Oldest Torah Scroll Unearthed in Italy Library

Bologna Relic Dates to 12th Century — Before Rambam

Before Maimoniides: A Torah scroll in an Italian library was thought to date to the 17th century. Turns out, it’s much older than that.
Before Maimoniides: A Torah scroll in an Italian library was thought to date to the 17th century. Turns out, it’s much older than that.

By JTA

Published May 29, 2013.

What is being described as the oldest Torah scroll known to exist has been discovered in the library of the University of Bologna.

The parchment scroll, 36 meters long and 64 cm high, previously had been wrongly catalogued as dating from the 17th century, a university statement said.

“Instead, ‘Roll 2′ was copied in a period between the second half of the 12th and the early 13th century (1155-1225) and is therefore the most ancient complete Hebrew scroll of the Torah known today,” according to the statement.

The age of the Torah scroll was authenticated by “the textual, graphic and paleographic examination of the scroll,” according to the university, as well as by two carbon-14 tests, carried out at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

The discovery was made by Hebrew professor Mauro Perani, during his work compiling a new catalogue for the University library’s collection of Hebrew manuscripts.

The Torah scroll had been misdated when it was included in the first catalogue of the library’s Hebrew manuscripts, made in 1889. Upon examining the scroll, Perani noted many features of script and form that indicated it was far older that had previously been estimated.

It is not known how or when the scroll was acquired by the library, but the university’s statement said it was “very likely” to have been acquired in the 19th century “after Napoleon’s suppression of monastic and religious orders.”



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