Monday, June 15, 2009

Italy: New website about Cherasco (Piedmont) Synagogue Restoration

Italy: New Website about Cherasco (Piedmont) Synagogue Restoration
by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) Ruth Ellen Gruber has posted links to a new web site of the De Benedetti-Cherasco 1547 Foundation, dedicated to the Jewish heritage of Cherasco, in northern Italy's Piedmont region, and in particular its elegant little synagogue, located in the heart of the former ghetto, which was reopened in 2006 after a full restoration. The site's photo galleries have extensive documentation of the entire restoration process, which was sponsored by the Foundation.

The Foundation will open the synagogue to the public on the following scheduled dates.

  • Sunday 7, 14, 21, 28 June 2009
  • Sunday 30 August 2009
  • Sunday 6, 13 September 2009
  • Sunday18, 25 October 2009
  • Sunday 1 November 2009
Opening hours: from 14.30 to 18.30

The 18th-century synagogue has a beautifully carved Ark and bimah, with the spiral columns typical of the region. The small synagogue is perhaps the most typical of the older synagogues in Piedmont because of its location, its approach, its articulation and decoration.

As I wrote (before the restoration) in an essay about the synagogues in Piedmont recently published in catalogue
Ebrei Piemontese: The Jews of Piedmont (New York: Yeshiva University Museum, 2008) (with beautiful photos by Alberto Falco):
[Cherasco] is one of a series of small upper-floor square-plan sanctuaries with ornate centrally placed tevahs. The Cherasco Synagogue is on the third floor of a building entered through the ghetto courtyard of the small town. From a small stair landing one enters directly into the sanctuary -- marked by a dedication plaque from Nathan and Abraham Benedetto. The inscription, dated 1797, reads "I will wash my hands with purity, I will encircle your Altar, O Most High! (Psalms 26:6). Below the inscription is a sink to allow the ritual purification before entering. On the wall to the right is the Ark, with finely carved gilded doors, upon which are inscribed the Ten Commandments. The Ark is impressive in its use of the twisted columns -- which appear in three sizes: small colonettes flanking the ark doors; slightly larger columns supporting an inscribed entablature; and large columns which flank the cabinet proper and support an ornate Baroque broken segmental pediment, in the center of which is set a small oval window, surmounted by a crown. The whole framing arrangement is similar to contemporary church altars. On the walls, instead of the common Biblical verses in Hebrew, one finds in Hebrew the names of the people who live in the ghetto
To read a previous blog entry on the restoration of the synagogue of Vercelli (Piedmont) click here.

For a panoramic view of the comparable Piedmontese synagogue of Carmangola click here.

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