The Synagogue of Florence: Arabesque Renaissance Revival
The Synagogue of Florence was built between 1874 and 1882. It was built in a unique melding of Arabesque (Moorish Revival) and Italian Renaissance Revivalist styles. The history of the small Jewish community in Florence is quite interesting. Following is a quote from Wikipedia on the subject:
While the evidence of Jews living in Tuscany in the Roman Era is scant, the history of the Jews in Florence really begins with Italian Jews from the south emigrating to Florence and the Tuscan region by the beginning of the 14th century. Many Jews who settled in Florence were merchants and money lenders. Emanuel ben Uzziel da Camerino was one of the first known Jews of Florence whose name was recorded. In 1428, the small Jewish community in Florence lent funds to Pope Martin V in exchange for his protection for the local Jews. The Jewish community in Florence was formally founded in 1437. The Italian, Medici family of Florence was closely linked to the Jews of Florence. For instance, the Medici's protected the Jews of Florence from sermons by fanatical Roman Catholic clergy, such as Bernardino da Feltre and Girolamo Savonarola who both pursued a policy of expulsion. Some of the expulsion orders were tied to plague hysteria. However, when the Medici's fell briefly from power in the 1490s, the Jews of Florence were ordered to leave the city. Fortunately, Jewish money loaned to the Republic of Florence delayed the expulsion until the Medici's returned to power in 1512. During this time Jewish physicians and scholars were called to the court of the Medicis. However, once Cosimo de Medici consolidated his power, he began to enact anti-Jewish laws such as special dress codes for the Jews. He also created the Jewish ghetto of Florence in 1571. Life in the Florence ghetto was compulsory for most but not all Jews. However, within the ghetto, the Jews had a certain amount of legal and governmental autonomy. They established synagogues, schools, kosher markets, and ritual bath houses. By the 1600s, the Italian Jews of Florence began to feel disenfranchised by the growing number of Spanish/Portuguese Jews.
In 1799, emancipation came to the Jews of Florence from Napoleonic forces who occupied the city. In 1848, the ghetto was abolished and the Jews of Florence were given civil rights under a new constitution. By 1861, the Jews were given full citizenship and the ghetto was leveled to make room for urban renewal. The Great Synagogue was built in 1882.