top of page
< Back

Some English Examples of Mediaeval Representation of Church and Synagogue

Lewis Edwards

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Some English Examples of the Mediaeval Representation of Church and Synagogue By Lewis Edwards, m.a.,f.s.a. MANY will probably remember seeing reproductions of the sculptured figures of Church and Synagogue on the south door of Strasburg Cathedral, and two reflections in particular will come to their minds. One, as expressed by Israel Abrahams2, that "The artists were true to their craft, for though the theological motive was to do dishonour to the Synagogue, yet they added to the aesthetic value of their work by invariably depicting the Synagogue as a beautiful woman, slender, graceful, infinitely pathetic." The other is that motive itself, to dishonour the Synagogue, the keynote of ecclesiastical policy in the Middle Ages towards the Jews, a note which can be distinguished amidst the glorious harmonies of Gothic art in Western Europe. For the theme is not a passing idiosyncrasy of the Strasburg craftsmen, or rather of their patrons. It was prevalent in Western Europe for many centuries, and that not by accident, for as an organic part it co-existed with the supremacy of Papal power and Gothic art. The subject of the representation of Church and Synagogue has for more than a hundred years been treated in France and Germany, with occasional references in England and Italy. The leading authority is P. Weber's Geistliches Schauspiel und Kirchliche Kunst (1894) but neither therein nor elsewhere has much attention been given to the subject of English illustrations of the theme. Although these show little variation from the Continental types it has been thought that they would repay discussion and that such discussion should be preceded by the slight sketch of relevant Continental art and literature which is necessary for a full comprehension, particularly in view of the unity of mediaeval art and culture. The history of the pictorial representation of Church and Synagogue reaches back to the early days of Christian art, when their relationship was regarded as complementary, sometimes perhaps as contrasting, but not as the fierce antagonism which we shall see developing in Gothic times. Venturi3 sees in the mosaics at Santa Pudenziana at Rome (of the end of the fourth century) the first great historical representation of Christianity, emerging victorious with Theodosius in the first struggle against paganism with the two female figures, Jerusalem and Bethlehem, represented as Roman patricians crowning and glorifying Christ. The two figures are the personification of the Church, deriving from Judaism and the Gentiles, from Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which are to be found in the later mosaics. J. O. Westwood in his Catalogue of Fictile Ivories* in respect of the following centuries in which, as he says, "we are destitute of sculptures and to a great extent also of analogous pictorial representations", gives several examples of works in this material which are invaluable in bridging the gap between the immediately post-classical period and the 1 Paper read before the Jewish Historical Society of England on 8th March, 1948. 2 The Decalogue in Art (in Studies in Jewish Literature) 1913, p. 33. 3 Storia dell 'Arte Italiana (1901) Vol. I, pp. 246-8, 249-50. 4 A Descriptive Catalogue of the Fictile Ivories in the South Kensington Museum (1876), 63</page><page sequence="2">64 SOME ENGLISH EXAMPLES OF THE MEDIAEVAL REPRESENTATION OF CHURCH AND SYNAGOGUE beginning of the Gothic age. The examples show a development of the earlier theme but in a new direction, and with a new, more bitter and more hostile spirit inspiring it, paralleled by and founded on what have now become anti-Jewish writings fully summa? rized by Canon Lukyn Williams.1 Some of these are of a vulgarly abusive character, some display ignorance of the Jews and their belief, while a few are manifestly fair and even humane in character. In his Epilogue the Editor, while naturally praising the missionary zeal of the anti-Jewish writers, criticizes their method "in estimating the Jewish use of Scripture wrongly. They never understood the mind of the Jews. For, in spite of a verbal theory of inspiration, so minute as to include each letter, by which anything that could possibly be got out of the Hebrew words and letters might be of spiritual value, Jews never attributed to such Midrashic and Haggadic methods the force of truth in the strictest sense. Interpretations derived from Midrash and Haggada had, no doubt, their own benefit for devout souls, but could not possibly serve as proofs to establish any doctrine " But though it was ineffective in missionary achievement, this body of anti-Jewish literature was not without effect on the Church itself and on Christian culture. There are two works in particular which, not only for this reason but because of their place in the development of the theme of Church and Synagogue, call for some reference. Both are printed by Migne2 in the Appendix to St. Augustine's works, and though that author? ship is now rejected, they