Ecclesia & Synagoga

Documents consulted online - document is under construction

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.

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