Fichtenbaum und Palme

Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), Buch der Lieder (Libro de canciones o Cancionero), Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe, 1827
Lyrisches Intermezzo, S. 137, XXXIII

Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam, 1822-23

Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam
Im Norden auf kahler Höh';
Ihn schläfert; mit weißer Decke
Umhüllen ihn Eis und Schnee.

Er träumt von einer Palme,
Die, fern im Morgenland,
Einsam und schweigend trauert
Auf brennender Felsenwand.

English translation by Emma Lazarus:

There stands a lonely pine-tree
In the north, on a barren height;
He sleeps while the ice and snow flakes
Swathe him in folds of white.

He dreameth of a palm-tree
Far in the sunrise-land,
Lonely and silent longing
On her burning bank of sand.

Translation by Louis Unternmeyer:

A lonely pine is standing
In the North where high winds blow.
He sleeps; and the whitest blanket
wraps him in ice and snow.

He dreams—dreams of a palm-tree
that far in an Orient land
Languishes, lonely and drooping,
Upon the burning sand.

Translation by A.S. Kline:

A single fir-tree, lonely,
On a northern mountain height,
Sleeps in a white blanket,
Draped in snow and ice.

His dreams are of a palm-tree,
Who, far in eastern lands,
Weeps, all alone and silent,
Among the burning sands.

Translation by Max Knight:

A spruce is standing lonely
In the north on a barren height.
It drowses; ice and snowflakes
Wrap it in a blanket of white.

It dreams about a palm tree
In a distant, eastern land,
That languishes lonely and silent
Upon the scorching sand.

Translation by Walter W. Ardnt:

A single fir stands lonesome
On barren northerly height.
He drowses; frost and snowstorm
Shroud him in swathes of white.

He dreams about a palm. She,
In the orient, far, alone,
Sorrowing stands and silent
At a blazing scarp of stone.

Translation by A.Z. Foreman:

There stands a pine tree- lonesome
In the north on a barren height
In slumber. Frost and snowstorm
Swathe it in sheets of white.

It dreams about a palmtree
Far in the east,
Staring, in sorrow and silence,
At a blazing wall of stone.

English translations and references source: Ralph Dumain; see also textetc.

Traducción castellana de Darío Herrera:

En el frío Norte y en desnuda cumbre
dormitando se halla pino solitario;
la nieve y el hielo le dan su vislumbre,
le exornan y envuelven en blanco sudario.

Y ante el cielo negro y en su cumbre helada,
tiritando sueña que en lejano Oriente
una palma sufre, silenciosa, aislada,
en ribera abrupta, bajo el sol ardiente.

Traducción de Elisabeth Siefer:

Un pino solitario,
está en una montaña, en el Norte.
Cansado está, y una cobija blanca
de hielo y nieve lo envuelve.

Con una palmera está soñando,
que lejos en el Oriente
sobre una roca ardiente,
se yergue en silencio y soledad.

Donde el pino encuentra la palma

Der Fichtenbaum und die Palme

The Pine Tree and the Palm Tree
The pine-tree dreameth of the palm.
The palm-tree of the pine

El pino y la palma
El pino soñaba con la palma.
La palma soñaba con el pino

Heine y su obra online
Gedichte (all poems)
Zeno: Literatur
The German Classics: Works
A media voz: Poemas
Velasco: Heine y los años salvajes de la filosofía, 2008
Velasco: Heine y el "final del período artístico"


Edith Stein

St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Edith Stein, also known as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, O.C.D. (Latin: Teresia Benedicta a cruce) (12 October 1891–9 August 1942), was a German Jewish philosopher who became a convert to the Roman Catholic Church and later a Discalced Carmelite nun. She is regarded as a martyr and saint of the Catholic Church.

Wolfgang Bialas
Edith Stein - St Teresia Benedicta a Cruce
marble, 2006
St Peter's, The Vatican

Quote from Jewish-Christian Relations site:

"On October 11th, 2006, Pope Benedikt XVI. consecrated the statue of the Carmelite nun Edith Stein, who was born 1891 in Breslau, Germany, as a Jew and murdered in the concentration camp of Auschwitz on August 9, 1942. The statue fills one of the last free exterior niches at the western facade of St. Peter's cathedral in Rome. She had converted to Christianity and was baptized on January 1, 1942, entered the monastry in Cologne and received the name Teresia Benedicta a Cruce (Teresia, blessed by the cross). This name is also chiseled into the base of the marble statue.
The personal integrity of Edith Stein and her right to convert to Christianity are undisputed, that she was canonized by the church in 1998 was, however, for Jews and Christians equally a very misleading sign — and precarious for the Christian-Jewish relationship. After all, she was not murdered in Auschwitz because she was a Christian but because she was Jewish and not for her Christian faith but in spite of it, in spite of having been baptised.
The new statue adds to the irritation of Christians and Jews that has set the Catholic-Jewish understanding and dialogue back. When the statue was revealed, many of those present at the ceremony were shocked to see her holding a Torah scroll in both hands and behind the scroll she holds a cross and, as an added Christian symbol, a crown of thorns. The cross surmounts the Torah scroll which has the words Shema Jisrael in Hebrew written on it. Thus the statue becomes an unbearable mixture of Jewish and Christian symbolysm and another visible sign to Jews of Christianity's attempt to take possession not only of the Jewish tradition but also of the Holocaust. Here, as in the victorious pose of the Ecclesia above, the cross dominates the Torah and reminds us of almost two millennia of Christian anti-Judaism" (Fritz Voll, JCR).

The above-mentioned site presents the sculpture as an example of "Anti-Judaism in Christian Art" (ie. "anti-Judaic Christian art"), linking it to the medieval Ecclesia et Synagoga phenomenon.

10 Objections

1. It is the complete right of the Catholic church to canonize Edith Stein and this is certainly not a misleading sign inasmuch as St. Teresa Benedict was canonized as a Catholic nun, not as a Jew.

2. That the Christian-Jewish relationship is precarious is a completely different issue here: certainly not one connected to the canonization of Edith Stein.

3. That Edith Stein, in spite of having been baptised, was murdered in Auschwitz because she was of Jewish origin is not the reason of her canonization. For the Catholic church, the nazis have murdered an exemplar Christian nun.

4. "The new statue adds to the irritation of Christians and Jews that has set the Catholic-Jewish understanding and dialogue back." This is pure speculation, for, up to now, there is no Catholic-Jewish full understanding.

5. The combination of the Torah scroll and the Cross, with the crown of thorns, are perfectly understandable in the case of the marble statue in St Peter's. The Jewish Torah has been adopted by the canon of the Catholic church. Moreover, the Christian Bible is made of both that text plus the Gospels. So, there is no reason for being surprised if Edith Stein carries the symbols of the two canonical texts together: this is logical in accordance to her own condition.

6. That the cross surmounts the Torah scroll is not certain, and certainly not something evident in the marble sculpture, which is itself powerful and shows Edith Stein full of faith and determination, plus dignity.

7. If the Torah scroll bears indeed the words "Shema Israel" in Hebrew written on it, this is not only a gracious gesture from the part of the Catholic church, but also a proof that she not anti-Jewish (as Voll so persistently and unconvincingly claims).

8. That the statue becomes an "unbearable mixture of Jewish and Christian symbol[i]sm" sounds judgmental and far-fetched.

9. There is no such a thing as "Christianity's attempt to take possession not only of the Jewish tradition but also of the Holocaust" - Christianity has her own tradition, which, as everyone knows, is rooted in biblical Judaism. Besides, the nazi killings included also quite a number of Christian victims and martyrs.

10. "Here, [...] the cross dominates the Torah and reminds us of almost two millennia of Christian anti-Judaism". Not at all: the Cross coexists with the Torah in Bialas' remarkable sculpture of Edith Stein.

Tradition and Modernization. The above-quoted text suggests Voll ignores that the pair of Ecclesia et Synagoga is different from its medieval predecessor. In Christian iconography, the attributes of Ecclesia et Synagoga have not always been the same, and contemporary images of Ecclesia et Synagoga show that the message pair now conveys has itself changed as well. Medieval crowns for instance are not visible in the contemporary pairs. In medieval art, Synagoga usually holds the Tablets of the Law (depicted upside down); in contemporary art, Synagoga holds not the Tablets but the whole Torah. The figures of the medieval pair are antithetical in discourse. The contemporary ones suggest a much more balanced dialogue.

Medieval segregation
Ecclesia et Synagoga, stone, 1264. St. Seurin, Bordeaux

Contemporary dialogue
Sister Paula Mary Turnbull, Synagoga and Ecclesia, copper, c. 2000

For further analysis, see Has God Only One Blessing?

It could hardly be an exaggeration to think of Bialas' sculpture in the Vatican as an extraordinary synthesis of the antithetical aspects of the old Ecclesia et Synagoga pair. In this sense, the sculpture in the Vatican speaks for both awareness of the Hebrew roots of the Catholic church and also for Integration.


Minister's Black Veil

"The Minister's Black Veil" is a short story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was first published in the 1836 edition of The Token and Atlantic Souvenir, edited by Samuel Goodrich. It later appeared in Twice-Told Tales, a collection of short stories by Hawthorne published in 1837 (WK).

