The synagogue of Siena, located only a few steps from the Piazza del Campo, stands in the heart of the ancient Jewish Ghetto of Siena, where Sienese Jews remained confined until 1859. In 1571 the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de Medici, extended the restrictive measures already in place in Florence to the state of Siena, where Jews had been present since the 12th century.
Despite the limitations and the heavy restrictions imposed, the Jewish community of Siena increased, coming to include over 400 members, and its activities contributed significantly to the economic and cultural growth of the city.
In 1786, the magnificent Synagogue was inaugurated with a solemn musical ceremony; today it remains the centre of worship for the local Jewish community, and it stands out as one of the few examples present in Tuscany of architecture between the Rococo and Neoclassical Periods.
The relatively simple external façade and, by contrast, the elegant richly decorated interior are typical of synagogues built during the age of the ghettos, prior to the Emancipation of Italian Jews, which came about following the Unification of Italy in 1861.
The Sanctuary, more or less rectangular in shape, is lined by rows of benches on the sides, while in the centre stands the podium (referred to as a tevah by Sephardim, or bimah by Ashkenazim) adorned with nine candelabra from the 18th-century, each with nine branches. The centre of the ceiling is adorned with the Tablets of the Law painted in blue and circled by white stucco.
The synagogue, still used today for religious services by the local Jewish community, houses ancient Torah scrolls, silver furnishings and ritual vestments of great value, which are displayed in the room adjacent to the prayer hall.
The ancient gallery for women, arranged on two floors, looks out upon the synagogue and is set behind wooden grates with floral motifs; this intimate, evocative space is no longer used during services, but it completes the visit to the Synagogue and houses a collection of texts, images, prayer books and objects that exemplify the most significant aspects of the centuries-old Jewish presence in Siena.
The Throne of Elijah, the chair used in the circumcision ceremony: finely inlaid with Hebrew verses, this chair was created around 1860 by the artists Giorgio Bandini and Salvatore Barni, who were connected to the Sienese school of Purism.
Alms receptacles: six beautifully crafted objects, dating back to the 18th century, set within one of the walls of the Synagogue with inscriptions in Hebrew.
Synagogue and Jewish Museum
Vicolo delle Scotte, 14
Tel. + 39 0577 271345
call center: + 39 0577286300
e-mail: info: email@example.com
1st November – 31st March
Monday-Friday: 10.30 AM – 3 PM
Sunday: 10 AM – 1.30 PM | 2 PM – 6 PM
1st April – 31st October
Sunday-Thursday: 10 AM – 1.30 PM | 2 PM – 6 PM
Friday: 10.30 AM – 3.30 PM
closed on Saturday and for Jewish celebrations.
regular: € 4,00
reduced: € 3,00
children under 6 years
family and combined tickets available
“In the fiery and concentrated beauty of Siena there is an artificial note that recalls a city perched atop a hill in an old painting. From the fortifications one views the entire city, the white and brown houses, with brown-hued roofs and smooth façades pierced by multiple windows. […] All around reigns the peace of a green world, now sloping down into valleys strewn with red earth and veiled by the gray mist of the olive trees, with cypresses reaching darkly into the sky, now rising into hills”. (A. Symons, 1907)
In Siena, the flavor, the taste, the view of the city are still the same as those evoked by the words of the English poet who visited and certainly fell in love with the place more than a century ago. Siena sits composedly, perched on its hills. Move away just a little, and you can take it in all at once, the unmistakable skyline of its elongated silhouette, its walls, the Torre del Mangia and the dome of the Cathedral. And it is not even so different, in certain glimpses, from the way its most beloved painters depicted it in the 1300s and 1400s, from Lorenzetti to Simone Martini, from Sano di Pietro to Vecchietta.
The city’s sensual and harmonious relationship with the landscape that surrounds and protects it is also fundamentally unchanged. The hills, cypresses, red earth and olive trees can be reached on foot by walking out through the ancient gates, or else still inside the city, in the protected and precious green valleys that have remained within the walls.
With its slow, almost dreamlike way of life, Siena should be visited calmly, for it needs to be savoured unhurriedly. Stroll through Siena and let yourself be guided by curiosity. Slip into the alleys, look for quiet hidden places, explore a museum, a church or a beautiful palazzo.