appear in the Middle Ages to have been so accepted and to have enjoyed all the prestige attaching to such an origin. The De Altercatione Ecclesiae et Synagogue Dialogus, apparently written between 437 and 476, takes the guise of a trial before a Roman court-of-law of a suit between the two faiths and the form of a dialogue between them, following the usual course of anti-Jewish literature of the enu? meration and exposition by the Church of passages from the Old Testament presaging and pre-figuring, as is alleged, the coming of the New Dispensation, the upbraiding of the Synagogue for her rejection of the prophecies, and her final acceptance of the argu? ments of the Christian advocate. The Contra Judaeos, Paganos, et Arianos : Sermo de Symbolo, of more uncertain, but probably later, date has much the same arguments, and, as to its form, it calls the Prophets as witnesses to the New Dispensation, and also craves in aid Virgil and the Sibylline Books. Not only is it clear that the De Altercatione influenced the Christian cult and the art and drama of the Middle Ages, but it is definitely established that parts of the Contra Judaeos were incorporated into the liturgy and were given a dramatic form in an eleventh century play, The Prophets.3 In the course of the play, the preacher cries, "Vos, inquam, convenio, O Judaei", and calls upon the Jews to bear witness out of the mouths of their own prophets to the Christ. The ending is significant: (Praecentor ad Judaeos) Judaea incredula cur manens adhuc inverecunda. Some further quotations will bring immediately into evidence the ideas common to the 1 A. Lukyn Williams, Adversus Judaeos : A Bird's-Eye View of Christian Apologiae until the Renaissance (1935). 2 Patrologia XLII. 3 Sir Edmund Chambers ; The Mediaeval Stage (1903) Vol. II, pp. 7, 52,</page><page sequence="3">SOME ENGLISH EXAMPLES OF THE MEDIAEVAL REPRESENTATION OF CHURCH AND SYNAGOGUE 65 dramatic and the pictorial representations of the theme. In "La Passion de Notre Seigneur,1 the Vielle Loy, the Synagogue, threatens : "Je te creveray ton oiel destre Ce Scay je bien encor ennuit Si tu dis chose qui m'ennuit On je te turay de ma lance." In a MS. De la Disputation de la Synagogue et de Sainte Eglise,2 we read "Sainte Yglise est vermeille et Sinagogue bonne" "Sainte Yglise est vermeille blanche comme 1 glacon" "1 Chalice tenoit, de ce point ne doutez" "D'autre port tien 1 glaive et une blanche enseigne". and of the Synagogue : "Sa banniere est brisee, quassees sont ses tables" "Ses tables sont quassees, dont aux Juyfs moult poire". Karl Young mentions a play,3 Festum Praesentationis Beatae Mariae Virginis, which after earlier performances there and elsewhere was performed at Avignon on November 21st, 1385, and of which the following stage-directions are of immediate interest: "The Church will be [represented as] a fair and beardless youth of about 20, dressed all in gold as a deacon, with the lovely hair of a woman spread over his shoulders ; on his head he will wear a golden crown with lilies and precious stones. Tied on his breast will be a silver-gilt chalice without a paten, signifying the New Testament. In his left hand he will bear a long cross as wide as his body and its head will be a red stick of a thumb's width and the whole of the cross will be gilt without any other ornament; in his right hand he will hold a round apple all gilt signifying the universal dominion of the Church." "The Synagogue wears an old veil, an old tunic reaching to the heels of materials of a plain colour, and a black and torn mantle. Her head as with a veil is adorned with a cloth of a dark colour, and before her eyes and her face she should have a black cloth, through which however she should be able to see. In her left hand she will bear a red ensign, its black lance shown as broken, her ensign drooping over her shoulders. On this red ensign are inscribed in gold "S.P.Q.R.", the arms of Rome. And in her right hand she will hold the two tables of stone slipping down to the ground; on these tables of stones will be writing as in Hebrew characters showing them to be the laws of Moses and the Old Testament". Later4 there is a touch of "Merchant of Venice" ridicule when "Synagoga, however, after a tearful lament is pushed down the west steps of the stage by Gabriel and Raphael, lets fall her banner, and the tables of the Old Law, and flees crying from the Church. After the laughter of the people has subsided. . . ." The instances just cited not only serve to suggest the literary background for the artistic examples, but also show even in many matters of detail how alike they were. As our present subject deals only with England, treatment of Continental examples must be 1 Jubinal: Mysteres Inedits du 15e Steele (1837) pp. 258ff. 2 Ibid., pp. 403ff. 3 The Drama of the Mediaeval Church (1933) Vol. II, pp. 226-7, 230. 4 Ibid., pp. 243-4.