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Catholic Dictionary




Originally the street or quarter of a city (borghetto, small borough) in which the jewish people lived. The earliest ghettos were in Italy in the eleventh century, but they became common by the later Middle Ages. They were partly the result of legal restriction by the civil authorities, and partly the requirements of the strongly communitarian way of life of the Jews themselves. In 1556, Pope Paul IV established a ghetto in Rome, which continued until 1870. It is known that already before the time of Christ a ghetto existed in Rome, where numerous Jewish freemen (former slaves) lived in the Trastevere district.