Saturday, 19 November 2011
Jews of Split, Dubrovnik and Kotor - remnants of Venice's Adriatic empire - in 1844
Sir John Gardner Wilkinson, F.R.S., later described as "the Father of British Egyptology", travelled down the Adriatic coast of what is now Croatia and Montenegro in 1844. The ports along the coast had formerly guarded Venice’s trade route to the East. By the time Gardner Wilkinson visited the Venetian Empire was long gone. In passing he mentions remnant Jewish communities in Split, Dubrovnik and – possibly – Kotar. A little over 500 Jews remained in these towns, stranded by history.
In 1833 there were reported to be 510 Jews in the Circoli of Dalmatia. These were mainly Spanish and lived at Spalato [Split] and Ragusa [Dubrovnik]. Today these cities are in Croatia. Formerly they had been Venetian colonies. By 1844 their numbers had reduced to 483.
“The inhabitants of Spalato are nearly all Roman Catholics; but some are of the Greek church, and thirteen are Protestants. There are also about three hundred and twenty Jews, many of whom wear the turban and oriental costume; and in place could a better study for Shylock be found than at Spalato [Thanks!]. They are mostly descendants of the Jews who were expelled from Spain, in 1493 [sic], and who established themselves in Smyrna, Salonica, and other places in Europe and Asia. One colony then settled at Spalato, notwithstanding the rigid restrictions imposed upon them by the Venetians, who obliged them to live in a particular part of the town, as at Venice, called the Ghetto. The same name is applied to the Jews’ quarter at Rome, to which they are confined even at the present day, as in the East; though the present enlightened Pope intends to remove the restriction. To the credit of the Austrians, it has long been abolished in Dalmatia, where the Jews enjoy the same privileges, as in the most civilised towns of Europe.”
Ragusa is reported to be in a reduced state with a total population of only 6,318, of whom 146 were Jews.
Gardner Wilkinson reports that there was a Spanish-Jewish cemetery near Castel Nuovo which is the largest town, but not the capital of the Circoli of Cattara [today Kotor in Montenegro], which was another Venetian outpost on the Adriatic. The commune of Cattaro had a population of 3,550 which included just nine Jews.
Source: Sir John Gardner Wilkinson, F.R.S., Dalmatia and Montenegro: with a journey to Mostar in Herzegovina, and remarks on the Slavonic nations; The History of Dalmatia and Ragusa; the Uscocs; &c. &c. Vol 1 (of 2). Published by John Murray, London, 1848.
There is more information on the Republic of Ragusa on my Jewish Genealogy website.