After the Jewish Heritage Tour on Monday we waited for a dry day to visit the old Jewish cemetery.
Split’s old Jewish Cemetery is on the eastern side of Marjan Hill, overlooking the city. We parked the bike down near the Riva and walked up the hill. whoa what a killer, but there were plenty of stops on the way up.
Once at the top, we stopped off at Vidilica coffee shop for a coffee and to enjoy the views of Split, far below us. The cemetery gate was locked, but one of the staff of the Vidilica coffee shop, which is housed in the former cemetery mortuary unlocked it for us. It really has million dollar views.
The piece of land which the Old Jewish Cemetery sits on, was bought by Daniel Rodrigo in 1573. He was a refugee from Portugal who escaped the inquisition, settling in Split and secured a deal which turned Split into a major trading, tax collection, and quarantine port for the Venetian republic. It benefited both the local Jewish community and the inhabitants of Split. One of the benefits were a purchase of a parcel of land to be used as a proper Jewish cemetery. It wasn’t the best piece of land, however until then Jews had been buried outside the christian cemeteries.
The cemetery is set on a slope amongst pine trees and interestingly it shows different styles of graves through the years.
The oldest graves were flat with a slab on top, although some are shaped like a sarcophagus roof. The older ones had Hebrew inscriptions which of course we couldn’t read. They had been carved into the slab, unlike the newer graves with letters set into the slab. The newer graves were similar to Croatian graves from the same period with a mixture of Hebrew, Croatian or Italian inscriptions.
The last burial at this cemetery took place in 1945, when the council closed all the city cemeteries and relocated them to Lovrinac. The Jewish cemetery didn’t suffer the same fate as the other cemeteries in Split because it was actually owned by the Jewish community. However it was closed and no more burials were allowed. It is now protected as a monument.
Being winter, and as there are only 100 Jews left in the Split community the cemetery is a little overgrown and looks a little run down. A few years ago a few graves were vandalised which add to the forlorn look of the cemetery. Saying all that, we still found the cemetery fascinating. As we’d been to other cemeteries it was interesting to see the different customs of burial and how they changed over the years. As the rain started over the city we headed for home, hopefully tomorrow we’ll get out to Lovrinac to see the new cemetery.