Ecclesia & Synagoga

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Nina Rowe, The Jew, the Cathedral and the Medieval City - Synagoga and Ecclesia in the Thirteenth Century, Cambridge, 2010. In the thirteenth century, sculptures of Synagoga and Ecclesia – paired female personifications of the Synagogue defeated and the Church triumphant – became a favored motif on cathedral façades in France and Germany. Throughout the centuries leading up to this era, the Jews of northern Europe prospered financially and intellectually, a trend that ran counter to the long-standing Christian conception of Jews as relics of the pre-history of the Church. In The Jew, the Cathedral and the Medieval City, Nina Rowe examines the sculptures as defining elements in the urban Jewish-Christian encounter. She locates the roots of the Synagoga-Ecclesia motif in antiquity and explores the theme’s public manifestations at the cathedrals of Reims, Bamberg, and Strasbourg, considering each example in relation to local politics and culture. Ultimately, she demonstrates that royal and ecclesiastical policies to restrain the religious, social, and economic lives of Jews in the early thirteenth century found a material analog in lovely renderings of a downtrodden Synagoga, placed in the public arena of the city square. • Offers studies of the major Gothic cathedrals of Reims, Bamberg, and Strasbourg in English (most all of the literature on these cathedrals is in French or German, therefore inaccessible to most undergraduate audiences in the US and the general public) • Offers a novel exploration of the Synagoga-Ecclesia motif in relation to imperial Roman artistic conventions • Considers the popularity of the Synagoga-Ecclesia theme as a response to the Jewish-Christian interactions at the time, whereas previous studies have only addressed Christian conceptions of Jews or Judaism with no discussion of the ways the Jewish intellectual, economic, and social life might have impelled the Christian embrace of the theme.



Latin term of Greek origin (stígma, meaning mark or tattoo). 1590s, "mark made on skin by burning with a hot iron," from L. stigma, from Gk. stigma (gen. stigmatos) "mark, puncture," especially one made by a pointed instrument, from root of stizein "to mark, tattoo." Figurative meaning: 1610s, "a mark of disgrace."
As a symbolic mark, stigma refers to a distinguishing mark of infamy or disgrace; a stain or reproach (as on one's reputation); Mark of Cainbadge of shame.

Gustave Doré, Ahasverus, coloured print, 1852
According to European legend, a marked assassin and wandering apatride.
Eduard Fuchs, Die Juden in der Karikatur: ein Beitrag zur Kulturgeschichte, Munich: Albert Langen, 1921: "Der wandernde Ewige Jude." A controversial book documenting stereotypical representations of Jews; in this case, the "everlasting" myth of the Wandering Jew.

Stigma (plural, stigmata) is a Greek word that in its origins referred to a kind of tattoo mark that was cut or burned into the skin of criminals, slaves, or traitors in order to visibly identify them as blemished or morally polluted persons. These individuals were to be avoided or shunned, particularly in public places. The word was later applied to other personal attributes that are considered shameful or discrediting.

"Real men don't cry publicly. We just get something in our eye."
The socialization factor. Men are socialized to not show as much emotions as women. This is because of socialization: boys are told not to cry for the reason that boys are "stronger." Men thus suppress most emotions, but they do show anger and aggressiveness physically.

Supposed origin. An explanation for the origin of stigmata attempts to link it to group survival in early times. According to this theory, people who were perceived as unable to contribute to the group's survival, or who were seen as threats to its well-being, were stigmatized or demonized so to justify their isolation, exclusion, etc.

Javier Inga, Envy, 2008

Real problem. Persons who are unable to conform to standards that society calls "normal" are disqualified from full social acceptance, to become stigmatized. Physically deformed people, ex-mental patients, drug addicts, prostitutes, or those ostracized for other reasons must constantly strive to adjust to their precarious social identities.

Via rationalization, all kinds of excuses (sometimes of ridiculous content and proportions) are fabricated to justify stigmatization and a series of reactions such as segregation, discrimination, persecution, even murder.

We and The Other

Social stigma is the severe social disapproval of, or discontent with, a person or group of individuals on the grounds of characteristics that distinguish them from other members of a society. Stigma may attach to a person, who differs from social or cultural norms. Stigma can be defined as "the process by which the reaction of others spoils normal identity" (Erving Goffman, Stigma: Notes On the Management of Spoiled Identity, Prentice Hall, 1963; Sarah Nettleton, The Sociology of Health and Illness, Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2006, p. 95).

Louis-Léopold Boilly, Ah!, 1824

Social stigma can result from the perception or attribution, rightly or wrongly, of mental illness, physical disabilities, diseases (such as leprosy), illegitimacy, sexual orientation, gender identity, skin tone, nationality, ethnicity, religion, lack of religion, or criminality. Attributes associated with social stigma often vary depending on the geopolitical and corresponding sociopolitical contexts in different parts of the world (WK).

A contemporary sculpture by Jake and Dinos Chapman
Zygotic acceleration, biogenetic, de-sublimated libidinal model, 1995

Goffman detects three forms of social stigma:

1. Physical deformities. These include a physical form of deformity or differentness; overt or external deformations such as scars, leprosy, extremes of height and weight, anorexia nervosa, obesity, and such conditions as albinism, facial disfigurements, missing limbs, and physical disability. In some countries, this category can also include such signs of aging as gray hair, wrinkles, and stooped posture.