Elenore Plaisted Abbott, Illustration for the short story "The Minister's Black Veil" (by American author Nathaniel Hawthorne), 1900. The artist depicts the scene "the children fled from his approach."

Plot summary

The story begins with the sexton standing in front of the meeting-house, ringing the bell. He is to stop ringing the bell when the Reverend Mr. Hooper comes into sight. However, the congregation is met with an unusual sight: Mr. Hooper is wearing a black semi-transparent veil that obscures all of his face but his mouth and chin from view. This creates a stir among the townspeople, who begin to speculate about his veil and its significance.

As he takes the pulpit, Mr. Hooper's sermon is on secret sin and is "tinged, rather more darkly than usual, with the gentle gloom of Mr. Hooper's temperament". This topic concerns the congregation who fear for their own secret sins as well as their minister's new appearance. After the sermon, a funeral is held for a young lady of the town who has died. Mr. Hooper stays for the funeral and continues to wear his now more appropriate veil. It is said that if the veil were to blow away, he might be "fearful of her glance". Mr. Hooper says a few prayers and the body is carried away. Two of the mourners say that they have had a fancy that "the minister and the maiden's spirit were walking hand in hand". That night another occasion arises, this time a joyous one—a wedding. However, Mr. Hooper arrives in his veil again, bringing the atmosphere of the wedding down to gloom.

By the next day, even the local children are talking of the strange change that seems to have come over their minister. Yet, no one is able to ask Mr. Hooper directly about the veil, except for his fiancée Elizabeth. Elizabeth tries to be cheerful and have him take it off. He will not do so, even when they are alone together, nor will he tell her why he wears the veil. Eventually, she gives up and tells him goodbye, breaking off the engagement.

The one positive benefit of the veil is that Mr. Hooper becomes a more efficient clergyman, gaining many converts who feel that they too are behind the black veil with him. Dying sinners call out for him alone. Mr. Hooper lives his life thus, though he is promoted to Father, until his death. According to the text, "All through life the black veil had hung between him and the world: it had separated him from cheerful brotherhood and woman's love, and kept him in that saddest of all prisons, his own heart; and still it lay upon his face, as if to deepen the gloom of his dark-some chamber, and shade him from the sunshine of eternity".

Even though Elizabeth broke off their engagement, she never marries and still keeps track of the happenings of Hooper's life from afar. When she finds out that he is deathly ill she comes to his death bed to be by his side. Elizabeth and the Reverend ask him once again to remove the veil, but he refuses. As he dies, those around him tremble. He tells them in anger not to tremble, not merely for him but for themselves, for they all wear black veils. Father Hooper is buried with the black veil on his face.


Like many of Hawthorne’s works, the setting of the story is an 18th-century town in Puritan New England. The scene provides the backdrop for a psychological exploration of the themes of sin, repentance, and morality.[1] Much of the story focuses on the acrimonious reaction of the congregation to the seemingly benign veil. Hawthorne uses their reaction as a critique of the Puritan image of original sin, using the veil as a representation not of "secret sin" but the inherent sinful nature of all people.[2]

Hawthorne writes the story in an allegorical format, using a didactic tone. The main theme proves to be revealed sin and underlying guilt, with Hooper's method of preaching being to wear his sin on his face in a literal way. The townspeople grow uncomfortable with him because they start to become aware of their own sin.[3] Hawthorne keeps the motive of the veil unknown to the reader. But the interpretation of the story generally rests on some moral assessment or explanation of the minister's symbolic self-veiling. Literary critic Edgar Allan Poe proposed that the issue of the minister's self-veiling was a mystery conceived to be solved or inferred by the reader. While Poe proposed this, Hawthorne never lets the reader know the reasoning behind the veil.[4] While the veil is the main symbol in the story, it is also ironic. Hooper, in his stubborn use of the veil parable of one sin, is unconsciously guilty of a greater sin: that of egotistically warping the total meaning of life. In addition to standing for a man's concealment or hypocrisy and for Hooper's own sin of pride with its isolating effects, it stands also for the hidden quality of second sin.[5] Hawthorne's use of ambiguity can be portrayed in many different ways: the manipulation of setting, manipulation of lighting and effects, and the use of an unreliable narrator to weave a shocking story that could or could not be likely. The narrator's credibility tends to be questionable because it is not a direct source. In using a third person narrator, the minister's motives are never solidified which keeps up the suspense.[6]

Calvinist interpretation: Some interpretations posit that the minister's congregation feared the veil as it pointed to their own hidden sin; unsure of their own salvation, this produced feelings of unease. This is unlikely, however, as the Scripturally literate Puritans undoubtedly knew the numerous New Testament passages promising salvation through faith. Salvation by faith is, in fact, a distinguishing element of Calvinist and Puritan beliefs. If, as did the Puritans, we accept the premise that mankind is inevitably tainted by sin, and that it prevents anything mankind attempts from a) pleasing God or b) producing positive results in any way (the New Testament phrase for this is "good fruit"), then we see that Hooper's veil actually demonstrates the divisive effects of sin and how it affects the relationship between humanity and sovereign God. Selflessly, Hooper has chosen to wear the veil himself, resulting in a sort of ostracization from his community. This gives his community the opportunity to understand something of the nature of sin as it appears to God. If any fault, from a Calvinist and Puritan's perspective, may be found in Hooper's approach, it would be his neglect of Scripture and his failure to overtly communicate a connection between Scripture and his veil, or his failure to emphasize the one sure way in which mankind may please God and be redeemed of their sinful natures, i.e., faith in Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected only Son of God.[7] Hawthorne may also have been blatantly referencing II Corinthians 4:3, which describes that which separates man from understanding the gospel message as a veil.

Hidden nature of guilt: Hooper arouses in a sermon the notion of secret sin and the sad mysteries in which we hide from our nearest and dearest. Hooper acknowledges the problem of sin, the guilt that is admitted openly, and the guilt of sin that is repressed or hidden from the world. When the Reverend Hooper makes the people aware of the darkness within his being, he introduces disintegration of a barrier between his repugnant, repressed self and his conscious self. This barrier is characterized by the veil, which is transferred into the expression of hidden guilt. Hooper, in the story, advises to the congregation that everyone wears a black veil, this is apparently inferring that everyone has some form of hidden guilt. Some evidence in the story suggests that Hooper committed a very atrocious sin, such as adultery. This could be a reason for his black veil.

Communion of sinners: Hooper leads the townspeople in realizing that everyone shares sin no matter how much they try to avoid facing it. All people sin and it is up to them whether they face their sin or ignore it. Hooper tries to teach a lesson. In content, the lesson may be very much like the sermon on "secret sin" Hooper was scheduled to teach, but the townspeople are uncomfortable with the medium. The veil is something they have to see every day, rather than a sermon just once or twice a week.[8]

Morality: Hawthorne's use of Hooper's veil teaches that whether we face it or not, we all sin and must accept what we have done, because judgment will come for everyone. Hooper decides to represent hidden sin and guilt in a literal way to reach out to his followers.[9]

John H. Timmerman notes that because of Hawthorne's writing style Hooper's insistent use of the black veil, Hooper stands as one of his arch-villains. This is from Hooper's act of separating himself from the rest of humanity and denying his love for Elizabeth in favor of the veil.[10]


The veil can be a symbol of the ways and practices Puritans, as well as people today, misleading others of the sins they have committed while completely and truly facing themselves. The veil is used as a daily reminder of people's sins, undeniable truths, guilt, and secrets that they are just unwilling to admit. In his lesson, Hooper uses a parable to influence his congregation, and possibly even further on to Puritan society. However, he pays a high price for this parable: The community's admiration for him turns to confusion and fear, and he is forced to live a lonely, isolated life. Many people in the congregation assume that Hooper is keeping a secret sin from them and in turn, Black veils are a sign of mourning, thus assuming death.

The black veil is a symbol of secret sin and the how terrible human nature can be. This could represent the secret sin that all people carry in their hearts, or it could be a representation of Mr. Hooper's specific sin, which some readers think to be adultery. Hooper as Everyman bearing his lonely fate in order to portray a tragic truth; and there is the implicit one of human imbalance, with Hooper's actions out of all proportion to need or benefit.[11] Edgar Allan Poe speculated that Minister Hooper may have committed adultery with the lady who died at the beginning of the story, because this is the first day he begins to wear the veil, "and that a crime of dark dye, (having reference to the young lady) has been committed, is a point which only minds congenial with that of the author will perceive." Minister Hooper also seems to be unable to tell his fiancée why he wears the veil due to a promise he has made, and is not willing to show his face to the lady even in death. Finally, two funeral attendees see a vision of him walking hand in hand with the girl's spirit.[12]

In a different view, the black veil could represent the Puritan obsession with sin and sinfulness. Puritans held beliefs of predestination and that only "God's elect" will be saved when the day of judgement comes, and this weeding out process of finding the saved versus not saved was a large part of Puritan life. The reaction to the minister's veil is one of annoyance and fear, "'I don't like it,' muttered an old woman, as she hobbled into the meetinghouse. 'He has changed himself into something awful, only by hiding his face.'"[13] We are given no clues in the story up to this point as to how or why or when the minister came to have the black veil over his face, it is just there, and as far as we are told the minister is doing nothing different from his normal routine. The one and only difference is a simple veil covering his face and the way his congregation thinks about him now. This is Hawthorne criticizing the overly judgmental nature of the Puritans belief on sin, for them sin was an undeniable mistake, "Hooper need not have committed any specific sin; for the hardened Puritan, his humanity was sinful enough, and he wore it the way the medieval penitent would his hair shirt. Anything less than absolute perfection was absolute corruption"[14] The inclusion of an old woman used to introduce us to the Puritan's rough ways was no mistake, Hawthorne wanted to show the most "hardened" Puritan elder and their reaction to the minister as evidence of how judgmental even the most seasoned Puritan can be.

