“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.”
“The Florentine ghetto is among the most well documented areas of the city. Architects, urban planners, sociologists and anthropologists will be able to access an unparalleled wealth of information about the daily life of Florentine Jewry”
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 program has recently launched the Ghetto Mapping Project, a major research project aiming at reconstructing the geo-economic and social physiognomy of the Florentine ghetto, the third oldest ghetto in the world. Cosimo I, Florence’s first grand duke, established the ghetto of Florence in 1570, near the area of Mercato Vecchio (Old Market), in the very center of the gran ducal capital. While officially erected to gather all the Jews of the Grand Duchy and conform it to the principles of Counter-Reform Church, the ghetto of Florence was in fact the product of a very well planned private real estate investment of the Medici family. As explicitly affirmed by the five magistrates commission whom Cosimo I had appointed to conduct a detailed survey of all the Jewish population in Tuscany as a preliminary phase of the construction of the ghetto, confining the Jews in a small and overcrowded area, and banning them from any real productive activity, would have soon forced its residents to ask for a number of services that the state could provide upon payment of lavish fees. The ghetto of Florence, in sum up, was not only the expression and result of a widespread and substantially omnipresent anti-Jewish feeling but also the produce of a major, very rewarding investment plan.
The Ghetto Mapping Project is a multidisciplinary projects and consists of three main parts:
Virtual reconstruction all the ghetto spaces, since its foundation in 1570 to its demolition in 1888. This will be done by elaborating and combining together into a 3D model architectural information we obtained from several detailed and comparative surveys of the ghetto prepared for the Medici, together with archival documents such as paintings, watercolors, archaeological surveys from other Florentine collections. The ghetto is probably the most documented neighborhood of Florence, and this study will provide invaluable information to scholars working on any field related to the history of the city. As one of the first examples of planned, semi-public housing project in modern Europe, the ghetto is of primary importance for architects, urban planners and sociologists working on modern Europe.
Ghetto economies: the ghetto was part of the grand ducal private properties and as such the entire area, its inhabitants and anything contained or happening in it was carefully described and recorded. From an archival and documentary standpoint, in sum, the ghetto of Florence was one of the most heavily controlled areas in the city. In spite of all this and the incredible wealth of available archival sources, the Florentine ghetto has ever been studied with specific reference to its economic-financial features. The Medici’s administration produced over a period of circa 300 years (approx. 1588-1888) hundreds volumes on the ghetto, providing us with an unprecedented quantity of economic and financial information, ranging from the cost of house and shop rents to minor and major investments done by its inhabitants or by external Christian fellows. Describing the economic features of the ghetto means answering a crucial question in the study of early-modern Italian and European Jewry: how profitable – or not – was the ghettoization of the Jews?
Demography and history: along with information of architectural and economic nature, the Medici documents offer what seems to be one of the richest, most exhaustive and chronologically most extended set of Jewish demographic data. These will allow us not only to know precisely how many Jews lived in the ghetto in a specific moment of its centennial history but also to trace back family ties and outline genealogical branching.