</page><page sequence="4">66 SOxME ENGLISH EXAMPLES OF THE MEDIAEVAL REPRESENTATION OF CHURCH AND SYNAGOGUE summary and only such as to provide some parallel or comparison or to illustrate the imits or variations of the general theme. The representation which became so characteristic in the Gothic period is usually traced back to an illustration in the Metz Sacramentary which was written for Bishop Drogo, a son of Charlemagne, who died just after 850. It depicts the Crucifixion with the figure of the Church bearing a banner and receiving the blood, on the right-hand side of the Cross; on the other side is a figure which is thought to represent Palestine or Jerusalem, but which is without the later attributes of what we may term the stricken or vanquished Synagogue. M?le1 does not regard what he calls symbolism as having developed?and that suddenly?until Suger's work at St. Denis of about 1140, when the well-known stained glass window was set up there which depicts Christ between the Ancient and the New Law. He is depicted with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, between two figures, with the right hand on the crowned head of the Church, which holds the chalice, and with the left tearing the veil from the face of the Synagogue which holds the Tables of the Law. That which had been veiled is now made plain, and the reference is to two favourite quotations of the Church apologists?from the Book of Lamentations2 and the Second Epistle to the Corinthians.3 The limits of this paper do not permit even an enumeration of the many surviving examples of the thirteenth century Continental renderings of the theme, mainly in Gothic art, but in at least one instance, at Saint Gilles in Southern France, in Romanesque. And the subject occurs not only in the Renaissance period, e.g., at Amiens about 1508,4 but even in modern art, as in an apparently nineteenth century carved wooden pulpit at Angers Cathedral. A modern stained glass in Westminster College Chapel at Cam? bridge gives a kindlier representation more in the pre-mediaeval spirit. In his book on Rochester Cathedral,5 St. John Hope says, "The most noteworthy work of the fourteenth century is the beautiful doorway now framing the entrance to the chapter-room. It may have been inserted when certain defects in the Church were made good in 1342, principally at the cost of Bishop H?mo of Hythe. The two principal figures represent the Christian and Jewish Dispensations, but the female figure of the Church was 'restored' by Mr. Cottingham with a bearded bishop's head. By the exertions of Miss Louisa Twining the lady's head has lately been replaced." Cotting? ham had carried out his restoration about 1825-30 apparently ignoring or being ignorant of the iconographical significance of the figure, and in Didron's Annales Archeologiques* in 1846 a more learned writer notes that the mitred head of St. Augustine has been placed on the body of the Church; it was not until the end of the century that by the efforts of Miss Twining, herself a writer on ecclesiastical iconography, the mistake was corrected. But meanwhile photographs were taken and are still on sale and in circulation showing the bearded bishop, and not only this, but the learned pages of Sauer's book,7 Symbolik des Kirchengeb?udes . . . des Mittelalters (second edition, 1924) still speaks of a figure in bishop's clothing bearing the model of a Church as seen in the door of Rochester Chapter House. Both St. John Hope and Michel8 agree that while the figure of the 1 VArt Religieux du 12e Siech en France (1922) pp. 151ff. 2 Cap. V, vv. 16 and 17. 3 Cap. Ill, vv. 13-16. 4 J. Duval: Stalles de la Cathedrale d*Amiens (1843). 6 Architectural History of the Cathedral Church and Monastery of St. Andrew at Rochester (1900) 6 T.5, p. 289. 7 P. 249. 8 Histoire de VArt, T. II, 2, p. 731.</page><page sequence="5">SOME ENGLISH EXAMPLES OF THE MEDIAEVAL REPRESENTATION OF CHURCH AND SYNAGOGUE 67 Church is retouched and restored, that of the Synagogue is mainly original. Michel thinks the latter a graceful figure which is not without analogy with those of Strasburg and Bamberg. Above the two large figures are four smaller ones which he thinks were executed in a rougher style, vigorous and naturalistic and of very British types. They have been supposed to represent the Evangelists or Doctors of the Church, but Hope records the interesting opinion of Sir Charles Peers1 that possibly a contrast between Christianity and Judaism is contained here, and that the two lower figures, both of which have veiled heads, are Jewish, and the two upper with bare heads Christian, doctors. As to the principal figures themselves, that of the Church is crowned and wears a mantle, and carries a pennon and staff in one hand and the model of a Church in the other; the Synagogue in this instance apparently wears a mantle, but is blindfold and carries in one hand a shattered banner while from the other are slipping the two Tables of the Law, their rounded tops reversed. The similarity to the Continental type is obvious. Prior and Gardner2 attribute the figures to an imager, not to an architectural carver, since by the middle of the 14th century the shop-style was conceiving the figure as a separate detached imitative object without regard to its position in the building scheme; they suggest the work of the "London School".3 Between Burford and Swindon and as the crow flies about 8 or 9 miles from each