La Giudecca [La dʒudɛkka] was a term used in South Italy, mostly in Sicily, to identify a district or part of a village where Jews used to live. To define the Giudecca as a “ghetto” is pretty wrong, because it is a proper neighborhood; in addition, Jews from South Italy were free to travel and cooperate with their Christians neighbors to improve economy and commerce, unlike the ones from North Italy who were living in real ghettos.
A rich and large Jewish community came into Termini Imerese of which remains traces in the news reported by both local historians and numerous notarial acts. The community had their own priests, their own administrators and special judges (christians). However, there are no original documents preceding the XV century, because of the destruction of the neighborhood made by Charles d’Artois I’s trupes. Anyway, the Jewish settlement must have been pretty ancient, according to the dimension of the community and the big extension of their neighborhood.
The Giudecca of Termini Imerese was on the inside of the city walls and it was not isolated by the rest of the town; also inside there were many Christian Churces. Their settlement incorporated the ancient neighborhood or della Ruga, Piano Barlaci, Piano di Caltigine and Piano S.Giovanni, that is, the area now bordered by Piazza Umberto I, Via Inguaggiato, Via Garibaldi up to Porta Palermo, the city walls up to San Giovanni, Viale Enrico Iannelli up to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele.
Piano Barlaci is settled on one of the most ancient places of Termini Imerese, on the high part of the city near Villa Palmeri. Exactly there they built the Jewish cemetery, which was extended until the one of St. Giovanni and according to the sources it must have been placed out from the city walls. Moreover we know that in 1473 the community protested against the granting of a part of the plan of Barlaci, for the construction of some houses, which they still used as a cemetery.
The Jews left Termini Imerese rather slowly and within two years. When the Jews left Termini a Termitan Franciscan friar Giacomo Di Leo obtained from Pope Alexander VI to change the synagogue into a monastery. Thus, the Monastery was built under the Rule of Santa Chiara and with the title of San Marco.
We report with pleasure one of the most recent statements about the ancient Giudecca of Termini Imerese, by the canon Rocco Cusimano who in a text sent to press in 1926 wrote:
“Dopo la distruzione di Gerusalemme, gli ebrei, senza patria e senza tempio andarono dispersi in tutte le parti del mondo, e così si realizzò la profezia del Redentore. Un gran numero venne a stabilirsi pure a Termini, occupando il cosi detto Piano Barlaci, che cominciava dalla ex chiesa di San Domenico e si estendeva da Porta Palermo sino al piano del Duomo. Come il Piano Barlaci, il 12 settembre 1467, dal Vicerè D. Lupo Ximen Durrea fu concesso ai Domenicani, costoro fecero di tutto per cacciarne gli Ebrei, e vi riuscirono poi facilmente, dietro il decreto di Ferdinando II, che ordinava l’espulsione di tutti gli ebrei dai suoi territori. Espulsi gli ebrei da Termini, fra Girolamo di Leo termitano, col permesso del pontefice Alessandro VI, fece convertire la loro sinagoga in monastero di clarisse, sotto il titolo di San Marco”.