History of the Jews in Sardinia
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The history of the Jews in Sardinia can be traced over two millennia. Sardinia (Italian: Sardegna [sarˈdeɲɲa], Sardinian: Sardigna [sarˈdinja] in Hebrew: סרדיניה) is an island off the west coast of Italy and south of the island of Corsica. Its coordinates are between 8° 4′ and 9° 49′ E. longitude, and between 38° 55′ and 41° 16′ N. latitude. The modest Jewish community in Sardinia consisted of Sephardic Jews of Spanish and Italian descent.
The first recorded mention of Jews in Sardinia occurred in the year 19, during the reign of Roman emperor Tiberius. 4000 Jews were exiled from Rome to Sardinia. Little recorded Jewish history of early Sardinia remains but it is presumed they led a quiet, provincial life with full rights along with the natives. They even left a mark on Sardinian itself in words like Friday that, unlike the other Romance languages, is actually chenàpura or cenàpura, deriving its name from the Latin cena pura in order to designate the food prepared for Shabbat eve. When Christianity became the state religion of Rome, Jewish rights everywhere, including Sardinia, became curtailed. After the fall of Rome, a succession of foreign rulers became the governors of Sardinia and life for the Jews became increasingly harsh. During those times, mob violence against the Jews was recorded. Sardinia is one of the few places in Italy where there are catacombs containing Jewish inscriptions. The catacombs of Sant'Antioco date from the 4th and 5th centuries. The inscriptions are in a form of Hebrew-Latin, a language closely related to Italki.
In 1325, Sardinia fell under the rule of the Spanish Kingdom of Aragon. For the first century during Spanish rule, life was more or less pleasant for Sardinian Jews. During this time Spanish Jews began to arrive and settle the island. The Jewish inhabitants of Marseille fleeing violence 1484 and again in 1485, and leading to an exodus of Jews from the city, settled in Sardinia which became home to about 200 Jewish families from Marseille Also, in 1485, the Jews of Sardinia were declared property of the King of Aragon and were governed by his authority alone.
Many Jewish families lived the Sardinian capitol of Cagliari where there was a large synagogue. This synagogue was eventually converted into the Roman Catholic Church of Santa Croce The largest Jewish community in Sardinia was located in the city of Alghero. Many Jewish families were engaged in trade and other respected professions such as banking and medicine. While life was good for the Jews in Alghero, the Jews living in other Sardinian cities endured increasing intolorence. This included the establishment of Jewish ghettos and special identifying clothing as well as forced baptism. Jewish immigration to Sardinia was halted under pain of death. A decree issued in 1481 fixed the penalties for an offense against Christianity and for the employment of Christian servants. In 1492, the Spanish crown with the Alhambra Decree ordered the expulsion of Jews in Spain. Soon after, The Jews of Sardinia and Corsica were also ordered to leave. Many Sardinian Jews arrived in Malta, Greece, and Calabria, Italy, which became a temporary home for other Sephardic refugees as well. Sardinia is also mentioned in the Inquisition records pertaining to a population of Marranos.
During the 19th century a modest number of Jewish families from Italy settled back on the island. Sardinian Jews were emancipated on March, 29 1848. In the years that followed, 180 Jews joined the Sardinian army. The Prime minister of Sardinia became embroiled in the Edgardo Mortara affair. A secret plot was hatched to kidnap the boy and bring him secretly to Sardinia. By Italian law regulating Jewish communal organization in 1931, Sardinian Jews were under the jurisdiction of the Jewish community in Rome. Most of the Sardinian Jews were murdered during the Holocaust. After World War II and the establishment of the state of Israel the last surviving Jews of Sardinia never returned to the island. Today there is no organized Jewish life in Sardinia. There is no trace of the former Marrano population as well.
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