On the next page following the old woman's quote Hawthorne uses the narrator to point out what the congregation is really feeling on the inside, even though their outward reaction displays something entirely different, "A subtle power was breathed in his words. Each member of the congregation, the most innocent girl, and the most hardened of breast, felt as if the preacher had crept upon them, behind his awful veil, and discovered their hoarded iniquity of deed or thought."[15] This "iniquity of deed or thought" seems to hark back to the Spanish inquisition (hence the use of iniquity) and suggests the Puritan congregation is starting to realize their own faults: that being the overly harsh judgement they put on the minister and anyone else for superstitious things such as a black veil. The fear ultimately draws from the congregation's thoughts over being saved or not being saved. They sound loud and proud in being critical of the minister for his veil, but they are clearly weak and not confident inside their own minds about their personal salvation, so the harsh judgement of others could possibly be seen as a way to relieve themselves for a people were never sure about whether they were really going to heaven.[16]


Hawthorne may have been inspired by a true event. A clergyman named Joseph Moody of York, Maine, nicknamed "Handkerchief Moody", accidentally killed a friend when he was a young man and wore a black veil from the man's funeral until his own death.[17]

Critical response

Edgar Allan Poe offered a few critiques of Nathaniel Hawthorne's tales. Hawthorne received a mixed review from Poe, who writes that "high imaginations gleam from every page". He notes, however, that versatility is lacking in Hawthorne's tone and character development. Poe claims that Hawthorne is a man of "truest genius" but needs to work on subject areas of his writing. In his review of Twice-Told Tales, Poe also reveals a disdain for allegory, a tool which Hawthorne uses extensively.[18]

1.^ Merriman, C.D. "Nathaniel Hawthorne" Jalic Inc. 2007.
2.^ Morsberger, Robert E. "Minister's Black Veil". New England Quarterly 46.3: 454-63. 455
3.^ Stibitz, E. Earle. "Ironic Unity in Hawthorne's 'The Minister's Black Veil'" Illinois: Duke University Press, 1962: 182-190.
4.^ Carnochan, W.B. "The Minister's Black Veil": Symbol, Meaning and the Context of Hawthorne's Art. California: Nineteenth Century Fiction, 1969: 182.
5.^ Stibitz, E. Earle. "Ironic Unity in Hawthorne's 'The Minister's Black Veil'" Illinois: Duke University Press, 1962: 182.
6.^ Graham, Wendy C. "Gothic Elements and Religion in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Fiction" Tectum Verlag, 1999: 29
7.^ Romans 1:16; 10:10; 10:13; Ephesians 2:8-9; II Timothy 3:14-17
8.^ Bell, Millicent. "New Essays on Hawthorne's Major Tales". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., 1993: 21.
9.^ Bell, Millicent. "New Essays on Hawthorne's Major Tales". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., 1993: 21.
10.^ Timmerman, John H. "Hawthorne's 'The Ministers Black Veil.'" Calvin College.
11.^ Stibitz, E Earle. "Ironic Unity in Hawthorne's 'The Minister's Black Veil'" Duke University Press. 1962. 182
12.^ Poe, Edgar Allan. "Nathaniel Hawthorne's Tales" Edited. New York. W.W. Norton & Company. 1987. 331-335.
13.^ Baym, Nina, and Mary Loeffelholz. Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2007. 1312
14.^ Morsberger, Robert E. "Minister's Black Veil." New England Quarterly 46.3: 454-63. 456-7
15.^ Baym, Nina, and Mary Loeffelholz. Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2007.1313.
16.^ Morsberger, Robert E. "Minister's Black Veil." New England Quarterly 46.3: 454-63. 457-548
17.^ Nelson, Randy F. The Almanac of American Letters. Los Altos, California: William Kaufmann, Inc., 1981: 201. ISBN 0-86576-008-X
18.^ Poe, Edgar Allan. "Nathaniel Hawthorne's Tales" Edited. New York. W.W. Norton & Company. 1987. 331-335.

Cheryl Spinner and "The Minister’s Black Veil"
Long History of Veils, Men an the Veil, 2. The Minister's Black Veil

When Reverend Hooper shows up one day with a black veil covering much of his face, the village of Milford is never quite the same. Confused, alarmed, and suspicious, his congregants cannot help but fixate on the mystery of the veil. Congregants wonder what provoked the minister to cover his face—an explanation they, and the reader, never receive. Like the Veiled Moses, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Minister’s Black Veil,” displays a similar anxiety over the veiled male figure, as evidenced by the parishoner’s exclamation: “How strange […[ that a simple black veil, such as any woman might wear on her bonnet, should become such a terrible thing on Mr. Hooper's face!” (26). Brian Britt’s “Concealment, Revelation, and Gender: The Veil of Moses in the Bible and in Christian Art” (2003), which has been excerpted in this edition, usefully traces the connections across time and space between “The Minister’s Black Veil,” a canonical nineteenth-century American short story, and the biblical veil of Moses. Much like Moses, Reverend Hooper, a male religious leader, wears a veil, however, one major disparity remains between the two figures. As Britt notes, while Moses removes his veil during revelation and keeps the veil on when “off-duty,” Reverend Hooper never takes off his veil for the remainder of his life (230). The Mosaic veil acts as “a temporal rather than a spatial barrier between the sacred and the ordinary,” which allows Moses to live a normal, human existence when there is no prophecy (Britt 230). When there is revelation, Moses removes his veil so he can display the divine rays through his face; Reverend Hooper does no such thing. His veil does not act as a temporal divide that can be taken on and off. Instead, it divides him from his congregation at all times. Hooper continues to wear his veil when “on-duty” and “off,” even as he officiates weddings and directs funerals, and refuses to remove it on his death bed. The inability to know what lies beneath the veil provokes fear and horror amongst the parishioners, and in the Reverend himself, who is afraid of seeing his own reflection (Hawthorne 31). I have excerpted descriptions of the veil and the parishioners’ reactions contextualize one way the veil in the nineteenth century is imagined as a garment of terror and anxiety, particularly when worn by male bodies.

First Description of the Veil

When the throng had mostly streamed into the porch, the sexton began to toll the bell, keeping his eye on the Reverend Mr. Hooper’s door. The first glimpse of the clergyman’s figure was the signal for the bell to cease its summons.

“But what has good Parson Hooper upon his face?” cried the sexton in astonishment.

All within hearing immediately turned about, and beheld the semblance of Mr. Hooper pacing slowly in his meditative way towards the meeting-house. With one accord they started, expressing more wonder than if some strange minister were coming to dust the cushions of Mr. Hooper’s pulpit.

“Are you sure it is our parson?” inquired Goodman Gray of the sexton.

“Of a certainty it is good Mr. Hooper,” replied the sexton (Hawtorne 23).

The cause of so much amazement may appear sufficiently slight. Mr. Hooper, a gentlemanly person of about thirty, though still a bachelor, was dressed due to clerical neatness, as if a careful wife had starched his band, and brushed the weekly dust from his Sunday’s garb. There was but one thing remarkable in his appearance. Swathed about his forehead and hanging down over his face so low as to be shaken by his breath, Mr. Hooper had on a black veil. On a nearer view it seemed to consist of two folds of crape, which entirely concealed his features except the mouth and chin, but probably did not intercept his sight farther than to give a darkened aspect to all living and inanimate things (Hawthorne 23-24).

Reactions to the Veil

“I can’t really feel as if good Mr. Hooper’s face was behind that piece of crape,” said the sexton.

“I don’t like it,” muttered an old woman, as she hobbled into the meeting-house. “He has changed himself into something awful only by hiding his face.”

“Our parson has gone mad!” cried Goodman Gray, following him across the threshold (Hawthorn 24).

"How strange," said a lady, "that a simple black veil, such as any woman might wear on her bonnet, should become such a terrible thing on Mr. Hooper's face!"

"Something must surely be amiss with Mr. Hooper's intellects," observed her husband, the physcian of the village. "But the strangest part of the affair is the effect of this vagary, even on a sober-minded man like myself. The black veil, though it covers only our pastor's face, throws its influence over his whole person, and makes him ghostlike from head to foot. Do you not feel so?" (Hawthorne 26).

