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PISA , city in Tuscany, central Italy. Benjamin of *Tudela found 20 Jewish families living there around 1165. It may be presumed that Jews had settled in the city even earlier, attracted by the possibilities offered by the close commercial ties between Pisa and countries of the Levant. Some of the Jewish tombstones embedded in the town wall, near the cathedral, date back to the middle of the 13th century. At the end of the 13th century an "Alley of the Jews" (Chiasso di Giudei) is recorded. In 1322 the Jews in Pisa were instructed to wear the distinguishing *badge but the regulation was apparently not strictly enforced. By the second half of the 14th century Pisa was in a state of political and economic decline, which culminated in its subjection to Florence in 1406. Around the same time, Vitale (Jehiel) b. Matassia of Pisa, a banker of Roman origin, began his activities in Pisa. The family he founded owned banks in Pisa and Florence, as well as branches in other towns, and for about 150 years dominated Jewish moneylending in Italy, as well as distinguishing itself in the cultural sphere (see Da *Pisa family). Some of its members had close connections with the Medici of Florence. In 1492 Jewish exiles from Spain who arrived in Pisa were assisted generously by the Da Pisa family. When a Christian loan bank (*Monte di Pietà) was opened in Pisa in 1496, Isaac b. Jehiel subscribed over half the founding capital, so that Jews were permitted to continue their moneylending activities, although only for a short period. As a result of the struggle between the Florentine Republic, which was hostile to the Jews, and the Medici, who were favorably disposed toward them, and the war of 1494–1509 between Pisa and Florence, the Jewish community of Pisa was considerably reduced in size. It began to recover in 1547 when Cosimo i de'Medici, duke of Tuscany, urged Jews and *New Christian fugitives from Portugal to settle in Pisa and *Leghorn, and some accepted the invitation. Larger numbers were attracted by the generous terms of the proclamation issued in June 1593 by the grand duke Ferdinand i de'Medici, addressed particularly to Sephardim and Marranos wherever they happened to live. Another proclamation, issued in October 1595 to the German and Italian Jews, who had then been driven from the territories of Milan, aroused little response. The Medici wished to promote Pisa as the market capital of Tuscany, with the port of Leghorn dependent on Pisa. However, Leghorn developed more successfully and also attained greater importance as a Jewish center, and in 1614 became independent of Pisa.

Samuel *Foa (or Fua), a member of the famous printing family of Sabbioneta, established a Hebrew press at Pisa toward the end of the 18th century, and was succeeded by Samuel and Joseph Moliho (1816ff.).

There were 600 Jews living in Pisa at the beginning of the 17th century, and half that number a century later. The number remained thereafter approximately the same, totaling 365 in 1840. Most of the Jews in Pisa were governed by the liberal patents of 1593 which granted, among other privileges, Tuscan citizenship ipso jure to any person admitted as a member of the community, and semiautonomous internal jurisdiction. The Jews in Pisa lived in relative tranquility, mainly engaging in commerce. In the 18th and especially the 19th century, they played an active part in developing industries, particularly the cotton industries which attracted a certain number of Jews there. The Jewish population numbered 700 in 1881.

[Attilio Milano]

Holocaust and Modern Periods

In 1931 the Jewish community of Pisa numbered 535. During the Holocaust, a dozen Jews, among them Rabbi Augusto Hasdà, were sent to extermination camps. Eight more Jews were deported elsewhere. On Aug. 1, 1944, the Nazis broke into the house of the president of the community, the well-known philanthropist Pardo-Roques, and massacred him together with six Jews who had taken refuge there. After the war, the community, including the towns of Viareggio and Lucca, had a membership of 312 Jews, which declined to 210 by 1969 and 100–200 at the beginning of the 21st century.

[Sergio Della Pergola]


Cassuto, in: ri, 5 (1908), 227–38; 6 (1909), 21–30, 102–13, 160–70, 223–32; 7 (1910), 9–19, 72–86, 146–50; Toaff, in: Scritti in memoria di Guido Bedarida (1966), 227–62; Kaufmann, in: rej, 26 (1893), 83–110, 220–39; 29 (1894), 142–7; 31 (1895), 62–73; 32 (1896), 130–4; C. Roth, Jews in the Renaissance (1959), index; Roth, Italy, index; Milano, Italia, index; Milano, Bibliotheca, index; D.W. Amram, Makers of Hebrew Books in Italy (1909), 396f.


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The northern Italian city of Pisa was an important commercial center in the Renaissance and home to one of Europe's leading universities. It also served as the seaport of Tuscany, the region around Florence. Pisa had been an independent commune during the Middle Ages, but it fell under the control of Florence in the early 1400s.

Before losing its independence, Pisa was ruled by a group of consuls elected by urban guilds* such as the wool workers and the order of merchants. The consuls appointed the members of the Senate, an assembly that had authority over political affairs, but they retained responsibility for legal matters. Both the consuls and the members of the Senate came from the city's noble and merchant classes. The common people were represented by a council of elders.

Since the 1200s the city had been split into two factions*—the merchants and the other major guilds. Pisa's merchants opposed the policy that allowed the textile merchants of Florence to use the port of Siena without paying taxes. However, the other guilds supported it. The dispute over this matter led to war with Florence from 1356 to 1364. When the war ended, Florence kept its tax exemption. By the end of the 1300s, Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti of Milan had gained control of Pisa. However, he died suddenly in 1402, and four years later his son sold Pisa to Florence for 206,000 gold florins.

Florence ruled Pisa harshly until the time of Lorenzo de' Medici. The Medici family helped rebuild Pisa by replacing trade income with investments that improved Pisa's defenses and drained the marshes that surrounded the city. Lorenzo revived the university, which had closed in the early 1400s. He moved the University of Florence to Pisa and ordered his subjects to study there. With Medici support, the University of Pisa became a major center of learning. The influence of the Medici family ended in 1494, when Charles VIII, the king of France, invaded Italy. He expelled the Medici from Florence, and Pisa rose up in rebellion. Pisa suffered through three sieges* before surrendering to Florence in 1509.

In the 1530s Pisa became a favorite residence of Alessandro de' Medici, the first duke of Florence. The painter and writer Giorgio Vasari designed a palace and church for Pisa's Order of the Knights of St. Stephen. The Medici created this order to help Pisa recover some of its income from sea trade. In addition, the well-known scientist Galileo Galilei taught at the university during the late 1500s.

(See alsoFlorence; Universities. )

* guild

association of craft and trade owners and workers that set standards for and represented the interests of its members

* faction

party or interest group within a larger group

* siege

prolonged effort to force a surrender by surrounding a fortress or town with armed troops, cutting the area off from aid


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Pisa City on the River Arno, Tuscany, w central Italy. Already an important Etruscan town, Pisa prospered as a Roman colony from c.180 bc. In the Middle Ages, it was a powerful maritime republic but later came under Florentine domination. It is noted for its 12th-century ‘Leaning Tower’, an eight-storey circular campanile. The bell-tower is 54m (177ft) high, and is now c.6.5m (18ft) out of perpendicular. Industries: tourism, textiles, glass, machine tools. Pop. (1999) 91,977.