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The Synagogue of Sabbioneta

The building encompassing the synagogue integrates seamlessly with the character of the city. It was a part of a group of houses inhabited by Jews. In Sabbioneta’s case, the neighbourhood was at no point in history described as a ghetto. The temple was built in the upper part of the building, again to adhere to the rule that synagogues must be under the vault of heaven, and must not have anything above them except the sky. Designed by architect Carlo Visioli Cremonese, who had already worked on the synagogue in Viadana, the project was completed in 1824. Four elegant ramps with an elegant marble staircase allow access to the synagogue, which is structured according to a very precise pattern. On the back wall is the shrine with the Aaron, which is the sacred cabinet containing the Torah. The aron is fronted by an elaborate railing assembled from cast iron pieces that make up the tevah, the stand on which the scriptures are read. On the opposite side there is the balcony, reserved for women, and separated from the main hall by a sombre wooden mesh painted in black. The vault, enhanced with stuccoes by Swiss artist Peter Bull, resembles a billowing sail in the wind, and recalls the very first synagogues of ancient times, which were covered by a simple tent. The imposing outer columns and pilasters in faux marble with elaborate Corinthian capitals take inspiration from the Temple of Solomon. The structure retains much of the original furnishings: the two oil lamps that flank the aron, some walnut desks, the seven-branched wall lights on the shafts of the pilasters, and a nine-branched candelabrum (called the “channucchia”).

     

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