Description of the Veil and Fear of What Lies Beneath

As he stooped, the veil hung straight down from his forehead, so that, if her [corpse] eyelids had not been closed for ever, the dead maiden might have seen his face. Could Mr. Hooper be fearful of her glance, that he so hastily caught back the black veil? A person who watched the interview between the dead and living scrupled not to affirm that, at the instant when the clergyman’s features were disclosed, the corpse had slightly shuddered, rustling the shroud and muslin cap, though the countenance retained the composure of death (Hawthorne 26, 27)

At that instant, catching a glimpse of his figure in the lookingglass, the black veil involved his own spirit in the horror with which it overwhelmed all others. His frame shuddered—his lips grew white—he spilt the untasted wine upon the carpet—and rushed forth into the darkness. For the earth, too, had on her black veil (Hawthorne 28).

Their instinctive dread caused him to feel more strongly than aught else that a preternatural horror was interwoven with the threads of the black crape. In truth, his own antipathy to the veil was known to be so great that he never willingly passed before a mirror, nor stooped to drink at a still fountain, lest in its peaceful bosom he should be affrighted by himself (Hawthorne 31).

Thus from beneath the black veil there rolled a cloud into the sunshine, an ambiguity of sin or sorrow, which enveloped the poor minister, so that love or sympathy could never reach him. It was said that ghost and fiend consorted with him there (Hawthorne 31, 32).

See also


Lifting the Veil

Monika Winiarczyk
The Equivocal Woman: Shifting Perceptions of Synagoga
4 February 2013

Synagoga and Ecclesia first appeared in the ninth century in Northern France and Southern Germany, where they were intended as representations of the Old and New Testament and personifications of Judaism and Christianity, respectively. Through their depiction in carved ivory panels, to stained glass windows and manuscript illuminations, the figures developed a distinct iconographical tradition, which featured prominently in the pictorial arts, contemporary drama as well as in Christian theology, appearing in commentaries, exegesis, and sermons.[i] For example, Ecclesia and Synagoga were the main actors in Pseudo-Augustine’s sixth century Sermo Contra Paganos, Judaeos et Arianos, (Sermon Against Pagans, Jews and Heretics) as well as central figures in the twelfth- century exegetical sermons of the French abbot, Bernard of Clairvaux.[ii] The ubiquitous presence of the figures in medieval art and literature makes it almost impossible to engage in medieval studies without coming across Synagoga and her Christian counterpart.[iii]

Any discussion of the figures must begin with a description of Synagoga and Ecclesia’s traditional iconography. In order to do so, it is perhaps best to turn to, what is acknowledged as one of the most celebrated examples of the motif; the south facade of Strasbourg Cathedral.[iv]

On the right of the facade is the regal Ecclesia. Adopting a powerful stance, her legs are set wide apart as she throws her shoulders back in an upright posture. The heavy drapery of her robe gathers in orderly folds at her feet and she is the image of might and stability. Every movement of her body appears decisive and controlled as she tightly grips a cross in her hand. A crown sits firmly on top of her head and identifies Ecclesia as a ruling Queen. No aspect of Ecclesia’s appearance communicates inertia, uncertainty or any other weakness. Her power and strength are absolute.

Standing across from Ecclesia, to the left of Solomon, is the figure of Synagoga. Although her beauty matches that of Ecclesia, unlike her counterpart Synagoga is the image of weakness and defencelessness. Her stance is weak and she is hunched over. Her movements seem uncertain and she appears to be slipping out of the design, with her elbows protruding beyond the facade. The drapery of her robe falls in a muddled pile at her feet, giving the impression that she may trip over it. Her frailty is further emphasised by the blindfold tightly wrapped around her eyes which represents the Jews inability to see Christ as their true Messiah. In her hand she holds the tablets of the law which are slipping from her grasp and tangled up within the holds of her robe; symbolising the Jewish attachment to the now obsolete Old Law. Like the broken staff in her hand, Synagoga looks damaged and defeated. She is isolated and turns away from the rest of the facade. Her only symbol of power was a crown, which is no longer visible, located at her feet. It suggests Synagoga is the overthrown Queen who was once powerful but whose time has now passed.[v]

Together, Synagoga and Ecclesia represent the contrast of defeat and victory; of subordination and power and of despair and hope.[vi] This opposition of conquered and conqueror was a defining feature of the motif from the eleventh century onwards and creates a powerfully dramatic but also highly enigmatic image which begs further investigation.

In light of her omnipresence and striking appearance, it is not surprising that since the late nineteenth century Synagoga’s flimsy beauty has inspired a wealth of literature and numerous interpretations.[vii] One of the earliest studies of Synagoga was carried out in 1894 by Paul Weber. His fundamental text Geistliches Schauspiel und kirchliche Kunst (Religious Drama and Church Art) studied the relationship between pictorial representations of Synagoga and her depiction in medieval drama.[viii] Weber’s study viewed the figure as the embodiment of medieval anti-Semitism. He concluded that despite the figure’s beautiful appearance, like the deformed male Jew of Christian art, Synagoga condemned medieval Jews. Therefore initially the figure was seen as a further manifestation of Christian anti-Semitism, reflecting the writings of the Church Fathers, such as John Chrysostom, who condemned the Jews and accused them of immorality and madness.[ix]

This negative interpretation of Synagoga was questioned by Wolfgang Seiferth. His text, Synagogue and Church in the Middle Ages: Two Symbols in Art and Literature, reached a more ambiguous conclusion.[x] Studying the development of the iconography of Synagoga, from the ninth through to the fifteenth century, he concluded that due to the allegorical nature of the figure it denies any concrete definition. Seiferth traced the use of the female allegories or personification to Classical Antiquity when female allegories would often be used within a historical context to represent ideas which they did not literally represent.[xi] Using the example of the two female personifications of conquered lands depicted on the armour of the statue of Augustus at Prima Porta, Seiferth shows how multifaceted an allegory could be. Building of the argument that the meaning of the personification is volatile and strictly dependant on the context in which they appear, Seiferth concluded that when removed from the initial context the female personification could stand for anything.

This interpretation draws from the classical understanding of the function of the personification as presented by Morton Bloomfield, who stated that the connotations of a personification are not determined by what it represents but the predicates that are attached to it.[xii] As such Seiferth presents Synagoga as a far more complex figure which reflected the dual nature of Judaism in medieval Christian theology.[xiii] While the Jews were accused of deicide and condemned they were also acknowledged as God’s first chosen people. This can be seen in the writings of the French abbot Bernard of Clairvaux who adopting the fourth century ideology of St Augustine stated, ‘slay them not least my people forget.’[xiv] He believed that Jews should be protected as they are living relics of the Old Testament, and their conversion is a condition of the second coming of Christ. Thus he presented the Jews as playing a vital role in the past and future of Christian salvation history.

For Seiferth, Synagoga’s allegorical nature could accommodate the various incarnation of the Jew in Christian theology. Therefore rather than interpret the figure as a positive or negative representation of Judaism, he believed that the connotations of the figure were directly related to the specific circumstances of her representation. A similar conclusion was reached by Bernhard Blumenkranz who believed that Synagoga could both condemn the Jews and communicate their position within Christianity and Christian salvation history. However, Blumenkranz believed that the downtrodden appearance of Synagoga, contrasted against the victorious Ecclesia always communicated a sense of subordination and while the figure may not have been a negative representation, it did present Judaism as inferior to Christianity.

Ruth Mellinkoff’s study of medieval iconography supported this conclusion stating that the figures had a firmly established iconographical tradition which was intended on communicating the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. Synagoga’s traditional attributes of a blindfold, slipping tablets of the law and a broken banner all communicate weakness which was emphasised by the contrast with Ecclesia who’s attributes of a crown and upturned chalice are indicative of power.[xv]

These early studies focused on Synagoga and Ecclesia’s iconography in light of the Christian theological conception of the Jews; a conception which at times appears almost schizophrenic. While failing to agree on whether Synagoga was a flattering of damning representation of Judaism, all of these studies concluded that despite her beauty, Synagoga’s dissolute and defeated appearance communicated the secondary role attributed to Judaism in Christian theology.

What these early studies have provided is a solid foundation for the examination of Synagoga. However, there is a limit to how much can be achieved through iconographical analysis which is only examined in relation to Christian theology. Although these studies are a logical starting point, this approach fails to acknowledge Synagoga’s prominence and also the complexity of medieval Jewish-Christian relations. In medieval Christian Europe “the Jew” was not a mystical creature only featured in theology; the Jewish community played a significant role in medieval society and like their Christian counterpart was influenced and shaped by social and political change. Simultaneously, Synagoga was not limited to theological contexts and clerical audiences. Featured on public spaces such as cathedral facades, which would have been visible to Christians and Jews alike, it is necessary to consider the possibility that the figures could have functioned out with the context of Christian theology.

More recent scholarship has begun to take these wider considerations into account. Accepting the complexity of Synagoga’s iconography and the context in which she was displayed, scholars such as Sara Lipton and Nina Rowe are beginning to consider Synagoga’s multifarious nature [once again].

