a small synagogue, called the Spanish Temple. It is set up with part of the furnishings coming from the ancient synagogues, once existing within the Ghetto of Rome. On the ground floor, the large synagogue consists of a large central room and two small side aisles, decorated with geometric and floral motifs in compliance with the biblical prohibition of human representations. The lighting is entrusted to polychrome windows at the height of the women's galleries, supported by supporting columns, in Greek style with Liberty influences.
The decision of the construction of the Synagogue was taken by Vittorio Emanuele II in 1870, after the capture of Rome, when the king himself granted citizenship to the Italian Jews and gave the order to restructure the Ghetto. Having overcome the prohibitions, obligations and prohibitions imposed by Pope Paul IV in 1555 and exacerbated by his successors, the Roman Jews appeared for the first time in full participation in the social, economic and political life of the capital of the new Kingdom of Italy. Therefore this synagogue has a particular historical importance both for the Jewish community and for the national history. As part of the restructuring of the Ghetto the ancient synagogues were demolished, the Cinque scole, each dedicated to a different rite (Castigliana, Catalana, Siciliana, Nova and Italiana) whose memory is preserved in the new synagogue. The Jews had explicitly asked that the new place of worship, a symbol of their emancipation, be majestic and visible from every vantage point in the city. With evident polemical aim, with respect to the papal authority but even more to support the new secular state, the place is singled out between the two major symbols of the Italian Kingdom: the Campidoglio (seat of the Municipality with the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II) and the Gianicolo ( place of Risorgimento battles, where the statue of Garibaldi is located).
The synagogue represents the Roman Jewish identity, very troubled also because of complex relationships with other religions, especially with the Christian-Catholic one, not always inspired by mutual respect. For this reason it is very important that it has become a meeting place for the promotion of interreligious dialogue. The Tempio Maggiore was the site of the first historic meeting in April 1986 between John Paul II, Pope of the Catholic Church, and Rav Elio Toaff, the Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of Rome. In this way Pope Wojtyla continued the path begun by John XXIII, who, in 1959, had stopped on the Lungotevere to bless the Jews who were leaving the Synagogue. This first meeting was followed by two other papal visits: in 2010 Benedict XVI and in 2016 Pope Francis were welcomed into the Greater Temple by Rav Riccardo Di Segni. According to the rabbinical juridical tradition, an act repeated three times becomes chazaqà, fixed custom. For this reason the three visits constitute an event that radiates throughout the world with a beneficial message that opposes religious violence. Still in 2016, after the episodes linked to terrorism, moments of meeting and confrontation with the Islamic world were promoted in order to promote an agreement between representatives of different faiths against religious extremism. Other events were organized, also in the Tempio Maggiore in Rome, to promote dialogue between Judaism and the Eastern religions.
The Jewish community of Rome has had a direct influence on the Christian-Catholic religion, precisely because of its proximity to the power of the Pope. But in several phases the relationships have been more tormented, especially since the sixteenth century: Pope Paul IV in 1555 revokes all the rights granted to the Jews and orders the establishment of the ghetto (the "menagerie of the Jews"), equipped with gates that are closed in the evening and reopened at dawn. The Jews are obliged to carry a distinctive colored sign and are forbidden to exercise any trade except that of rags and used clothes. The emancipation for the Roman Jews came only in 1870 with the end of the temporal power of the Papacy. The Jewish influence on the city, precisely because of its secular presence, has been very profound, from culture to politics, from toponymy to gastronomy. Today, Rome welcomes about 20,000 Jews and in an atmosphere of pluralism and protection of minorities, the Roman Jewish community makes the voice of its millennial presence felt in the city life through numerous services to the public and a lively cultural activity, often carried out in collaboration with national and local offices.
Direct visit: with local guides.
Virtual visit: presentation of the religious site through the video-tour
Classroom activity (pre and post the visit):
Artistic itinerary through some in-depth information on the Synagogue and the ghetto.
Liturgical itinerary with detailed information on sacred furnishings.
Verification activities of acquired knowledge and skills.
(part very similar to that of the other cards)


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This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.