Thursday, April 27, 2017 /
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Levantine Synagogue

Levantine Synagogue

Constructed by the Jews who came from the Eastern Mediterranean between 1538 and 1561, it is probably the only one that has kept nearly all its original features and has the only note¬worthy exterior, with its two simple and severe facades interrupted by three orders of windows and the polygonal niche (a typical feature of Venetian architecture), it is called « diagò » or « liagò » and can also be seen in the other Scole.

In the entrance hall of the Scola, enriched by a beautiful ceiling, one reads on two ancient tablets: «If you understand, oh, man, what your end in the world will be, and if you show charity discreetly, then when you depart this life your place will be assured: then your chalice will be full of goodness and on your head will be placed a crown» on the first, and, on the second, above the alms-box: «Donated by the Compagnia di Pietà e Misericordia». Another tablet was added in 1884 commemorating Sir Moses Montefiore's visit to Venice on July 1, 1875.

On the right is the [Jeshivà Luzzatto ; a small, very fine study and Prayer Hall transferred here from its original seat and kept intact to this day. It is adorned with various poems praising God and forming with their initial letters the acrostic of Eliahu Aron Hazach (corresponding to the surname « Forti» ). Various inscriptions added in recent times remind us that this prayer hall was chosen in 1950 to honor the martyrs of Nazism and Fascism. Over the portal one reads: «Blessed be he who enters, blessed be he who goes out ».

On going up the first steps one finds a tablet (like the one in the entrance of the Schola Italiana) with the acrostic of God's Name.

Inside

Started in the second half of the 16th century, this Scola was restored at the end of the next century by Andrea Brustolon (1662-1732), from Belluno, the most famous wood sculptor working in Venice in that period. A particularly beautiful and impressive pulpit stands on a high base, finely worked in flower motifs. Other motifs twist round the two columns, recalling those of Salomon's Temple. The columns support a severe architrave, while two flights of stairs lead up in a smooth curve to the level of the pulpit.

The niche visible from the outside of the building, is to be seen here with its three large windows and fine shellshaped half-dome. On the opposite side, the Aron ha-kodesh (Holy Ark) makes an admirable contrast, in its overall simplicity, with the sumptuous tribune (pulpit). The Aron is closed by a brass gate «gift of dear Rabbi Menachem, son of Maimon Vivante, to our Lord in the year 5546-1786 (I thank Thee with a sincere heart) ». Above the Aron is written: «Know before Whom you find yourself» and « I will kneel in the palace of Thy Holiness and I will give thanks to Thy Name» (Psalms V, 9).

On the doors of the Aron are inscribed the Ten Commandments and the date: 5542 (1782 of the Christian Era). On the door near the Aron one reads: «In Thee oh Lord, do I put my trust» (Psalms, XXXI, 2), and on the arch: «How worthy is this place! This is none other than the House of God» (Jacob's Dream, Genesis XXVIII, 17). On the door, near the Teva, one can read the date 5546 (1786) and on the arch two verses from the Psalms: « Open to me the gates of righteousness so that I might enter into the lair of God» (CXVIII, 19) and «This is the gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter» (CXVIII, 20).

High up, along the entrance hall, runs the women's gallery, once closed by lattices. On the ceiling too, which is of striking merit, are repeated the same wood carvings and gildings. The Dutch chandeliers, brass candlesticks and beautiful silver lamps hanging round the Ark help to harmonize the various elements of which this Synagogue is composed, and accentuate its particular charm and singular feeling of composition.

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