[i] Wolfgang S. Seiferth, Synagogue and Church in the Middle Ages: Two Symbols in Art and Literature, trans. by Lee Chadeayne and Paul Gottwald (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 1970), p.108; for example of drama see: John Wright, trans., Play of Antichrist (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1967).
[ii] St Augustine, Sermo contra judaeos, paganos, et Arianos de Symbolo, Migne, P.L. XLII, 1117-30 and Bernard of Clairvaux, ‘Sermones Super Cantica Canticorum’ 14.2.4 in Opera, ed. by Jean Leclercq et al. (Rome, 1957-77); Migne Patrologia Latina 42, 1115-1139.
[iii] Nina Rowe, ‘Rethinking Ecclesia and Synagoga in the thirteenth century,’ Hourihane, Colum, (ed.), Gothic Art & Thought in the Later Medieval Period: Essays in Honour of Willibald Sauerlander, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011) p.265
[iv] Nina Rowe, ‘Idealization and Subjection at the south Façade of Strasbourg Cathedral’ in Beyond the Yellow Badge: Anti-Judaism and Anti-Semitism in Medieval and Early Modern Visual Culture, ed. by Mitchell B. Merback (Leiden: Brill, 2008), p.179 and footnote 13 for list of example of Synagoga’s appearances on Cathedrals.
[v] This crown is no longer visible but the image shows a sixteenth century engraving which shows that originally there was a crown located at Synagoga’s feet.
[vi] Nina Rowe 2008 p.179 and footnote 13 for list of example of Synagoga’s appearances on Cathedrals.
[vii] See: Rowe 2008; Seiferth 1970; Nina Rowe, The Jew, the Cathedral and the Medieval City: Synagoga and Ecclesia in the Thirteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Bernd Nicolai, ‘Orders in Stone: Social Reality and Artistic Approach. The Case of the Strasbourg South Portal,’ Gesta, Vol. 41, No. 2 (2002), p. 111-128; Otto Von Simson, ‘Le Programme Sculptural du Transept Meridonal de la Cathedrale de Strasbourg,’ Bulletin de la Societe des Amis de la Cathedrale de Strasbourg, Vol. 10, 1972, p.33-50 and Adolf Weis, ‘Die “Synagoge” am Südquerhaus zu Straßburg,’ Das Münster, Nr. 1 (1947), p.65-80; Ruth Mellinkoff, Outcasts: signs of otherness in northern European art of the late Middle Ages (Oxford : University of California Press, 1993); Annette Weber, ‘Glaube und Wissen-Ecclesia et Synagoga,’ in Wissenspopularisierung: Konzepte der Wissensverbreitung im Wandel, ed. by Carsten Kretschmann (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2003); Herbert Jochum, Ecclesia und Synagoga: Das Judentum in der Christlichen Kunst: Austellungskatalog (Saarbrücken: Museum, 1993); Cohen, E., ‘The Controversy Between Church and Synagoga in some of Bosch’s Paintings,’ Studia Rosenthaliana, Vol.18 (1984), p.1-11; Bernhard Blumenkranz, ‘Geographie historique d’un theme de l’iconographic religieuse: Les Representations de Synagoga en France,’ in Melanges offerts a Rene Crozet, ed. by P. Gallais and Y.J. Rious, 2 vols. (Poiteres: Societe d’Etudes Medievales, 1966), II, p. 1142-57; for discussion of Jews in medieval theology see Jeremy Cohen, Living Letters of the Law: Ideas of the Jew in Medieval Christianity (London: University of California Press, 1999), for example p.134.
[viii] Paul Weber, Geistliches Schauspiel und kirchliche Kunst in ihrem Verhaltnis erlautert an einer Ikonographie der Kirche und Synagogue: Eine kunsthistorische Studie(Stuttgart; Ebner & Seubert, 1894)
[ix] John Chrysostom, Logoi kata Ioudaion I.6, Patrologia Graeca 48:852
[x] See: Seiferth 1970
[xi] James J. Paxson, ‘Personification's Gender,’ Rhetorica, Vol. 16, No. 2 (Spring, 1998), p.153.
[xii] Morton W. Bloomfield, ‘A Grammatical Approach to Personification Allegory,’ Modern Philology, Vol. 60, No. 3 (Feb., 1963), p.165.
[xiii] For discussion of Jews in medieval theology see Jeremy Cohen, Living Letters of the Law: Ideas of the Jew in Medieval Christianity (London: University of California Press, 1999)
[xiv] Robert Chazan, The Jews of Medieval Western Christendom, 1000-1500 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) p.37
[xv] Mellinkoff, Ruth, Outcasts: Signs of Otherness in Northern European Art of the Late Middle Ages, vol. 1 (Oxford : University of California Press, 1993), p.49.

Moritz von Schwind, Sabina von Steinbach, 1844

Monika Winiarczyk
She Moves in Mysterious Ways: Re-interpreting Synagoga
18 February 2013

Reviewing the landscape of Synagoga’s historiography one can see that all these studies have interpreted the figure in relation to medieval theology. However theological interpretations of the subject would only be accessible to educated audiences who had enough of an understanding of contemporary theology to be able to apply them to the beautiful downtrodden figure of Synagoga.

Taking into consideration the allegorical nature of the figure and the notion that not all medieval spectators would look upon Synagoga as an abstraction of complex theological ideas, since the middle of the twentieth century, scholars have began to consider how specific contexts could have influenced Synagoga's reception. Most of these studies have centred on the depiction of Synagoga on the south facade of Strasbourg Cathedral.

The earliest of these studies were carried out by Adolf Weiss, Adalbert Erler and Otto von Simson.[i] All three of their studies identified the square in front of the facade as the seat of local justice and the site of the local municipal courts. Taking into account this legal context, all three come to the conclusion that the eschatological theme and heavenly judgement depicted on the south facade, would be seen by medieval audiences as a reflection of the earthly judgement of medieval legal practices.[ii]

Within this interpretation the victorious Ecclesia and defeated Synagoga, represent the innocent and the guilty parties of the medieval courts. While their presence in the eschatological iconography of the facade can be interpreted as a depiction of the saved and the damned; the innocent and the guilty parties in God’s final judgement.[iii] This conclusion was confirmed by Bernard Nicolai in his 2002 article, Orders in Stone: Social Reality and Artistic Approach: The Case of the Strasbourg South Portal.[iv] Considering the context in which the Strasbourg facade would have been seen, these studies concluded that within the right context Synagoga and Ecclesia could surpass their traditional roles as the personifications of Judaism and Christianity and depict the two spectrums of Christian morality; the sinful and the righteous; the damned and the saved; the guilty and the innocent.

Although these studies were the first to consider Synagoga as more than a representation of the Christian theological conception of Judaism, they still limited Synagoga to the realm of Christian theology by interpreting her representation within the context of Christian salvation history and the Christian understanding of morality. However two recent studies have gone beyond this theological reading. The first of these was carried out by Sara Lipton.[v] In her article, The Temple is My Body: Gender, Carnality, And Synagoga in the Bible Moralisée, Sara Lipton presented a new reading of the figure of Synagoga.

As the personification of the worldly and flesh oriented Old (Jewish) Law, Lipton presents Synagoga as a representation of the material world and examines the connotations communicated by her figure in the thirteenth century, Bible Moralisée which were illustrated Bibles, accompanied by an illustrated commentary.[vi] These Bibles took the form of a novel in order to present sacred texts and were aimed at a courtly audience.[vii] Instead of examining Synagoga in terms of her opposition with Ecclesia, Lipton examines the figure in relation to the medieval rhetoric of gender and through Synagoga’s relationship with male figures in the manuscript. In the commentary to several biblical passages Synagoga takes on various female stereotypes such as the Disobedient Wife; the Seductress ; the mourning Mother and the naive Daughter and the resentful sister. Depending on which of these roles Synagoga embodied, the figure altered from virtuous to sinful; from feminine to masculine to androgynous; from threatening to submissive and was transformed back again.

From this analysis the article comes to the conclusion that Synagoga as a representation of the material does not condemn the body or earthly world but rather reinforces its importance and value. This study re-evaluates the previously held belief that the Middle Ages viewed the material and spiritual world as binary opposites with the former being seen as bad and the later as good. A conclusion Lipton illustrates by considering Synagoga's fate throughout the numerous commentaries.

Nowhere in the commentary or accompanying text is Synagoga condemned or permanently ostracised. She is punished, buried, purged but ultimately redeemed. Synagoga and her corporeal nature are presented not as an antithesis to Christianity but as an integral part of the Christian identity; like women are an essential component of society. Sara Lipton believes that this conclusion is partially dictated by the nature of the Bible Moralisée and its intended audience. As luxurious material goods which were intended to be enjoyed for their material qualities, the Bible Moralisée in which Synagoga appears, praises the physical wealth which formed an integral and growing part of courtly life. Focusing on Synagoga’s femininity Lipton presents the argument that Synagoga’s female body can, in specific circumstances, be a representation of the complex relationship between Christianity and material wealth.

