Card: Place - Type: Monumental buildings

The Jewish Cemetery of Via delle Vigne

Cemetery of Via delle Vigne. Photograph by Sandra Dvornanova, 2014. © MEIS

The Jewish Cemetery of Via delle Vigne, still in use to this day, is the oldest in Emilia Romagna, alongside that of Finale Emilia Located just inside a section of the Este walls, it is one of the most evocative locations of the renaissance “Addizione Erculea”.

 


Lat: 44.843490 Long: 11.630226

Project: 1626
Purchase of the first parcel of land by Ferrara's Jewish community

Categories

  • cemetery

Tags

  • Ferrara's Jewish community | Jewish Cemetery

The Uncertain Origins

The bulk of the historiography places the beginning of the use of the area of Via delle Vigne in 1626, when Ferrara’s Jews asked Pope Urban VIII for permission to purchase land for burial of their people; the licence obtained required that the assigned location not exceed 20 “staia” in area, and was to be specified by the local bishop or vicar. In any case, the oldest tombstone in the cemetery, that of David Franco which gives the date of death of 1549, would confirm the work of scholars who claim that it could date back to the 16th century.

The Structure

The cemetery can be divided into five main zones, the result of successive acquisitions:

  • the long rectangular area just beyond the entrance, which dates back to the significant restoration in the early 20th century by Jewish Ferrarese architect Ciro Contini, contains the most recent burials: from the early 20th century to today.
  • The area leading on from the tree-lined boulevard which leads to the mortuary chamber, dedicated to the victims of deportations, houses mainly 19th century tombstones.
  • The grassy clearing to the left of the previous areas was used in the 18th century, and only a few tombstones remain visible due to the papal orders preventing additions in Jewish cemeteries, but also due to the destruction performed by the inquisition in 1755.
  • On the east side there are some more 19th century burials, with some tombstones resting on or buried in the perimeter wall, and others on the ground.
  • On the same side, an area almost triangular in shape which houses the tomb of Giorgio Bassani and the monument dedicated to him by sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro.

Of the approximately 800 tombstones in the cemetery, little more than one hundred are in Hebrew, while the others bear Italian inscriptions, or are bilingual.

 

Quotes

“…In the gathering at the Jewish Cemetery, in Via delle Vigne, where the funeral took place for Ernest Nadasi, born in Pécel, Hungary in 1912. Prisoner in a concentration camp for three years during the war, he subsequently came to Ferrara to visit some of his fellow former prisoners, where he fell in love with a young Catholic girl, who became his wife and converted to Judaism. They subsequently moved to Hollywood, USA, where Ernest, as well as teaching mathematics at university, continued his musical career, having been the cantor of a community in his home country. He had expressed a desire to be buried in Ferrara, in this exquisite silence, where the idea which predominates is respect obtained as it is deserved, where everything contributes to the noble beauty of irreplaceable images. […] We proceed towards the exit of this place not of fear, but poetry, trust, amongst buried sounds, quiet reached for a moment, plants and flowers which are now soaked but will soon, with the coming of new warmth, be even more evocative in their infinite humility.” (Gianfranco Rossi, in Ravenna 1998)

 

Fototeca

Related places

Related Itineraries

Compiling entity

  • Istituto di Storia Contemporanea di Ferrara

Author

  • Federica Pezzoli
  • Sharon Reichel