Jewish worship centre in the heart of Siena
The Synagogue is a splendid example of neoclassical architecture that was founded in 1786 and is located a few steps from Piazza del Campo, at Vicolo delle Scotte. Formerly ‘Piazzetta del Tempio’ (square of the temple), this is the heart of the Sienese Jewish Ghetto, where the Sienese Jews remained confined until 1859.
The typology is typical of ghetto synagogues, lacking distinctive external signs, but richly decorated inside.
Siena’s Jewish community is one of the oldest in Tuscany,the first documents attesting to the presence of Jews in Siena date back to 1229. Despite the limitations and heavy restrictions, the Sienese Jewish Community grew, reaching over 400 members, and its efforts contributed significantly to the economic and cultural growth of the city.
The synagogue, still used for religious services by the local Jewish community, houses ancient Torah scrolls, silverware and ritual vestments of great value, displayed in the hall adjacent to the prayer room.
The old Women’s Gallery, arranged on two floors, overlooks the synagogue and is protected by wooden gratings carved with floral motifs. It’s a cosy and evocative place that is no longer used for rituals, but complements a visit to the synagogue with its collection of texts, images, prayer books and objects tracing the most significant aspects of the long Jewish presence in Siena.
Inside is also the Elijah seat, kursajà de’ Eliyahu, one of the most precious objects preserved in the Synagogue of Siena. This liturgical piece of furniture enriched with biblical inscriptions is a testament to the development of the Italian Jewish communities between the 18th and 19th centuries. The chair was commissioned and donated to the Jewish community of Siena by Rabbi Shemuel Nissim, in memory of his father Eliyahu Nissim, expressly recorded in the inscription in the centre of the seat.
In Jewish tradition, the prophet Elijah attends and watches unseen at each circumcision ceremony in order to protect the child and bear witness to the fulfilment of the precept. His presence is a good omen and reaffirms the concept of hope and salvation that is renewed whenever the earth is graced with the gift of new life.
Two commemorative plaques were affixed next to the synagogue door. The first was placed there on 5 December 1948, in memory of the fourteen Sienese Jews deported and killed in the Nazi extermination camps during the Holocaust. The second was added on 28 June 1999, on the bicentenary of the 28 June 1799 when thirteen Sienese Jews were burnt alive during the devastation of the Sienese ghetto by Viva Maria supporters.
Synagogue and Jewish museum
Vicolo delle Scotte 14, Siena
Tel: +39 0577 286300
1 November – 31 March: Monday – Friday: 10:30 am – 3:00 pm, Sunday: 10:00 am – 1:30 pm and 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm
1 April – 31 October: Sunday – Thursday: 10:30 am – 3.30 pm and 2:00 – 6:00, Venerdi: 10:30 am – 3:30
On Saturdays and on Jewish holidays, the Synagogue and the Museum are closed to visitors.