- What to see
- Price Flat rate upon request (special discount not included)
- When Everyday
- Duration Half day
- Difficulty Easy
- Meeting point Exact location disclosed with the ticket purchase
- Weather Departs in all weather conditions
- Shared/Private Private
- Min pax 1 person
What few may know is that in the heart of Dubrovnik stands Europe’s oldest functioning Sephardic synagogue. The synagogue is a highlight of any visit to Dubrovnik. The main sanctuary, featuring an elaborate chandelier, colorful fabrics, and gold work, is divided by three arches. The bimah is located under the central arch while the aron kodesh, surrounded by two large wooden arches, stands along the eastern wall facing Jerusalem.
Jews arrived during the early centuries of the Christian era, with the conquering Roman armies in Dalmatia. The number had grown significantly following the Spanish expulsion. Of the Sephardic Jewish families passing through on their way to Turkey, several decided to settle in Dubrovnik, helping to solidify a modest but strong Jewish community in the city. Today there are just a few remaining Jews in Dubrovnik. Yet, the synagogue continues to function with services conducted by members of the local community, with tourists often helping form a minyan.
Life had not always been idyllic for the Jews of the independent Republic of Dubrovnik. There were many episodes of persecutions in the 16th and early 17th centuries which led to false accusations and even executions. By the mid-18th century, as Dubrovnik’s economic position declined, the small community of Jews was prohibited from engaging in commerce, and was confined to live in the ghetto.
Yet, in the years of Dubrovnik’s independence, the Jews – given their broad knowledge of languages – had fit well, many served as interpreters. Others became merchants and importers of wool and spices from the East, and textiles and paper from the West. Beyond commerce and maritime trade, many Jews served as insurers and owners of ships. Although prohibited from owning land or buildings, the Jews were allowed to invest in ships that served Dubrovnik’s trade routes. Many also served as a significant number of the city’s physicians.
In 2003, the first floor of the synagogue was converted into a museum by Dubrovnik’s small but determined Jewish community. To preserve the memory of the many centuries of Jewish presence in Dubrovnik, the museum contains a number of small exhibits: archival documents; a Holocaust memorial; and a collection of religious objects, including several elaborate Spanish, Italian, and French Torah scrolls, each created between the 13th and 17th centuries.
Exiting the walled city, just outside the Pile Gate entrance to Dubrovnik, remains a little-known but unique Jewish site – a modest water fountain that serves the local population. Before Napoleon’s arrival to Dubrovnik, Jews were not allowed to drink water from the other two fountains in the city. They were restricted to the “Jewish Fountain,” as it is still called today. When Napoleon granted the Jews equal rights, all fountains were made accessible to them, and the Jewish Fountain was removed from within the Old City’s walls, but not from the area. It was kept in Pile as a permanent monument.
Dubrovnik and its many sites of interest – should not be missed by any traveler.