The Verano Cemetery was established during the Napoleonic rule (1808-1814), and has a Jewish section since 1895. The entrance on Via Tiburtina joins the avenue that leads to the burial chapel (tempietto). On 16 October 1952, a stone monument commemorating Roman deportees by architect Angelo Di Castro was placed in front of it. On the back the Memorial to the Jews who died in Libya, by Eddy Levy and Massimiliano Beltrame, unveiled in 1977. Numerous funerary monuments are noteworthy. They illustrate the changing social condition of the local Jews and are a key to the understanding of the prestige attained by various families. A world away from the more modest, austere graves of Jewish tradition, the Jewish cemetery is filled with decorations and figures, some of an allegorical nature, some depicting the deceased themselves. In line with the design of the time, there are eclectic tombstones with historic and oriental touches; sometimes one can make out references to the architecture of the new synagogues, such as in the Campos family chapel, designed by 1909 by Marcello Piacentini with clear references to the Tempio Maggiore.
The place is associated with the years under Nazi occupation, and commemorates the massacre by the SS as retaliation for the Partisan attack in Via Rasella when thirty-two German soldiers were killed. On the evening of March the 24th, 1944, three hundred and thirty-five people were rounded up from the city’s prisons – among them, seventy-five Jews – and taken to Via Ardeatina, where they were slaughtered. The underground passages were then blown up to conceal traces of the massacre and the bodies were retrieved only after the war. In the large area at the centre of the quarry stands the sculpture I Martiri (“The Martyrs”) by Francesco Coccia, made to commemorate the victims, represented by the figures of an artisan, an intellectual and a teenager, bound by the wrists (1950). An opening in the quarry wall leads to the route around the tunnels, and then to the Memorial built in 1949: it is a large tombstone, a vast cement slab held up by six pillars which covers the graves, all identical and in rows. Image attribution: antmoose, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons; Sailko, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
The ruins of the Ostia synagogue, discovered in 1961, are a crucial piece of evidence, telling us as much about the Jewish presence in the region as they do about the most ancient Jewish diaspora organisation. The primitive section dates from the 1st century, when the port built by Emperor Claudius turned the city into a multi-ethnic trading centre. The building had many rooms, and was later renovated and enlarged, particularly in the 3rd and 4th centuries. The sanctuary was accessed through a vestibule with three entrances and an intermediate passageway with tall Corinthian columns. The tevah is thought to have been on the slightly curved wall at the back of the room; on the opposite side you can still see the 4th century apse which made up the Aron, framed by an aedicule originally with trabeated columns. Decorative bas-reliefs with traditional subjects are at the top of the projecting ledges are: the menorah, the shofar, and lulav. Additional rooms in the space near the vestibule date from later transformations, including a kitchen with an oven and sunken compartments for provisions, and a large room with benches along the walls, perhaps used as guest quarters.
The Vigna Randanini catacomb on the Via Appia is the only site currently open to visitors. The underground or hypogeal area is now accessed via a passageway which dates to the period between the 1st century B.C. and the 1st century A.D. The arcosolia (chambers with lowered vaulted ceilings) are thought to date from a later period, as is the black and white mosaic flooring. Inside the catacomb loculi or tombs arranged along the walls, and kokhim, tombs that are perpendicular to the walls of the gallery, dug just beneath the floor, typical of the Middle East. Those at Vigna Randanini are the only example of such tombs in the Roman Jewish catacombs. Along the various galleries, other burial spaces are organized into cubicula (chambers for multiple burials). Richly frescoed, only some of them show symbols from the Hebrew tradition; indeed, some of them, decorated with motifs commonly found in other Roman catacombs, originate from a period prior to their use by the Jewish community (3rd – 4th centuries), and are thought to have been incorporated after they were no longer in use.
The majestic triumphal arch is dedicated to the Emperor Titus and was constructed in the years following his death in 81 CE. The monument celebrates his victory over Jerusalem in 70 CE. and the annexation of Judaea to the Roman Empire. A depiction of the divinization of the emperor, shown flying upon an eagle can be seen at the centre of the coffered soffit. On either side of the archway are reliefs with scenes of his triumph. On one side they show the entrance of Titus, and his coronation, surrounded by allegorical figures; on the other, the procession going through the triumphal arch, carrying the spoils looted from the destroyed Temple: among them the menorah, the large seven-branched candlestick stands out. Roman Jews would always refuse to walk under this archway. It was only after the birth of the State of Israel that they crossed it, but this time in the opposite direction to that of the triumphal procession.
The Municipal Rose Garden at the foot of the Aventine was once the Jewish cemetery, prior to its transfer to the Campo Verano. The previous cemetery at Porta Portese had been abandoned, having been fenced off and reduced in 1587 and eventually seized. A new site at the foot of the Aventine Hill was purchased, expanded several times, and remained operational from 1645 to 1895. However, in 1934 the Jewish Community was forced to sell the now unused burial ground because of the plan to free the Circus Maximus and open up Via di Valle Murcia. Three hundred and seventy-two tombs and several monuments from the more recent section were transferred to the Campo Verano. In memory of this place’s previous identity, the pathways of the Rose Garden were laid out in the shape of a menorah, the concentric seven-branched candlestick described in the Bible as being among the ritual ornaments Temple of Jerusalem. The Community also decided to honour the memory of the former Jewish cemetery by placing a stone with the Tables of the Law near the entrance.