Jewish Heritage Europe

Death of Italian scholar Cesare Colafemmina


General view of the Jewish section of the Trani Diocesan museum. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Prof. Cesare Colafemmina, an Italian scholar who was a pioneering researcher on the historic Jewish presence in southern Italy, has died at the age of 79. Colafemmina died Sept. 12 after a long illness.

Colafemmina taught at the University of Bari and the University of Calabria and wrote and researched extensively on the Jewish presence in Calabria, Apulia and elsewhere in southern Italy, from ancient times until the present. His fields included ancient Jewish history and epigraphy, as well as archeology. He made important discoveries, including burial chambers and inscriptions, at the Jewish (and Christian) catacombs in Venosa, in Potenza province. Much of his work centered on the medieval period and also the aftermath of the expulsion of Jews from the south in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Colafemmina oversaw the installation of a  Jewish museum, a section of the local Diocesan Museum, that opened recently in the “Scola Grande,” one of the two 13th century synagogues that remain standing in the town of Trani, in Apulia. He was on the executive committee of the Italian Association for Jewish Studies and was the editor of «Sefer Yuḥasin», a bulletin on Jewish studies in southern Italy, which he founded in 1985.

The Cesare Colafemmina Center for the Research and Documentation of Judaism in the Mediterranean Region was recently founded in his honor. He donated his extensive library and papers to the Center, which is organizing a memorial symposium in October.

A full obituary (in Italian) can be read here, on the Center’s web site.

A Bibliography of Colafemmina’s publications can be found HERE.