The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

The “Campo degli Ebrei” of Ancona, the Most Important Jewish Cemetery in the Marche Region, and its Ancient Tombstones (Sixteenth–Nineteenth Centuries)

The “Campo degli Ebrei” is the name by which the Jewish cemetery of the city of Ancona is known. The town hosted the most important port of the State of the Church on the Adriatic Sea and the seat of a Jewish community of medieval origins. The cemetery has been the only burial place of the Ancona Jews since the first half of the fifteenth century until 1864, the year of its official closure. The area chosen is still highly suggestive today; in fact, it stands on the side of a cliff overlooking the sea, formerly outside the city walls, which over time has assumed such strategic importance as to determine the reduction of some parts of the graveyard - the oldest ones - for military purposes. Although the war events of the last century also caused partial destruction, the studies conducted between the years 2004-2006 and only minimally disclosed so far, have brought to light about a thousand burial points and allowed the transcription and translation of about three hundred epitaphs, most of which dated between the mid-16th century and the latter half of the 19th century. The study presented here focuses on the textual aspects of the epitaphs through the centuries, highlighting the mutation of the stylistic, lexical and decorative elements, and analysing the typical and peculiar forms of the gravestones of still uncertain origin. Particular emphasis will also be given to case study of reuse and to dispersion of the tombstones, which, having fallen from the cliff onto the beaches below, are occasionally returned by the sea.