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The Ghetto of Rome

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The Ghetto of Rome

22 Portico di Ottavia dal Teatro di Marcello.JPG

Basic Information

Location 41° 53′ 31.99″ N, 12° 28′ 40.91″ E
Country Italy
City Rome

General Information

Open to visitors yes
Need appointment no
Handicap accessibility yes
Geographical Coordinates 41.89225,12.47805


The Roman (Jewish) Ghetto was a ghetto located in the rione Sant'Angelo, in Rome, Italy, in the area surrounded by today's Via del Portico d'Ottavia, Lungotevere dei Cenci, Via del Progresso and Via di Santa Maria del Pianto close to the Tiber and the Theater of Marcellus. In Italian, the ghetto was called "Serraglio delli Ebrei" ("Enclosure of the Jews").


Today, the district of the former Ghetto is the home of the Synagogue of Rome. It is described as "one of Rome's most charming and eclectic neighborhoods, [with] restaurants serving up some of the best food in the city."

There is one remaining piece of the Ghetto wall, which was built into the wall of one of the courtyards off the Piazza delle Cinque Scole.

History and time period

The Roman Ghetto was established as a result of Papal bull Cum nimis absurdum, promulgated by Pope Paul IV on 14 July 1555. The bull also required the Jews of Rome, which had existed as a community since before Christian times and which numbered about 2,000 at the time, to live in the ghetto. The ghetto was a walled quarter with three gates that were locked at night. The money for its construction – 300 scudi – had to be paid by the Jewish community. The area of Rome chosen for the ghetto was the most undesirable quarter of the city, subject to constant flooding by the Tiber River. At the time of its founding, the four-block area was expected to contain roughly 1,000 inhabitants.

The bull also revoked all the rights of the Jewish community and imposed on Jews a variety of new restrictions such as prohibition on property ownership and practicing medicine on Christians and compulsory Catholic sermons on the Jewish Sabbath.

However, the ghetto was welcomed by some Jews who thought that its walls would protect the small Jewish community from possible attacks by Christian mobs and from the drain which must follow from assimilation, at the same time enabling Jewish religious customs to be observed without interference.

Jews were not allowed to own any property, even in the ghetto. Christian owners of houses in the ghetto could keep their property but, because of the "jus gazzagà" (right of possession) they could neither evict the Jews nor raise rents.

Initially, there were two gates in the wall, but the number increased to three in the 16th century, and under Sixtus V to five, and finally, during the 19th century to eight. The additional gates came about as the ghetto was successively enlarged. The gates were opened at dawn and closed every night, one hour after sunset between November and Easter, and two hours at other times. The area had a trapezoidal shape, and contained hardly any noteworthy buildings. The only important square – Piazza Giudea – was divided in two parts by the wall.

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