Synagoga’s female body was also the focus of Nina Rowe’s recent studies. Began in a 2008 paper, Idealization and Subjection at the south Façade of Strasbourg Cathedral, and expanded upon in her book The Jew, the Cathedral and the Medieval City: Synagoga and Ecclesia in the Thirteenth Century, Rowe focuses on the appearance on Synagoga on cathedral facades, across central Europe, in the thirteenth century.[viii] Examining the opposition of the weak and beautiful Synagoga against the victorious and mighty Ecclesia, Rowe related the figure to contemporary politics and the social status of medieval Jews. She believes that the figures appearance communicated the imperial position towards the Jews. Under royal decree Jews were protected as their economic activity was vital to the wealth of the kingdom. However, Jews were also considered to be royal property. Attacking a Jew was viewed as a similar offence to attacking the King’s horse. Taking this into consideration, Rowe interprets the Strasbourg, Bamberg and Reims Cathedral facades in relation to the position held by the Jewish community within these cities and concludes that Synagoga communicated the ideal identity and social position of the Jew in thirteenth century Christian Europe:

"she is a servile yet integral member of the Christian milieu. Her beauty marks her as an insider within the ideal Christian system. Her decrepitude ensures her submission...she conveys the virtue of a Judaism that maintains a docile presence within the Christian domain."[ix]

This study does not present Synagoga as a representation of the theological Jew but rather the medieval Jew; the Jew who would cross the town square, under Ecclesia’s watchful gaze and nod a greeting to his Christian neighbour. Like Lipton related Synagoga to medieval attitudes towards the material world, Rowe interprets the figure in relation to the social position of the Jews in the thirteenth century.

These two studies can be viewed as an indication of the future historiography surrounding Synagoga. Having considered Synagoga’s relationship to Christian theology, scholars are now beginning to examine the figure in relation to the culture which created her. As Rowe stated, “Synagoga is an abstraction,” a creation of the medieval culture.[x] Consequently, she needs to be examined within the context of medieval Christian Europe and with respect to the contemporary understanding and conception of Judaism and the Jewish community or even beyond the boundaries of Judaism.


[i] See: Otto Von Simson, ‘Le Programme Sculptural du Transept Meridonal de la Cathedrale de Strasbourg,’ Bulletin de la Societe des Amis de la Cathedrale de Strasbourg, Vol. 10 (1972), pp.33-50; Adolf Weis, ‘Die 'Synagoge' am Südquerhaus zu Straßburg,’ Das Münster, Nr. 1 (1947), pp. 65-80; Erler, Adalbert, Das Strassburger Münster im Rechtsleben des Mittelalters (Frankfurt: V. Klostermann, 1954)

[ii] Bernd Nicolai, ‘Orders in Stone: Social Reality and Artistic Approach. The Case of the Strasbourg South Portal,’ Gesta, Vol. 41, No. 2 (2002), pp. 111-128, footnote:70.

[iii] Simson 1972 p.37

[iv] Nicolai 2002 p.111-128

[v] Sara Lipton, 'The Temple is my Body: Gender, Carnality, and Synagoga in the Bible Moralisee' in Frojmovic, Eva, ed., Imagining the Self, Imagining the Other Visual Representation and Jewish-Christian Dynamics in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period (Leiden: Brill, 2002).

[vi] Sara Lipton, Images of Intolerance: the Representation of Jews and Judaism in the Bible Moralisée (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), p.1; see also John Lowden, The Making of the Bibles Moralisées: The Manuscripts, Vol.1 (Pennsylvania: Penn State Press, 2000).

[vii] Gerald B. Guest, ‘Picturing Women in the First Bible Moralisée,’ in Insights and Interpretations: Studies in Celebration of the Eighty-Fifth Anniversary of the Index of Christian Art, ed. by Colum Hourihane, (Princeton: Princton University Press, 2002), p.106.

[viii] Rowe 2008; 2011

[ix] ibid. p.197

[x] ibid p.197

The Veiled Moses. Drawing. Anagogical window, St.-Denis, 12th century. Glencairn Museum, Academy of the New Church, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania

Cheryl Spinner
The Veiled Moses

Ref. Britt, Brian. "Concealment, Revelation, and Gender: The Veil of Moses in the Bible and in Christian Art", Religon and the Arts 7.3 (2003): 227-273.

Brian Britt’s “Concealment, Revelation, and Gender: The Veil of Moses in the Bible and in Christian Art” (2003) recovers the veiled Moses figure, a model of revelation that is not only neglected, but even avoided in Judeo-Christian tradition. Britt traces Christian and Jewish commentaries on the episode of the veiled Moses, beginning with, most importantly, Paul’s commentary on the relationship between Christ and the veil of Moses. According to the Pauline reading, Moses veils himself before the people of Israel to keep them from gazing at God’s glory; Jesus lifts the veil. In this understanding of revelation and divine communication, the figure of the Veiled Moses represents the Jews, who have yet accept Jesus. Theologically, then, the veil assumes a pivotal place in solidifying the difference between Christian and Judaic identities; yet, curiously, the veiled Moses is seldom depicted in Christian art. In his survey, Britt is only able to find eight images that depict Moses in the veil: the Vivian Bible, an eleventh-century liturgical manuscript, the Farfa Bible, St.-Denis Window, Queen Mary Psalter, Berlin History Bible, Botticelli’s Fresco, and a contemporary children’s book illustration. These images, which vary from depictions of Moses with a veil completely obscuring his face, to images that depict him half-veiled or not veiled at all, illustrate the myriad of ways in which this episode has been treated in Christian art.

The St.-Denis Window and the eleventh-century liturgical manuscript have been excerpted here, respectively, to the demonstrate just how varied these images are in their treatment of the Veiled Moses. Images like the St.-Denis Window, which cover Moses’s face entirely, are rare. Of the few that actually represent Moses with a veil, his face is often partially veiled or even fully revealed, with a veil nearby. In his survey, Britt wonders why Christian art seldom represents the Veiled Moses, and when it does, most are half-veiled. Still working within the tradition of the Old Testament, Britt argues, Christians would find the feminized depictions of this important Biblical figure particularly unsettling. Moses, after all, is the giver of the Torah/Bible, and despite his limitations for a Christian theology, he is still important and must be respected. Synagoga, the feminine personification of the Jewish people, usefully comes in as a surrogate for the veiled Moses. Complete with broken tablets and a blindfold, Synagoga can easily represent the Jewish people and their blindness without having to situate this within Moses’s male body. Moses, in turn, is represented with horns—itself a mistranslation of Hebraic word, “keren,” which is used to describe the rays of light that emit from Moses’ face once he descends from the mountain. With Synagoga the surrogate of Moses, the binary of “female as evil and male as good” is kept tidy: the fallen, veiled woman represents Judaism; the unveiled, albeit deformed, masculine figure can accept the Torah. It is thus simpler for a Judeo-Christian tradition to avoid the to troubling Veiled Moses figure altogether than to deal with the anxieties that are created by having to come to terms with Moses in female garb.

The Repressed Veil in Judeo-Christian Tradition

"Few interpreters in Jewish or Christian tradition have explored the religious richness of Moses’s veil, a biblical episode that alternates between presence and absence, concealment and revelation. To “read” the veil in writing and images is thus to “read” texts about revelation. Worn after his conferences with God and the people of Israel, the veil signifies Moses’s work as a prophet. But if the face is essential to personal identity, then the veil dissociates Moses from his prophetic office. For post-biblical tradition, this separation was too high a price to pay for fidelity to biblical tradition. The veil was either ignored, removed, or marked as punishment. Through a survey of these traditions of the veil, I will suggest that the repression of the veil entails a repression of text and textuality, and that the repressed veil and the text nevertheless resurface in transformed ways, especially in veiled female figures" (227-228).

The Veiled Moses. Städelsches SKunstinstitut, Inv. 622, fol. XI (Swarzenski, Die Illuminierter Handschriften, pl. v).

Anxiety and the Veil

"Of the few documentary and artistic renderings of Moses’s veil, most of them, following Paul, take the veil off, so to speak. Why is there such reluctance to show Moses with a veil on his face? If I am correct that the central concern of the Exodus episode is Moses’s role as prophet, then the veil introduces an element of silence and disempowerment at the very moment when Moses is supposed to be reinstating the covenant and his own authority as a prophet. Whatever the veil means, my assumption is that its role in Exodus and subsequent tradition reflects significantly on ideas of revelation. I will suggest that the avoidance of the veil by interpreters and artists bespeaks anxiety before the veil. In Christian art, this anxiety takes a number of forms, especially the preference to show the veil only partly covering Moses’ face, as well as an apparent preference to depict the Pauline veil on the female allegorical figure of Synagogue" (228, 229).