other, there are two villages : one Southrop, in Gloucestershire, has a population of something over two hundred and a church dedicated to St. Peter; the other, Stanton Fitzwarren, in Wiltshire, has a population somewhat under that figure and a church dedicated to St. Leonard. Each has a font of great interest. Michel4 mentions the Southrop font, but Weber appears to have overlooked it, although he mentions that at Stanton Fitzwarren.5 Prior and Gardner6 date them as of about 1160 and state that the latter shows the Virtues trampling on the Vices, while the two remaining panels are occupied by "Cherubin" and"Ecclesia",the Church shown piercing a dragon to which is attached the inscription "Serpens occiditur". They add that an almost exact replica is at Southrop on which are the same kind of inscriptions, and further state the existence of replicas would seem to point to a settled school or shop of stone-sculpture under monastic or Cluniac patronage; the famous basilican Church at Cluny, it may be added, having been in process of construction for thirty years after its beginning in 1089. Bond7 describes the Stanton Fitzwarren font as a late (i.e. late Norman or Romanesque) and beautiful specimen, richly ornamented by the arched panels filled with figures, all except the cherubim trampling on crouched figures at their feet, with inscriptions recording the names of the principal figures (eight of which are the Virtues) cut in the arches of the openings and with those of the minor figures (eight of which are the Vices) cut in the ground of the panels. Of the Southrop example, he says that it is a variant of the other. He goes on to say that above each Virtue, which is represented as an armed knight trampling on a Vice, is its name, while the name of each Vice is written backwards and vertically. Although the background and architectural details?except for the trefoil-arches?are partly Norman or Romanesque, as one would expect from the transi? tional date attributed, the figures, as Michel points out, are Gothic. 1 Op. cit., p. 82 note. 2 An Account of Mediaeval Figure-Sculpture in England (1912). 3 Op. cit.y p. 363. 4 Op. cit., T. II, 1, p. 204. 5 Op cit. p. 140 note 6. 9 Op. cit. p. 38. 7 Fonts and Font Covers (1908) pp. 179, 181; plates on pp. 174, 176.</page><page sequence="6">68 SOME ENGLISH EXAMPLES OF THE MEDIAEVAL REPRESENTATION OF CHURCH AND SYNAGOGUE But none of the authorities mentioned seem to have dealt at all fully with those features which illustrate our theme. The Church is represented at Stanton Fitzwarren with those attributes which were to be so often represented in the following hundred years ?the crown, the pennon and staffand the chalice. The Synagogue has a turban-like headdress covering the eyes, the falling crown and the shattered staff in her right hand. In her left she is carrying, not as one would expect the Tables of the Law but what appears to be a vessel of conical or pine-shaped form with a knob on top. What the vessel represents the authorities do not tell us, but the opinion may be hazarded that it may possibly be an inverted or overturned chalice such as is depicted on St. Eleutherius' reliquary at Tournay and elsewhere, and which is discussed later in this paper. In the panel on the right of the Synagogue is a figure above which appear to be the letters MOIS and possibly E. The figure itself is of a bearded man with a horn showing above his left ear (the face is mainly in profile); he carries on his left arm and in the fold of his robe the two Tables of the Law, while his right hand is raised as though in preaching or exhortation. This figure of Moses forming with that of the Synagogue a double representation of the Old Dispensation at first view appears rather unusual, but if it is compared with the representation of the same two figures in the window at Canter? bury, that view must give place, I think, to one recognizing a convention is being followed, It should be noted, however, that while Southrop shows Moses with the Tables of the Law and the Synagogue with another object, Canterbury has the Synagogue with the Tables and Moses with a book?presumably of the Law. There are a few other pieces of statuary of the 13th century which if we accept the high authority of Prior and Gardner'1 must be considered; all of them are unfortunately headless. On either side of the great south door of the choir of Lincoln Cathedral are two figures each of which has the right arm missing, and one of which has most, if not all, of the left in a similar condition, but in the folds on the left holds what appears to be the model of a Church; the other has the left hand missing but a fragment of stone where the hand should have been is sug? gestive of its having held the Tables of the Law. These figures are thought to represent respectively the Church and Synagogue. There is another but smaller figure at Crowland Abbey,2 armless, which is placed in a similar way at the side of the west doorway, which Prior and Gardner think appears to be the work of the same sculptor and represents the Synagogue. They note that on a stone in the cloisters at Lincoln there were inscribed the figure and name