Italy / Piedmont


Synagogue © Daniel Ventura – Wikimedia Commons

The most elegant of the region’s Baroque synagogues is found in the little city of Carmagnola near Turin. The city’s Jewish community was forced to live in a ghetto beginning in 1724.

The temple is on the second floor of an eighteenth-century house opposite the former entrance to the ghetto. Passing through a vestibule decorated with frescoes, you will enter a prayer hall almost square in shape (30 ft. x 33 ft.) with a coffered wooden ceiling and lovely ornamental windows. In the center stands a magnificent Baroque bimah sculpted of gold, black, red, and green polychrome wood with slender columns supporting a large crown. The richly decorated aron is surrounded by two columns and stucco. The walls are paneled mid-way in sumptuously carved dark wood. These decorations, apparently older than the synagogue itself, are oversized compared to the dimensions of the room. The woodwork dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is of exceedingly high quality and reminiscent of the furniture in the collections of the royal house of Savoy. “If these are not the same artisans, they belong to the same workshop”, remarked art historian David Cassuto in his study on the Baroque synagogues of Piedmont.