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#15 The Medici and the Jews, Cosimo I and the Florentine Ghetto (1569-1570):

Updated: May 10, 2022

Genesis & History of an Early Modern Italian Ghetto ~ A Conversation with Dr. Piergabriele Mancuso

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The recording of this session is available for $10. Dr. Piergabriele Mancuso, one of the world’s leading scholars on early modern Italian ghettos, is an engaging and delightful lecturer – as those who joined us April 1st for his talk on the Venetian Ghetto as part of my Masterclass. Dr. Mancuso is the director of the Eugene Grant Jewish History Program at the Medici Archive Project, Florence, and coordinator of the Ghetto Mapping Project.

I interviewed him about a fascinating subject, the “Ghetto of the Medici,” established by Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1570 (after the first ghetto in the world was founded in Venice in 1516, and the ghetto of Rome began in 1555). The Medici, then the most influential family in Florence, had granted Jewish people protection and special privileges, allowing them to reside in Florence, live and work together with Christians, and contribute to the making of the powerful Medici state.

Dr. Mancuso examined why Cosimo decided to depart from his family’s own tolerant position towards Jews, and to follow the Roman Curia in its Counter-Reformation and anti-Jewish plans. Since its inception in 2013, staff and fellows of the Medici Archive Project have been uncovering and studying some 2,000 documents on Jews and Jewish culture from the Archives. These records describe both the everyday life and extraordinary events of Jews in Florence and around the world. In 2016, an even more important discovery was made: over 200 manuscript volumes detailing the foundation, development, and demolition of the Florentine ghetto. This treasure trove comprises the names of all Jews who ever resided in the ghetto; the detailed blueprints of every single apartment; the records of every professional activity that took place within and outside its walls; the mapping of Jewish mercantile networks; the artistic, musical, and scientific production of Florentine Jews; and accounts of the preservation of Jewish customs and religion.

Dr. Mancuso shared with us some fascinating recently-discovered documents, and took us on virtual tour of the ghetto, which was completely destroyed in 1888.

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