of Richard of Gainsborough, mason of the Church, who died 13? and who is thought to be Richard of Stow (near Lincoln) who was engaged in the execu? tion of the Eleanor Cross. They perceive a difference in the handling of the figures in the Angel Choir and in those in the south porch, so that if Richard executed one group he probably did not execute the other. Some years ago there was dug up in the Dean's garden at Winchester a headless and almost armless figure about 4 feet high which is now in the feretory, but which has been exhibited in London both at the Victoria and Albert Museum Exhibition of Mediaeval Art in 1930 and the Exhibition of British Art at the Royal Academy in 1934. Prior and Gardner3 think that the subject was possibly a representation of the Synagogue, the emblematic broken staff and the girdle having been of metal, as is clear by the marks of the fixing. The folds of the drapery of the left hand seem also to point to its having held the Tables of the Law. They further are of the 1 Op. cit. 40. 2 Op. cit. pp. 324-5. 3 Op. cit. pp. 316-8.</page><page sequence="7">1. Howden Church 2. Rochester Cathedral 4a All Souls College, MS. 3. Southrop Church ?r 4b All Souls College, MS.</page><page sequence="8">Kp !.5^p^mMmb *^vi^^K^^L??w^^^.^P^^jiu^E^Sfl JR ^L, Vnv ^t^^lrjP/ fli^KSiHv' ^Vv^^BU^k&gt; 9^SkWK^ftfinS^^I^^LjflLj 5. Canterbury Cathedral Crown^ Copyright^1 ' * \ if I If II 6. Abingdon Apocalypse</page><page sequence="9">SOME ENGLISH EXAMPLES OF THE MEDIAEVAL REPRESENTATION OF CHURCH AND SYNAGOGUE 69 opinion that the work is that of the Wells sculptor or imager, that it is of Doulting stone and that the draperies have the fine, thin, rippling wave of the later Wells statues. While they admit certain differences and a likeness to certain statues in Germany of about 1270, they judge from the handling of the draperies and the stiff-leaf foliage at the feet of the statue that it is of English provenance. W. R. Lethaby1 also dealt at some length with the two headless statues at Lincoln, which he considered to be "of quite extraordinary beauty" and he states that Prior had accepted his interpretation of their representing the Church and the Synagogue. He explains the fact that their usual position in respect of the principal figure is reversed by there being a smaller space on the right than on the left and that, as both Church and Synagogue may have each been accompanied respectively by persons of the New and the Old Dispensations with the former in a majority, the left side was taken by the Church as giving more space for its followers. The two figures each stand on a sculptured corbel. "The Church is upheld by an angel issuing from a cloud, and the Synagogue rests on a Jewish rabbi, who seems to find it a hard position. On his breast, as a brooch or symbol, are the Tables of the Law." Lethaby adds that the Crowland corbels represent "under where the Church was 'an angel searching the Scriptures', under the Synagogue, the Temptation in Eden". In Benson's Guide to York Minster2 he states that some panels of the old ceiling of the Chapter House3 are in the Vestibule and that "on one is represented the Jewish Church, blindfolded, the crown falling and the reed broken on which she leans." The Chapter House was built during the time of Archbishop Romanus (1286-1296) and of Treasurer Clare (1287-1294). In Halfpenny's book on the Minster,4 which was first published in 1795, he gives the date of the Chapter House as approximately 1291 and says "and if it is admitted that the Paintings in the ceiling are coeval with the Building, this specimen of the art of painting may be classed with the oldest that we have in the Kingdom. From scaffolding erected for . . . repairing the inside of the Chapter House, I had the opportunity of making a more faithful drawing of the Paintings than could have been done from the ground, the whole being impaired by time. However, there were sufficient remains to ascertain the date of the whole. I am sorry to add that on examination of the ceiling it was in such a state of decay as to make it necessary to take down the whole; consequently this ancient and venerable piece of art is no more". Despite its somewhat more modern feeling Halfpenny's reproduction shows that the panel was in the usual thirteenth century convention?bandage, falling crown, shattered pennon (rather than, or perhaps in addition to, the "broken reed" of Benson), and falling tables of the law, these last perhaps given somewhat too much of a gridiron form by the artist. One item in our English list is an object which is now unfortunately missing. The first printed reference to it that I know is in the Bulletin Monumental for 18705 wherein it is stated that the subject of the Church and Synagogue was represented on a morse in Lincoln Cathedral and the author gives a translation of its description in an inventory drawn up, as he says, in 1553. Some years later the then Canon Wordsworth dealt 1 "Notes on Sculptures in Lincoln Minster ..." Archaeologia LX (1907). 2 G. Benson : Handbook to the Cathedral Church of St Peters, York, Fifth Edition (1914) p. 96 8 Ibid., p. 89. 