MILAN (Latin, Mediolanum):
Capital of Lombardy, and the largest commercial city of Italy. Jews settled there under Roman rule and were persecuted even in the early Christian period. Ambrose,the patron saint of the city, was their inveterate enemy, and hoped to become a martyr by the destruction of a synagogue. In 388, when the emperor Theodosius commanded a bishop to rebuild a synagogue which he had bidden some monks to destroy, Ambrose called Theodosius a Jew, and attacked him so bitterly that he countermanded his order. An inscription commemorates his hatred of the Jews (Giulini, "Memorie Spettanti alla Storia di Milano," vi. 162). The records of the following centuries mention Jews in Lombardy as large landowners. At Milan, in the tenth century, there was a mintmaster named Gideon who was probably a Jew. During the period of the great wars and the rapid rise of the Italian cities the Jews seem to have been excluded therefrom, yet commerce and banking, which were in the hands of Jews in other countries, were so skilfully carried on by the Lombards that all competition seemed undesirable, especially when complicated by religious antipathies. During the great persecution of heretics in 1320 the podestà was obliged to promise to expel all Jews, and not to readmit any to the city or to the bishopric in opposition to the wishes of the archbishop, nor were they allowed to return to the territory of Milan before the fifteenth century. On Jan. 23, 1452, in consideration of the payment of a large sum of money, the Jews of Milan received from the pope, through the intercession of the duke, permission to build synagogues, to celebrate their feasts, and to intermarry, yet the granting of these privileges was excused in ambiguous phrases, and the Jews were compelled to wear the yellow badge.
The holocaust of the Jews at Trent in 1475 aroused hatred against their coreligionists in the territory of Milan, and this was fanned by the speeches of Bernardinus of Feltre. Although the dukes tried to protect the Jews, the latter seem to have been expelled from the city, so that the confirmation of the privileges granted by Pope Paul III. in 1541, the search of the Inquisition for interdicted Hebrew books in 1554 and 1566, as well as the repeated decrees of expulsion issued by Philip II. and Philip III., applied only to the communities in other cities of the dukedom, Alessandria and Cremona being the most important of these. Then no Jews were living at Milan, although some did reside in the neighboring cities of Padua and Lodi.Under Austrian Rule.
When Milan came under Austrian rule in 1714 Jews seem to have settled there again. They were subject to the same laws as their coreligionists in Mantua. The interdiction against the forcible baptism of Jewish children, issued in 1765 and 1768, and still extant, was renewed by the Austrian laws of 1803 and 1817. The remarkable growth of Milan after 1848 brought many Jews to the city, especially from Piedmont, Mantua, and the Papal States, and the community, which had formerly belonged to Mantua, became autonomous. In 1857 it numbered 500 persons, and in 1901 about 2,000, to whom may be added many Jews who are not publicly known as such.
The following persons may be mentioned among the prominent Jews of Milan: Joachim Basevi (an eminent lawyer, counsel for Andreas Hofer), and the senators Tullo Massarani and Graziadio Ascoli. Of the rabbis the most prominent have been Moses Menahem Coen (Rapoport), who took part in the dispute regarding the miḳweh at Rovigo, and, in the nineteenth century, Mosè Mazliaḥ Ariani and Alessandro da Fano.
- Ersch and Gruber, Encyc. s.v. Juden, ii. 27, 147 et seq.;
- Educatore Israelita, iii. 107 et seq.