Scola Grande - The Great Synagogue of Mantua

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In 1529 Duke Federico Gonzaga of Mantua gave a concession to the banker Isaac of Senigallia to transform his house into a synagogue in the Grifone quarter. Later, Isaac sold the building to the Community which, in 1542, enlarged the synagogue, and one year later the Torah Ark was completed. The Great Synagogue of the Italian rite quickly became the center of Jewish life and activities in Mantua. In 1633 after the devastating damage caused by mercenary soldiers, a new place was found for the Great Synagogue in the Palace of Felicita Guerrieri Gonzaga, close to the San Salvatore church. The Ark and the two cathedrae were brought to Sermide, a village near Mantua and there they remained until they were brought to Bologna and then to Jerusalem.
A new majestic Torah Ark was built in 1635, possibly by Antonio Bibiena, the son of the architect Ferdinando Bibiena. This Ark and its cathedrae are now in use in the Ponivetch Synagogue.
Between 1837 and 1845 the synagogue was totally renewed in a neoclassic style by the architect Giovan Battista Vergani. The monumental marble Ark had wooden doors decorated by large silver/peltre acanthus leaves stemming around the Tables of the Law. On this occasion the 17th century Arks as well as Arks from other Mantuan synagogues were put in the entrance hall of the synagogue. In 1925 an imposing marble monumental façade was rebuilt, facing the Street that was called at that time ‘Scola Grande Street’.
In 1939 the Municipality expropriated the building. In 1940 the furniture was saved and a large organum was sold. The building was destroyed together with the demolition of the entire area. The doors’ silver decoration was brought to Jerusalem and is now in the Museum of Italian Jewish Art.
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List of Permissions for the establishment of the Great synagogue (Archive Jewish community, mantua)
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