4 J. Halfpenny : A Selection of Gothic Ornaments in the Cathedral Church of York (New Edition, 1831) Plate 95 and note thereon. 6 Vol. XXXVI p. 587 (1870). F</page><page sequence="10">70 SOME ENGLISH EXAMPLES OF THE MEDIAEVAL REPRESENTATION OF CHURCH AND SYNAGOGUE with the morse in a volume of Archaeologia1; he mentions two inventories, one of 1548 and one of 1553, but it appears that the entry was in the 1548 list. The description is as follows : "In primis ix Morses silver and guilt as hereafter followeth, of ye wch one hath an Image of ye Matie (i.e. of Christ) in ye middle, and of every hand a Queene; the (Eyes) of one covered wth ye tayle of a serpent garnished with Pearls and Stones and one Stone and one Pearle wanting; the Gymells broken weighing xviii unces". The serpent covering the eyes may be compared with a sculptured group at St. Sernin, Bordeaux, where the Synagogue is shown not only with her eyes closed, but with a serpent or dragon wound round her head. What has been stated above is all we know of the morse; we do not even know whether it was of English workmanship. It is learned from the authorities at Lincoln that there are now no copes existing in the Cathedral such as that described in 1548 and in view of the troublous times in which the inventory was drawn up and which followed, it is probable that in the spoliations to which the Old Faith was subjected in England, a memorial?though in invidiam?to a still older faith was destroyed. There are in a window of the north choir aisle of Canterbury Cathedral representa? tions of Moses and the Synagogue. Mr. Bernard Rackham has dealt with them in his recent volume on the Cathedral glass2 and gives them a fuller treatment than in his short note in the 15th Annual Report of "the Friends"3 and I have enjoyed the advantage of an interchange of views before the publication of the later volume. Early writers, e.g., Westlake4 and Mason,5 appear to have been confused regarding what each figure is holding in its left hand, although the point is made quite clear by inspection. Moses is stretching out his right hand as though exhorting or as pointing to a richly jewelled volume which he holds in his left. As it at present appears, the Synagogue, though wearing a turban-like head-dress with a veil covering the back of the neck, is not blind? fold ; she bears on her left arm steadied by her right hand the Tables?they look almost like a Scroll?of the Law. As, however, the window has undergone restoration it is possible that the restorer has omitted the bandage for the eyes which may have been in the original design, which latter may have been the conventional one. The figures are of the early part of the 13th century,6 when, as Mr. Rackham points out, the art was at the height of its design and craftsmanship, and may be compared as regards their juxta? position with the figures of the Southrop font of some half century earlier. On the choir-screen of the parish church of SS. Peter and Paul (or St. Peter) at Howden in Yorkshire, about equidistant from York and Hull, has been placed a figure of the Synagogue. The present is not its original position, which probably was outside the church. The figure which has been dated as of about 1320 has details missing from its right side, but the head still has a turban-like covering, its eyes are blindfold, the crown is falling over the right shoulder; the left hand grasps the Tables of the Law, their edges towards the spectator, to whom from the front they present a disc-like appearance. 1 Archaeologia Vol. LIII p. 60 (1893). 2 The Ancient Glass of Canterbury Cathedral (1949) pp. 47, 48. 3 (1942) p. 30; the Report also contains photographs of the figures. See also the same author's article in Vol. 58 of the Burlington Magazine (1928) pp. 33ff. 4 History of Design in Painted Glass (1881) Vol. I, pp. 69, 70. 5 Guide to the Ancient Glass in Canterbury Cathedral (1925) pp. 51, 52. 6 Westlake says 1220-1240.</page><page sequence="11">SOME ENGLISH EXAMPLES OF THE MEDIAEVAL REPRESENTATION OF CHURCH AND SYNAGOGUE 71 Prior and Gardner1 thus describe the Synagogue and the other Howden figures : "Of the stone images the best collection remains to us at Howden, where there are now placed in the niches of the screen at the back of the present altar, nine statues in the magnesian limestone of the building. They are not, however, in their original place on the choir screen, nor are the figures all of a kind or date. They appear to have been brought from many positions, some, we think, from the outside of the Church. The surfaces are unfortunately much decayed, but our illustrations give what is best preserved . . . Another represents the "Synagogue", and this with some others that are more decayed is very similar to the torsos in the Minster Library at York. In these cases narrow shoulders and swaying attitudes appear, but less conspicuously. On the other hand, some of the Howden figures, such as certain "Bishops" in the south transept, seem rather to approach the types of the "Ancaster" work, whose district lay immediately to the south of Howden. The great decay of the stone surfaces makes a difficulty in quite appreciating these diverse characters, but