About the Jewish Ghetto in RomeAbout thirty years after the establishment of the first Jewish ghetto in Venice in 1555, a ghetto was also established in Rome. Pope Paul IV sent a public letter at the time, in which he claimed that the Jews were the murderers of Jesus and that they should not be allowed to live as equal citizens in one city with the Catholics.
With the establishment of the Roman Ghetto (Ghetto di Roma), the Jews were ordered to leave their homes within a period of six months and concentrate within the closed, walled quarter that was then located in the southern part of the Field of Mars. This became the Jewish Ghetto. Its gates were locked every night and it was impossible to enter and exit. Before entering the ghetto, the Jews were forced to sell their property and businesses to the Christians, at a price of about one-fifth of their real value.
It is important to understand that this area was not arbitrarily chosen. According to the principles of the Catholics, the Jews were not to be exterminated, but it was possible to impose on them extreme conditions of poverty and sanitation, and humiliation. Such was the location of the ghetto, on the banks of the Tiber, a poor place to live, which did not allow for proper living conditions. It was muddy and riddled with fever and floods. Sometimes the river would overflow and flood the whole neighborhood.
For 242 years, Rome's Jews were forced to live in the ghetto until Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Rome and the ghetto was temporarily abolished. The Jews had the hope that this was the end of life in the ghetto, but when the Pope returned to rule the city, the order was renewed and the Jews were returned to the ghetto of Rome. It was finally abolished only in 1870.
The original area of the ghetto was more than 23,000 square meters. At the end of the 17th century, there were approximately 10,000 inhabitants, living in very close quarters. In 1823, the ghetto was expanded on its northern side.
To this day you can meet the elders of the quarter, who sit down and tell the stories they cannot forget. You will also find kosher restaurants, the Jewish Museum of Rome, the large and magnificent synagogue on the banks of the river and remains of the original ghetto displayed in art galleries.