Monday, August 13, 2012

Slovenia Journal III: Sinagoga

The old Sinagoga di Trieste built at the beginning of the twentieth century is one of the largest in Europe, a monumental structure that that ranks in importance with its counterparts in Budapest, Brussels and Berlin. It attests to the vibrant Jewish population that once thrived in the city, producing the poet Umberto Saba and the novelist Ettore Schmitz who Joyce discovered and who wrote such books as La Conscienza di Zeno (The Confessions of Zeno) and Senilita (As a Man Grows Olderunder the nom de plum of Italo Svevo. The Synagogue is located on the Via San Francesco di Assisi, but it sits in the Piazza Virgilio Giotti named after a Poet (1885-1957), and also is bordered by the Via Gaetano Donizetti, a homage to the composer (1797-1848) and the Via Guido Zanetti, named for a soldier whose life was prematurely taken from him during world war I. When you go to the Risiera di San Sabba, another important Trieste  monument, in this case a memorial at the site of a notorious detention center in which Jews and resistance fighters were executed (which contained its own crematorium), there are pictures of the synagogue covered in swastikas. Its grand dome and enormous Rose window set around a Star of David window have survived, though the building is only open on Sunday mornings which is also a testament to the decline of a once vibrant community that went from a height of 6000 to its present 600.

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