it would seem that the Howden sculptures may make a sort of half-way house between the peculiar York methods and those of the Ancaster stone carvers. The water carriage from York in the north and from Newark in the Ancaster district in the south was equally easy." In the first window on the right of the entrance to the vestibule of the Chapter House in York Minster are lights showing the prophets as the precursors of Christ. In the second window among other figures are those of the Church and Synagogue. The windows were set up in the reign of Edward II, that is, some years after the expulsion of 1290. Benson2 describes the Synagogue as a female blindfolded, with broken bannered staff, and with crown falling off, indicating the fall of the Jewish Church. Above is another female figure crowned and holding a three-spired edifice in one hand and in the other a bannered cross signifying the Christian Church established. In agreement with other writers, Mr. J. A. Knowles3 has commented on the fact that?apart from the great east window?biblical scenes are only sparsely depicted in the Minster. He points out that "the Chapter House?a secular building and uncon secrated?contains in three windows more subjects from Holy Writ than are in the rest of the windows in the nave, choir, Lady Chapel and transepts put together", and despite some heraldic representations and that of some kings and queens of the time, the Vestibule must be included in the few instances where the Scriptures are well represented. Dr. Eric Millar4 in his description of the MSS. at Lambeth Palace gives an account of an illuminated Bible of the first half of the 12th century and states that the medallions above have blue grounds like those underneath and represent the Church and Synagogue. One shows a crowned female figure, with a cross, between two prophets. The other another female figure with veiled or bandaged face, standing between Moses (with horns) and a nimbed figure (probably Abraham). The Divine Hand tears the bandage from the head of the Synagogue. Dr. Charles Singer5 has a note on this MS. in which he takes the figure accompanying Moses to be that of Isaiah and the fact that it is looking upwards towards a bust of the Founder of the Christian Religion makes us prefer his interpretation to that of Dr. Millar, in view of the role of announcer or precursor so 1 Op. cit., p. 335, 3 Ancient Painted Windows . , . York (1915) p. 57, 3 Essays on the History of the York School of Glass-Painting (1936) p. 53. 4 Les principaux manuscripts ? peintpre de Lambeth Palace ? Londres (Bulletin de la Societe Francaise de Reproductions de manuscrits ? peintures, Paris, 1924) p. 25 and Plate VI. * The Legacy of Israel (1927) pp. XXIV and XXV and Figure 41.</page><page sequence="12">72 SOME ENGLISH EXAMPLES OF THE MEDIAEVAL REPRESENTATION OF CHURCH AND SYNAGOGUE frequently attributed to the prophet. Dr. Singer's explanation of the Divine Hand as drawing a veil over the eyes of the Synagogue is not, it is submitted, to be accepted in face of Dr. Millar's which seems to be more in accordance with what we know of the symbolism of the subject. Mr. Arthur Watson1 has also written a description of the MS. and notes it as a very early instance of the occurrence of the Church and Synagogue motif as belonging to a Tree of Jesse, the traditional descent of Jesus of Nazareth. He merely gives the companion of Moses as a nimbed figure, but as does Dr. Millar he describes the veil as being drawn away. He points out that the Synagogue is not here depicted, as it so often is, with "lost crown, broken standard, and falling tables of the law" and comments that "Here the Church succeeds the Synagogue without marked triumph. It is not so much a crushing defeat as a passage to a superior law, the substitution of the power of the New Testament for that of the Old .. . here the spirit is different from that shown in the Pseudo-Augustinian Dialogues between the Church and Synagogue which is rightly termed an Altercation." In his recent book on the Canterbury School of Illumination Dr. C. R. Dodwell has a description of this Lambeth Bible.2 He speaks of an illustration to the Book of Habbakuk showing the Crucifixion with half-roundels on either side and below the principal scene. That on the right is inscribed LEX PETIT OCCASUM and shows a personified Synagogue with fallen crown, broken banner, and withdrawn veil. On the left is the inscription PIA GRATIA SURGIT AD ORTUM and the figure of the Church, crowned and bearing a chalice. The Book of Isaiah has a Tree of Jesse, he states, wherein again appear the two figures, but "the Old Covenant gives away to the New in a less violent manner than in the Habbakuk initial for the one holds a cross instead of a banner and chalice and the other is no longer associated with the falling cross (crown) and broken banner. The Synagogue is held by two prophets, one of whom is identified by the horns on his head as that Moses whom the Synagogue is continually quoting in St. Augustina's dialogue between her and the Church". In connection with the relation between the Church and Synagogue and the Tree of Jesse, one other instance