Jewish Cemetery of Siena

The Jewish cemetery of Siena is located outside the city walls, not far from Porta Romana, on Strada del Linaiolo. It is the only burial site used since the founding of the Jewish Community of Siena and still in use by the small local Jewish community. The site is of historical value as evidence of more than seven centuries of the life of the Sienese Jewish settlement.

The cemetery covers a portion of land of about one and a half hectares. It has a constant slope that in the past was shaped with small terraces in some areas still perceptible. In 1891 with the help of many institutions and private donations, a wall was built. In the upper part with access form the gate located on Strada del Linaiolo is a two-story building that includes the chapel used for the funeral office, consisting of two rooms. The mortuary chamber, where the ritual washing of the corpse took place, and a second room used for the wake, which still retains the original furnishings and a special movable wooden trolley, necessary for the burial of the deceased. In the room are several marble tombstones from the headquarters of the Israelite Society of Mercy of Siena and four wood and painted plaster tablets with Hebrew inscriptions about the activities of the members of the fraternity itself. The Fraternity (in ancient Hevrà di Chesed ve Emet), which until the early decades of the twentieth century had its own headquarters in the area of the old ghetto, assisted and cared for the indigent sick free of charge and was responsible for the transportation and burial of the dead. A marble plaque from 1891 commemorates the names of donors who contributed to the construction of the wall.

State of preservation of the cemetery

To the acclivity of the site and unstoppable growth of vegetation must be ascribed the profound alteration of the site, which in recent years appeared completely covered by thick undergrowth. An almost impenetrable green blanket has in fact shrouded most of the tombstones going to conceal the original architectural warping of a good part of the area, making it effectively unusable for worship and visits.

To deal with this situation, the Jewish Community of Florence is taking on together with KKL onlus, the Israelite Society of Mercy of Siena and with the coordination of the Opera del Tempio Association of Florence, an important work of clearing the undergrowth and cutting down the trees in order to safeguard the precious burial monuments below. This work is nearing its conclusion and has reserved some surprises such as the rediscovery of burial monuments hidden for years, the original paths and some hypogeal caves that are likely older and with a destination yet to be defined.

It is important for the future to find the necessary resources to permanently safeguard the area  for future generations. Many interventions are needed to preserve the stability of the site while maintaining its natural character:

– constant maintenance of the vegetation together with new plantings and restoration of pre-existing paths along the hillside where the oldest burial monuments are located. At the steepest slope locations, it is possible to assume the placement of wooden access steps or walkways among the vegetation.

– cleaning, restoration and consolidation and cataloguing of the burial monuments

– geological remediation and water drainage works

A video illustrating its peculiarities can be seen here:




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