2. Weaknesses or defects of individual character. This category includes biographical data that are held to indicate personal moral defect, such as a dominating or unnatural passion, weakness of willpower, rigid opinions, lack of honor, mental confusion, imprisonment, criminal record, divorce, mental illness (or the imposition of such a diagnosis), drug addiction, alcoholism, unemployment, suicide attempts, etc.

3. Tribal outgroup status Phylogenetically or culturally assigned stigma refers to a person's membership in a race, ethnic group, religion, or gender that is thought to disqualify all members of the group. Tribal stigmas are traits, imagined or real, of ethnic group, nationality, or of religion that is deemed to be a deviation from the prevailing normative ethnicity, nationality or religion.

Scapegoat. A scapegoat is somebody who is blamed, although he/she is usually innocent. Often, individuals blame other people if things go wrong. A scapegoat may be a child, employee, peer, ethnic or religious group, or country. A whipping boy or fall guy is a form of scapegoat.
Azazel and the Scapegoat
Collin de Plancy
Dictionnaire Infernal, Paris, 1825
Scapegoat (i.e. "escape-goat") derives from the common English translation of the Hebrew term azazel (Hebrew: עזאזל) which occurs in Leviticus 16:8, after the prefix la- (Hebrew לַ "for"). In the Bible, the scapegoat was a goat that was designated (la-azazel) that was outcast in the desert as part of the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement, that began during the Exodus with the original Tabernacle and continued through the times of the Temple(s) in Jerusalem.
In ancient Greece a cripple or beggar or criminal (i.e., the pharmakos) was cast out of the community, either in response to a natural disaster (such as a plague, famine or an invasion) or in response to a calendrical crisis (such as the end of the year).
In psychology and sociology, the practice of selecting someone as a scapegoat has led to the concept of scapegoating.

William Holman Hunt, The Scapegoat, 1854-56

Scapegoating (from the verb "to scapegoat") is a recent coinage for the practice of singling out any party for unmerited negative treatment or blame as a scapegoat. Scapegoating may be conducted by individuals against individuals (e.g., "Jimmy did it, not me!"), individuals against groups (e.g., "I failed because our school favors boys"), groups against individuals (e.g., "Jane was the reason our team didn't win"), and groups against groups (e.g., "Immigrants are taking all of the jobs").
1. At the individual level. According to a 1998 medial definition, scapegoating is a "process in which the mechanisms of projection or displacement are utilised in focusing feelings of aggression, hostility, frustration, etc., upon another individual or group; the amount of blame being unwarranted" (MF).
Scapegoating is a tactic often employed to characterize an entire group of individuals according to the unethical or immoral conduct of a small number of individuals belonging to that group, also known as guilt by association and stereotyping.
Scapegoated groups throughout history have included almost every imaginable group of people: genders, religions, people of different races or nations, people with different political beliefs, or people differing in behaviour from the majority. However, scapegoating may also be applied to organizations, such as governments, corporations, or various political groups.
Projection. Unwanted thoughts and feelings can be unconsciously projected onto another who becomes a scapegoat for one's own problems. This concept can be extended to projection by groups. In this case the chosen individual, or group, becomes the scapegoat for the group's problems. "Political agitation in all countries is full of such projections, just as much as the backyard gossip of little groups and individuals" (M.-L. von Franz, in C.G. Jung, Man and his Symbols, London, 1964, p. 181).
2. At the group level. The scapegoat theory of intergroup conflict provides an explanation for the correlation between times of relative economic despair and increases in prejudice and violence toward outgroups. For example, studies of anti-Black violence in the southern US between 1882 and 1930 show a correlation between poor economic conditions and outbreaks of violence against Blacks. The correlation between the price of cotton and the number of lynchings of Black men by Whites, suggests that a poor economy induced White people to take out their frustrations by attacking an outgroup (Hovland & Sears). Scapegoating as a group, however, requires that ingroup members settle on a specific target to blame for their problems (Peter Glick, Choice of Scapegoats, 2005). Scapegoating is also more likely to appear when a group has experienced difficult, prolonged negative experiences (as opposed to minor annoyances). When negative conditions frustrate a group's attempts at successful acquisition of its most essential needs (e.g., food, shelter), groups may develop a compelling, shared ideology that (when combined with social and political pressures) may lead to the most extreme form of scapegoating: genocide.
Eventually, scapegoating may cause oppressed groups to lash out at other oppressed groups. Even when injustices are committed against a minority group by the majority group, minorities may lash out against a different minority group in lieu of confronting the more powerful majority.


Erving Goffman, Stigma: Notes On the Management of Spoiled Identity, Touchstone, 1986
Stigma, Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, 6.3.2012
Stigma Research and Action, University Amsterdam
Wikipedia: Azazel
Wandering Jew, Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906
Wandering Jew, New World Encyclopedia, 2007
Joanna Brichetto, The Wandering Image: Converting the Wandering Jew, thesis, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, 2006
Jeremy Gillick, No Rest for the Wandering Jew, Moment, 2010
The Scapegoat and Try Someone Else, Lightshouse, 2009
Scapegoating, Out of the Fog, 2007-12
J. Kniesmeyer & D. Brecher, Popular Anti-Semitism, Beyond the Pale, 1995

"You're different because one or more of your physical attributes doesn’t work properly, and that difference makes me uncomfortable but intrigues me at the same time" (The Cinema of Isolation: A History of Physical Disability in the Movies, Rutgers, 1994).

See also
Displacement (Psychology)
Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis
Identified patient
Moral panic
Sacrificial lamb
Shooting the messenger
Social stigma
Victim blaming
Wedge issue