Dubrovnik Synagogue - History and Facts | History Hit

Dubrovnik Synagogue

Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik-Neretva, Croatia

Dubrovnik Synagogue is the world’s oldest Sephardic synagogue.

Peta Stamper

29 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Alamy

About Dubrovnik Synagogue

Dubrovnik Synagogue is the longest surviving Sephardic synagogue, and the world’s second oldest synagogue. Today, it continues to be owned by the Jewish community.

Dubrovnik Synagogue history

Dubrovnik’s Old Synagogue was established in 1352, legally recognised by the city in 1408. After the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492 by the Catholic Monarchs, many travelled east to Dubrovnik.

These arrivals became craftsmen, dealing with spices, silks, and crafts demanded in the seaport. In 1546, Dubrovnik allocated a Jewish settlement within the city, the main street called Ulica Zudioska, ‘Jewish Street’, located in the suburb of Ploce. Despite fleeing persecution, Dubrovnik’s Jews were similarly treated under Venetian law and the local Catholic Church.

During the 18th century, as Dubrovnik’s economic position and influence declined, Jews could not partake in commerce, confined to the ghetto. It was during Napoleon‘s occupation of Dalmatia in 1808 that Jews gained legal equality for the first time. This quickly changed when the Austrian Empire annexed Dalmatia in 1814, and it was the mid-19th century when Croatian Jews regained legal equality.

Under fascist rule during World War Two, occupied first by the Italian army and then the Germans after September 1943, Dubrovnik’s Jews were sent to Rab concentration camp and Lopud island. In October 1944, Josip Broz Tito’s partisans moved Jews to freed territories; the rest transferred to German concentration camps.

The synagogue was damaged and rebuilt as it weathered the centuries along with its Jewish community: during the 1667 earthquake that devastated much of Dubrovnik, the Second World War and Croatian War of Independence, when the city was besieged by Serbian and Montenegrin forces and the synagogue was hit by artillery.

Dubrovnik Synagogue today

The three-storied synagogue, redecorated between 1652 and 1670 in the Baroque style, remains a place of worship. Because of the small Jewish population, the synagogue has a visiting rabbi to conduct services.

From the street, originally gated to create a ghetto, you can appreciate the high windows and largely unchanged facade. Climb a narrow staircase to purchase a museum ticket, the walls covered in old photographs, documents, a list of earthquake victims from 1667, among others. More stairs lead to the small sanctuary.

Getting to Dubrovnik Synagogue

Located in Dubrovnik’s pedestrianised Old Town, the synagogue is 120m from the main gate on foot. Parking bays are located nearby at Ploce gate in Petra Kresimira street, and bus lines 1A, 1B and 3 will get you to the Old Town entrance.

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