Italy / Piedmont

Casale Monferrato

Synagogue, Casale Monferrato © Wikimedia Commons (Lorenzia)

The Ashkenazic synagogue of the lovely, rich city of Casale Monferrato on the floodplain of the Po River was constructed in 1596, in the center of the old Jewish quarter. It is one of the oldest in Piedmont. The discreet exterior facade has nothing remarkable to recommend it, but the interior with its numerous gild wood decorations and frescoes is one of the most remarkable in Italy. After extensive remodeling in the eighteenth and especially nineteenth centuries, the temple as we see it today is very different from what it was originally. The tevah was at the center of a rectangular hall illuminated by fourteen windows, like the synagogues of Central Europe that also have the pews for the faithful surrounding the tevah. In 1868, this arrangement was changed and the hall considerably enlarged. The aron, dating from 1787, remains in its original location. It is decorated on both sides with large stuccowork depicting the city of Jerusalem. A fresco of the heavens and clouds occupies the center of the ceiling, with an inscription in Hebrew, “This is the door to heaven”. Two gilt inscriptions on the walls recall difficult times in the history of the community. Another inscription recalls the statute of 1848 that granted the Piedmontese Jews legal equality. The synagogue was restored in 1969.

The Jewish Museum situated in the building connected to the synagogue brings together a collection of beautiful liturgical objects.