The medieval Scolanova synagogue in Trani, in southern Italy’s Puglia region, has reopened after a six-month process of preservation and repair work that included cleaning and treating the interior walls and the exterior facade as well as repairing the roof, which had presented signs of possible impending collapse.
The reopening ceremony March 3 took place during the third annual Lech Lecha Jewish culture festival, held in Trani and nearby Barletta.
Further repairs and renovations are planned, said local Jewish leader Cosimo Yehudah Pagliara. These, he said, will include construction of a bimah and women’s gallery in wood and removal of an altar that was placed during a restoration of the building in 1981.
Long used as a church, the Scolanova was returned to the Jewish community in 2006 and again functions as a synagogue, even though no Jews live in Trani and only a very small number live in Puglia.
Trani was home to a large Jewish community from the first part of the 11th century, but the community largely disappeared with forced conversions at the end of the 13th/beginning of the 14th century; Jews were finally expelled in 1510.
The town had four synagogues in medieval times. All four were turned into churches after the expulsion of the Jews, and the Scolanova, originally built around 1240, is one of only two that survived intact. (The other, the Scola Grande, which had been transformed into the church of St. Anna, now houses the Jewish Art section of the Diocesan Museum.)