"As a metaphor for a negative moment in the process of revelation, the veil of Moses has analogues in religious traditions of silence, mysticism, the via negativa, and negative theology. But these traditions developed in the post-biblical tradition and make few references to such biblical motifs as the veil of Moses. The silence about the veil is not simply inadvertent but also a kind of anxiety. Anxiety, according to Kierkegaard, is a “dizziness of freedom, which emerges when the spirit wants to posit synthesis and freedom looks down into its own possibility, laying hold of finiteness to support itself.” This freedom is the freedom to encounter the veil of Moses or to reject it. The anxiety before the veil corresponds to an anxiety before the text, for as the tradition of rereading Moses’s veil shows, how Moses is read can determine nothing less than how the Bible is read, and the status of Moses is tied directly to the status of the Torah. To accept a version of Moses who is disempowered and hence feminized, by a veil, was almost always too costly a bargain for Jewish and Christian interpreters. But to encounter the veil episode of Exodus is to accept ambiguity, silence, and an endlessly paradoxical idea of revelation" (264).

Synagogue as Feminine Surrogate

"It was more common to imagine Jewish blindness as Synagogue than as Moses, in part because of her sex. For a culture in which men define women, there is something tidy and familiar about the binary choice between Church and Synagogue, good and evil. It was culturally easy to project the simple opposition in female form: Roman art often personified abstractions in idealized female figures, in portraits of goddesses, caryatides, and personifications, and women were seen typically in two-dimensional terms as either venerable or villainous. And while veils and blindfolds are not necessarily feminine in medieval art, covering the eyes and face is certainly disempowering. Moses may be inferior to Christ, but he’s a guy, and a powerful one at that. The frequency of the female Synagogue and the scarcity of the veiled Moses reflect the Christian feminization (and denigration) of Judaism. It was much easier to represent the spiritual failings of the Jewish people in female form, a stereotype that persisted for centuries" (Britt 260).

Moses receiving the Law and Synagoga, La Somme le Roy (popular compendium of doctrine), c. 1295. Paris, Bibl. de l'Arsenal, 6329, fol. 7v.

See also The Minister’s Black Veil (1836)

Bible moralisée

The Bible moralisée is a later name for the most important example of the medieval picture bibles to have survived. They are heavily illustrated, and extremely expensive, illuminated manuscripts of the thirteenth century. They were similar in the choice and order of the Biblical texts selected, but differed in the allegorical and moral deductions drawn from these passages.
Though large, the manuscripts only contained selections of the text of the Bible, along with commentary and illustrations. Each page pairs Old and New Testament episodes with illustrations explaining their moral signicance in terms of typology.
There are seven surviving manuscripts of the Bible moralisée group; all date from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries and were designed for the personal use of the French royal family. Four were created in the early thirteenth century, when church art dominated the decorative arts. As common in stained glass and other Gothic art of the time, the illustrations are framed within medallions. The text explained the theological and moral meanings of the text. Many artists were involved in the creation of each of the Bibles moralisées, and their identities and shares of the work remain unclear.

Bible moralisée, France, 1215-30. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna

This beautiful illuminated manuscript, now in Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, is one of the earliest surviving examples of a unique group of Bibles containing the most extensive cycles of biblical illustrations juxtaposed with theological and allegorical interpretative images. The present moralized Bible was produced in Paris in the first half of the 13th century, and contains over 1000 exquisitely illuminated medallions accompanied by textual extracts and commentaries that act as captions to the illustrations and thus reveal, by word and image, the relevance of the Bible to contemporary life. They reflect the rapidly-changing world of the thirteenth century and highlight the many ideological problems prominent in the intellectual and political milieu of the time. It is a book that has long fascinated both historians and art-historians, since it stands out not only as one of the major artistic achievements of its time, but also as an important historical document for an understanding of medieval Europe.

The moralized Bible, in which biblical scenes are juxtaposed with theological and allegorical interpretative images, was a new and original type of biblical manuscript that emerged in Paris in the 1220s. The book reproduced in the ÖNB in one of the most beautiful of the surviving copies that was made in the firt half of the 13th century, and its glorious pages, with over 1000 illuminated medallions, vie with the translucent stained glass windows of the great Gothic cathedrals.

Each manuscript page has eight roundels (circles with illuminations). Four of the eight roundels contain illustrations of the biblical scene. Each of these four have a corresponding illustration of the contemporary spiritual significance of the scene. This "spiritual significance" often contains a moralistic interpretation of the biblical scene - hence the name, Bible Moralisée.

The Jews throughout the volume are distinguished for easy visual comprehension by their pointed hats and money sacks. Entire books have been written about the depiction of Jews in these bibles for these texts are treasure troves of contemporary Medieval cultural information.

Bible moralisée, France, 1215-30. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna. Codex 1179

Sara Lipton, Images of Intolerance: The Representation of Jews and Judaism in the Bible moralisée, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999, pp. 15-19.

One: A Discernible Difference

Humanity is rigidly divided into good and bad. The representation of "good" is characterized by order and regularity: the figures are uniform in size, dress, and gesture; serene in expression; focused in gaze; and carefully organized in their placement. They are encompassed within a circular crenelated structure, which signifies the unity, but also the exclusiveness, of the Heavenly City. The "bad" are, in representation as well as by definition, all that is opposite to the "good." They are literally "outsiders," situated outside the walls of paradise. They are inconsistent in size, dress, and gesture; their varying expressions indicate distress, regret, and indifference. They are also alien to each other: gazing up, down, to the right, and to the left, but in no case interacting. One carries a moneybag; two wear crowns of thorns; and a third, dwarfing the rest, wears a tall, pointed red cap. These three attributes especially bring us to the subject of this book, for each is in its own way (in the closed world of these manuscripts, but also beyond) a symbol relating to Jewishness. Why the crowns on the heads of the "bad" imperfectly mimic those of the good while recalling the headgear of Christ himself, why physiognomically and sartorially diverse figures are each endowed with a sign of Jewishness, and especially why the figure of a Jew looms over this gathering of the "bad" can be answered only by careful study of all the techniques for signifying "otherness" displayed in these rich and complex manuscripts.

Gen 2:8-9. The good, crowned with flowers in paradise, and the bad, cowned with "thorns of the world." Bible moralisée, France, 1215-30. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna. Codex 2554, fol. IVd (Lipton, fig. 1) .

Identifying Jews: The Pointed Hat as Signifier and Sign

The keynote of the iconography of Jews and Judaism in the Bible moralisée is ambiguity; it is no simple matter to isolate references to Jews in either the text or the images. Many names are used for Jews, figures may bear only some of the visual attributes assigned to Jews, and the attributes may be equivocal, or even entirely absent from characters apparently intended to be read as Jews. A similar ambiguity is evident throughout the Bible moralisée in images dealing with almost every imaginable subject [...]. I argue this ambiguity of representation is both intentional and meaningful.
The ambivalence of the textual and visual commentary serves to deepen and make flexible the meaning of the Bible--a common approach in high medieval exegesis and, indeed, a necessary project for any intellectual endeavor designed to present antique Hebrew scriptures as a blueprint for all aspects of medieval Christian life. At the same time, the abstruseness in the treatment of the Jews in these manuscripts bears witness to and seeks to control a range of very real social and religious ambiguities that seem to have been viewed as menacing by the clerics involved in the making of the Bible moralisée.
Nevertheless, a "standard" method for depicting Jews can be identified in the manuscripts and may serve as a norm by which to assess the more complex representations. In the images accompanying texts that refer explicitly to Jews, the roundels generally show bearded men wearing various forms of a conical or pointed hat (pileum cornutum). This representation is, of course, not unique to the Bible moralisée; the use of the pointed hat as a Jewish attribute in medieval art dates back to the eleventh century and by the thirteenth century was widespread and conventional. In the Bible moralisée, the "Jew's hat" takes various shapes: it may be very tall and sharply pointed; it may be of the so-called oil-can type (broad-brimmed with a knob at the top); or it may be soft, low, and only slightly peaked. This last type is identical to the headgear of many Christian figures, begging the question of to what extent it is a "Jew's hat" (as opposed to the hat of a Jew) at all. [...]
Although it has long been accepted that the pointed hat was the standard Christian iconographic convention for identifying Jews thoughout the High Middle Ages, there is still disagreement concerning the full significance of this sign in Gothic art. Some scholars have noted that Jews were depicted wearing the pointed hat in the Jew's own Hebrew manuscripts and have concluded that the depiction of the Jewish hat in art was mimetic, that is, a faithful documentation of historical reality bearing no spiritual import. Others have asserted that the sign was employed primarely as a pejorative identifier and almost inevitably carried an anti-Jewish connotation.
The first assertion is not convincing, as far as French Gothic iconography goes. The pileum may have been worn by Jews (as well as by other peoples) as early as the ninth century B.C., but it is doubtful whether by the thirteenth century Jews in northern France regularly wore the pointed hat or, indeed, covered their heads at all. [...] Canon 68 of the Fourth Lateran Council, which called for the imposition of distinctive clothing on Jews, began with the statement: "In some provinces a difference of dress distinguishes the Jews ans Saracenes from the Christians, but in other confusion has developed to such a degree that no difference is discernible. It seems likely that the Jewish communities of northern France, by no means the least assimilated of European Jewries, included members who were visually indistinguishable from Christians. The use of the pileum as an iconographic attribute of the Jews, then, was not based on actual practice but was an external and largely arbitrary sign devised by Christian iconographers in order to create certain modes of perception. Precisely because the position of Jews in late twelfth- and early thirteenth-century Europe was not exactly what the dominant stream of clerical ideology--that informing the canons of the Fourth Lateran Council--determined it should be, the Jew in works such as the Bible moralisée is generally, though not inevitably, made identifiable in a way that the Jew in Christian society was not. Like the provisions for distinguishing clothing imposed by the Fourth Lateran Council, the use of the pileum in Christian art was an attempt to visually codify a certain attitude toward Jews.
This ongoing tension between the Jews' constructed Otherness and actual visual sameness is evident in the jews' clothing. Jews are rendered in a variety of clothing styles in the Bible moralisée. [...] Christians are depicted wearing similar clothes in the manuscripts, and it is impossible to identify a figure as a Jew from his clothing alone. This situation mimics the confusion that occasionally arose from the similarity of Jewish and Christian dress in real life--confusion that clearly was a source of concern to some members of the Church hierarchy. [...] The conceptual anomaly presented by diametrically opposed spiritual groups displaying similar outward appearances posed a threat to proper order and hierarchy.
However, the assumption that the pointed hat clearly and unavoidably conveyed anti-Jewish polemic is equally problematic. It does not seem that the hat was regarded as a degrading object by medieval Jews: they had themselves portrayed wearing pointed hats in their own manuscripts, and they used the pointed hats on their own seals and coats of arms. Nor can the use of any particular article of clothing to identify the Jews as a group necessaribly e considered an anti-Jewish practice, for many social groups were iconographically distinguished in medieval art. [...] The fact that Old Testament patriarchs and prophets as well as certain revered New Testament Hebrews such as Joseph, Joachim, or Joseph of Arimathea are depicted with Jewish hats would argue against any automatic negative connotation. On the other hand, a self-contained sign system can, of course, construct a polemical message though the development and elaboration of a traditional iconographic motif. Just such a development is detectable in regard to the pointed hat in the Bible moralisée manuscripts. [...]
The most basic function of the pointed hat in the Bible moralisée is simply to denote the concept "Hebrew" [...] or "Jewish identity" [... but it can also signify] "being like a Jew" [and thus representing deceit]. [... The hat-as-sign becomes a sign for complex ideas and can convey] opposition to Christianity, fraud, unbelief, [and even] diabolical connexions. [...] The concentration of iconographic interest in the hat is telling: the hat does not just identify Jews; it functions independently of its placement to signify infidelity and recalcitrant Jewishness.

