“The relevance of this initiative lies in its potential to unearth a body of knowledge which has been buried for centuries in Italian archives. Our challenge it to bring this piece of Jewish heritage back to life.”
Giovanni Piccolino Boniforti
“The tools provided by the new generation of rendering softwares is finally capable of conveying with unprecedented detail the architectural features and the modifications of the building in this area throughout the three centuries of life of the ghetto”
The Jewish History Program has recently launched the Ghetto Mapping Project, a research project whose aim is to reconstruct the economic and social fabric of the Florentine ghetto, the third oldest ghetto in the world. Grand Duke Cosimo I established the ghetto of Florence in 1570, near the area of Mercato Vecchio, in the very center of the Tuscan capital. While officially erected to gather all the Jews of the Grand Duchy under the aegis of Counter-Reformational tenets, the ghetto of Florence was in fact a product of a very well planned, private real-estate investment of the Medici family.
The Ghetto Mapping Project consists of three main parts:
1. The virtual reconstruction of all the spaces in ghetto, from its foundation in 1570 to its demolition in 1888. This will be executed by elaborating and combining together into a 3D model, architectural information gleaned from detailed and comparative surveys of the ghetto drafted for the Medici. In addition to this data, this project will also incorporate archival documents, paintings, watercolors, and archaeological surveys from other Florentine collections. The ghetto is probably the most documented neighborhood of Florence. As such, this study will provide invaluable information to scholars working on any field related to the humanities. Moreover, as one of the first examples of a planned, semi-public housing project in modern Europe, this digital initiative will also be of primary importance to architects, urban planners, and sociologists.
2. Ghetto economy. The ghetto was a Medici property. Therefore, the entire complex, its inhabitants, and anything housed within its premises was carefully described and recorded by Medici functionaries. From an archival and documentary standpoint, the ghetto was one of the most heavily controlled areas of the city. Despite the incredible wealth of available archival sources, the ghetto has ever been studied with specific economic-financial perspective. Medici administration produced, over a period of circa two centuries, hundreds of volumes pertaining to the ghetto, which provide us with an unprecedented quantity of economic and financial information.
3. Demography and history. Along with architectural and economic information, Medici documents offer one of the richest, most exhaustive, and chronologically most extended set of Jewish demographic data. This corpus of archival material will allow us not only to determine precisely how many Jews lived in the ghetto in any specific period of its history, but also to trace family ties and outline genealogical trees.
‘The Medici and the Jews’ Conference
Tel Aviv University
June 13 and 14, 2018.
The Medici Archive Project and Tel Aviv University have organized a conference on the religious, cultural and urban interactions between the Medici and the Jewish community in Tuscany, which was held in the campus of Tel Aviv University on 13 and 14 June 2018.
The international event gathered over twenty-five experts in various fields of early modern studies from universities and institutions in Israel, North America, and Europe. Medici Archive Project scholars, Piergabriele Mancuso and Lorenzo Vigotti seized the opportunity to present new findings on the Florentine ghetto, exploring its demographical, economic and architectural features. Another key aspect was the fascination that the Medici and their court had for Jewish culture, clearly outlined in the presentations by Alessio Assonitis and Brendan Dooley.
The conference ended with a lively debate led by Tamar Herzig and Alessio Assonitis. The participants agreed on the need for a more thorough study of the use of space and of the relationship between the ghettos and the social fabric within which they are situated. This consensus led to a proposal for a new collaborative research project that will include all Italian ghettos during the early modern period.