Jewish cemetery

Strada panoramica San Bartolo c/o n. 161, Municipality of Pesaro, Marche Region, Italy
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Year of build:
1860 - early 1900s
Original name:
Beth 'Olam
Past and Present Ownership of the Building/Site:

Past: Israeli university of Pesaro
Present: Jewish University of Ancona

Typology and Style

The area can be divided into three sections. The upper (and oldest) one houses numerous vertical steles and cylindrical stones that contain inscriptions and decorations. In the central part there are sepulchral monuments of classical style, while in the lower (and most recent) one Romanesque and naturalistic forms prevail. In the interior, there are about 150 funeral monuments, however the number of burials had to be greater. Since the first half of the seventeenth century, the placing of any tomb epigraph had been forbidden to the Jewish communities living in the papal territories, with the exception only of the rabbis and other people distinguished by particular merits. The ban, along with strict limitations on funeral marches, was reconfirmed throughout the following century. The mortuary and the enclosure wall, built by the benefactor Lazzaro Recanati, date back to the 1920s. All the monuments are in local stones or marble.
In the highest part of the cemetery, the most archaic, there are only vertical steles and cylindrical stones. In the central belt, real sepulchral monuments of classical taste appear, in the lower one there are romantic and naturalistic structures. The most impressive burials are those erected between 1860 and the early twentieth century, as evidence of a certain social emancipation of the Jews following the annexation of the Marche to the Kingdom of Italy. The oldest tombs, at the top, are very different from each other for the quality and the cut of the stone, due to the very elegant Jewish, Sephardic and Italian characters, and for the ornamental motifs: light flowers, laces, ribs, stars, small sculpted or raised suns. They also differ in the content of the epigraphs: the Sephardic ones are richer in poetic cues derived from the biblical text as in Raphael Shalom's inscription dated 1697, perhaps the first of the new cemetery. Lower down are the most recent and monumental graves, in particular those erected between 1860 and the early 1900s. It seems that the social emancipation of the Jews, following the annexation of the Marche to the kingdom of Italy, had gone so far, among the tombs. Similarly, that spirit of revenge that in other places has changed the physiognomy of many synagogues, here was instead addressed to the search for forms and decorations typical of nineteenth-century romantic decadentism.

Not being allowed to sculpt veiled and reclined images according to the fashion at the time widespread in Christian cemeteries, here there are broken columns to symbolize a young truncated life, representations of ivy and roses, crowns and drapes, perpetual torches or small jars in which once an oil lamp burned. Few are the maghèn-Davìd, but everywhere the first formula carved on each stone is ha-tziyyun ha-laz (this monument) or matzevah, the stele that the patriarch Jacob erected on the tomb of his beloved bride Rachel near Bethlehem (Gen. 35.20).

Degree of preservation and status of protection

Its recovery - carried out in 2002 - concerned the cleaning and restoration of the stone artefacts showing the burials and the installation of elements for the visit route.

Architectural Description

The steeply sloping terrain is served by stairways and walkways. In the highest part it houses the oldest burials, mostly stele or cylindrical memorial stones with Hebrew inscriptions, sometimes carved with sober and refined decorations. The character of the most recent portion is different, since, in the climate of emancipation of the second half of the 19th century, it was affected by the assimilation to the customs of the common society. The tombs here have a more monumental aspect and incorporate the typical elements of non-Jewish cemetery symbols, such as the broken column, urns, lamps and torches.
The area used as a cemetery is entirely surrounded by a high wall erected in the 1920s by a member of the Jewish community of Pesaro, Lazzaro Recanati, who, as the large plaque on the left of the entrance gate says, lavished on this work all its substances. On that occasion, he had a small chapel built inside the city wall where it was used to prepare the body for burial and recite the appropriate prayers.

History and Historical Context

The cemetery stands on the slopes of the San Bartolo hill, facing mizrach (towards Jerusalem) within an area of approximately 6,700 square meters. Until the mid-twentieth century the area was a steep rural slope with sparse trees, then abandoned to the effects of time. Today, about 150 tombstones emerge among the brambles, fewer than the burials actually made. The reason has to be found in the decree of Pope Urban VIII (1652) which forbids any tomb inscription for the Jews of the Papal States except for the distinguished rabbis and men or women of great culture and charity; reiterated in 1775 by Pius VI, the interdiction remained in force until Pius IX.

Values of the Building

The Jewish cemetery thus returned to constitute the testimony of the secular presence of the Jewish community, which in ancient times settled in Pesaro, contributing to build the cultural, civil and economic identity of the city. The Jewish community has always been a minority in Italy, but has interacted with great intensity with the more general social context through the centuries, participating in the evolution of human values, contributing to the formation of the cornerstones of culture, taking an active part in advancing scientific progress and also playing an important role in the process of economic development. The cultural assets are therefore the witnesses of a coexistence that has spanned twenty centuries and an example of integration and enhancement of diversity. Among the expressions of the Italian cultural heritage, the testimonies of Jewish culture have a particular historical value due to the centuries-old tradition of civil collaboration of the Communities. Among these assets, those most at risk of conservation seem to be cemeteries which, due to religious constraints, have to respect the inviolability of the burial.

Description of the Urban Context and Development

The Nature Trail of the San Bartolo Park is a short route that starts from the park itself and reaches, after a short walk of about 600 meters, the Jewish cemetery located on a slope facing east located near the first curves of the panoramic road. Despite the extremely short length, the route is still full of interest, allowing you to quickly switch from the marine environment of the beach in front of the site to the dense vegetation of the slopes of San Bartolo until you reach the small cemetery surrounded by greenery.