Tob. 11:10-11. The conversion of the infidels at the end of the world. Bible moralisée, France, 1215-30. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna. Codex 1179, fol. 181a (Lipton, fig. 4).


Victorian Painting

The picture is one of a series of allegorical subjects which Watts intended for a decorative scheme known as the 'House of Life'. Traditionally the figure of Hope is identified by an anchor, but Watts was seeking a fresher, more original approach. He painted blind Hope seated on a globe and playing on a lyre which has all its strings broken except one. She bends her head to listen to the faint music, but her efforts appear forlorn; the overall atmosphere is one of sadness and desolation rather than hope. The picture's sense of melancholy is enhanced by the soft brushwork and the translucent mists that envelop the floating globe.

Watts appears to have drawn on several contemporary sources for the figure of Hope. Her pose is comparable to Rossetti's siren in A Sea Spell of 1877 (Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University) and also recalls Albert Moore's sleeping women in Dreamers (1882, Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery). The bandaged head, denoting blindness, may be linked to the allegorical figure of Fortune in Burne-Jones's The Wheel of Fortune (c.1871, Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle), which was once owned by Watts.

Watts painted two versions of Hope. The original is in a private collection; this version was painted as a replica and presented to Tate in 1897. [...] Watts believed the second picture to be the better version and exhibited it at the South Kensington Museum and at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889. This version is softer in execution and the girl wears a more enigmatic expression on her face. Watts also omitted the star, the only note of optimism, at the top of the picture.

It has been suggested that the mood of desolation may reflect Watt's own sadness at the death of his adopted daughter Blanche's one-year old child. Despite its sense of gloom, the picture was well received and proved extremely popular with the public. The artists F.G. Stephens called Hope a "piece of tone harmony" (Athenaeum, 24 April 1888, p.561), inviting comparisons with the work of Whistler and the Aesthetic movement.

Frances Fowle, Hope, Catalogue entry from the Tate Gallery, December 2000.

George Frederic Watts (1817-1904), Hope, 1886
oil on canvas, 142.2 x 111.8 cm
Tate Gallery, London

Wikipedia. Hope is a Symbolist oil painting by George Frederic Watts, two versions of which were completed in 1886. The painting was intended to form part of a series of allegorical paintings by Watts entitled the "House of Life".
The painting by George Frederic Watts shows a female allegorical figure of Hope. Hope is traditionally identifiable through the attribute of an anchor, but Watts took a more original approach. In his painting, she is depicted sitting on a globe, blindfolded, clutching a wooden lyre with only one string left intact. She sits in a hunched position, with her head leaning towards the instrument, perhaps so she can hear the faint music she can make with the sole remaining string. According to Watts, "Hope need not mean expectancy. It suggests here rather the music which can come from the remaining chord". The desolate atmosphere is emphasised by Watts's soft brushwork, creating a misty, ethereal scene, in tones of green, brown and grey. Watts's melancholy depiction of hope was criticised (G. K. Chesterton, for instance, suggested that a better title would be Despair).

Augustus Leopold Egg (1816-1863), Past and Present, No. 1, 1858
oil on canvas, 63.5 x 76.2
Tate Gallery, London

This is the first of a set of three modern-life pictures on the theme of the fallen woman. The other two are also in the Tate collection. They are typical of the social moralist pictures that were popular in Victorian art.

The theme of the triptych is the discovery of the woman's infidelity and its consequences. In this first scene the wife lies prostrate at her husband's feet, while he sits grimly at the table and their children (the older girl modelled by William Frith's daughter) play cards in the background. The husband is holding a letter, evidence of his wife's adultery, and simultaneously crushes a miniature of her lover under his foot. The setting is an ordinary middle-class drawing room, but closer observation reveals that the room is full of symbols. Egg was clearly influenced in his approach by Holman Hunt's The Awakening Conscience of 1853 (Manchester City Art Galleries). The house of cards is collapsing, signifying the breakdown of the couple's marriage. The cards are supported by a novel by Balzac - a specialist in the theme of adultery. An apple has been cut in two, the one half (representing the wife) has fallen to the floor, the other (representing the husband) has been stabbed to the core. As a parallel, the two pictures on the wall depict the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (labelled The Fall); and a shipwreck by Clarkson Stanfield (labelled Abandoned). The couple's individual portraits hang beneath the appropriate image.

In the background of the picture the mirror reflects an open door, denoting the woman's impending departure from the home. The position of her arms and the bracelets round her wrists give the impression that she is shackled. In Victorian England a man could safely take a mistress without fear of recrimination, but for a woman to be unfaithful was an unforgivable crime. As Caroline Norton, an early feminist, wrote, "the faults of women are visited as sins, the sins of men are not even visited as faults" (Lionel Lambourne, Victorian Painting, London 1999, p. 374).

Frances Fowle, Past and Present, No. 1, Catalogue entry from the Tate Gallery, December 2000.

William Quiller Orchardson (1832-1910), The First Cloud, 1887
oil on canvas, 83.2 x 121.3 cm
Tate Gallery, London

This is the last of three pictures by Orchardson that focus on the theme of the unhappy marriage. The first two in the series, Mariage de Convenance (1883, Glasgow Museums) and Mariage à la Mode - After! (1886, Aberdeen Art Gallery) depict the disadvantages of marrying for wealth rather than for love. The elderly husband is soon abandoned by his bored young wife. In The First Cloud, the marriage is still based on an exchange of her beauty for his wealth, but the age gap is less noticeable. However, without love, the relationship lacks any firm foundation, and this first rift between the couple is merely the cloud before the storm. The picture was first exhibited at the Royal Academy with these lines from Tennyson:

'It is the little rift within the lute
That by-and-by will make the music mute.'

The setting, as with so many of Orchardson's costume dramas, is an elegant Victorian drawing room. The wife retires from the room through a pillared arch, her graceful form silhouetted against the dark opening in the curtains. Although she turns her back to us (and to her husband) her face is vaguely reflected in a mirror in the dark room beyond. This figure was modeled by a Mrs Hope, one of a family of very beautiful sisters. For the husband Orchardson used a close friend, the artist Tom Graham. He stands by the mantelpiece, looking extremely disgruntled, and possibly rather drunk, his hands thrust in his pockets. The psychological rift that has grown between the couple is emphasized physically by the empty expanse of parquet flooring that separates them. The colours are typically muted: cool creams, pastel pinks and blues, alongside Orchardson's favorite colour combination of yellow and brown, which the French critic Ernest Chesneau described as 'harmonious as the wrong side of a tapestry.' (Christopher Wood, Victorian Painting, London 1999, p. 257).

Frances Fowle, The First Cloud, Catalogue entry from the Tate Gallery, October 2000.