may be given. Add. MS. 154523 in the British Museum is a Latin Bible executed in England or possibly Northern France early in the 13th century. It shows the two figures in the top branches of the Tree. The Church has the crown and chalice and the Synagogue is depicted with falling crown, but with hands free. There are three illuminated manuscripts apparently executed at| about the same time (roughly the middle of the thirteenth century) and in the same district?Mr. S. C. Cockerell suggests Salisbury.4 They were produced for the three great monastic establishments for women at Wilton, Amesbury and Shaftesbury and are now respectively in the Libraries of the Royal College of Physicians, London;6 All Souls College, Oxford6 and the John Rylands Library, Manchester.7 The first does not otherwise concern our theme but the other two are of great interest. 1 The Early Iconography of the Tree of Jesse (1934) pp. 99-102 ; Plate XV. 2 (1954) pp. 88, 89. See also a short illustrated article by the same author in LCI. Magazine for December, 1953. 3 British Museum, Reproductions from Illuminated MSS Series, IV, p. 10; Plate XVI. 4 Burlington Fine Arts Club, Illustrated Catalogue (1918) Nos. 41-2. 5 Article by E. G. Millar in Bulletin de la Societd Francaise de Manuscrits ? Peintures (1914-20) pp. 128-149. 6 E. G. Millar : English Manuscripts ofX-XIII Centuries (1926) pp. 96, 97; PI. 81. 7 M. R. James : Descriptive Catalogue of the Latin MSS in the John Rylands Library, Mancheste r, Vol. I. Text; Vol. II. Plates (1921).</page><page sequence="13">SOME ENGLISH EXAMPLES OF THE MEDIAEVAL REPRESENTATION OF CHURCH AND SYNAGOGUE 73 The All Souls manuscript has an illumination showing the Crucifixion with the Virgin on one, and St. John on the other, side of the Cross. Two of the lobe-like frames attached to the border show one the Church and the other the Synagogue. The Church is shown crowned and mantled, with a pennon and staff in her right hand and in her left a decorated chalice, wide and shallow, mounted on a knop and base. The Synagogue is shown stricken and toppling over, a shattered pennant falling from her right hand and her left letting fall a vase which being overturned pours its liquid contents onto the ground She is not however blindfold or veiled and she still wears her mantle. Among the Latin manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, Manchester (No. 24) there is a Missal of the Sarum Use of Henry of Chichester which Dr. M. R. James dated as of about the middle of the thirteenth century. The initial letter of folio 153 shows the Crucifixion between the figures of the Church and Synagogue. The former is crowned and wears a decorated robe and an overmantle, and bears in her right hand a staff with a red cross banner and in her left a large chalice held out towards the right side of the central figure. The Synagogue wears but a plain loose garment without a mantle and is blindfold; the staff with a pennon on which is depicted a crescent is shattered in her right hand, and in her left is an overturned vessel from which its contents pour to the ground. Dr. James considered the figures to be characteristically English and that they show the boldness and roughness of the style. Further, "their colour is excellent, but the face-drawing is not skilful; the eyes are beady and doll-like. The general effect, however, is fine and the condition for the most part very good indeed". The overturned vessel may be compared with that on the roughly contemporary St. Eleutherius Reliquary at Tournay, of about 1243, where the figure of the Synagogue is described as "turning scornfully from the Saviour, whose precious blood she rejects, overturning the chalice which she holds in her right hand."1 The implications of the overturned chalice are clearly shown in a fifteenth century wood-cut depicted in E. Dutuit's Manuel de VAmateur d'Estampes (1884), in plates 33 and 36, where the "good Christians" hold out the chalices, while the "wicked Christians" have theirs inverted, and a group of Jews and Pagans is shown with broken chalices at their feet. Dr. M. R. James describes in his catalogue of the Yates Thompson Collection2 an illustrated Apocalypse (MS. 55) of the English School of about 1280-1300, and in his detailed description he deals with an illustration showing on the left under a trefoiled arch with turrets above the Church sitting crowned, with a flag and with a chalice into which a lamb sheds its blood. On the right, is the Synagogue seated under a smaller tabernacle, blindfold, with broken reed and dropping the Tables of the Law. In the centre, four bearded men represent Old Testament Saints, one of whom holds the sealed book of the Old Testament towards the Church as if desiring her to open it. Add. MS. 425553 was acquired about twenty-five years ago by the British Museum from private hands. It is thought to have been written and painted, possibly at St. Augustine's Canterbury, not much later than the middle of the thirteenth century and is known as the Abingdon Apocalypse. It belongs to what has been called the Canterbury group which has been described by Dr. Millar and of which the Yates Thompson MS. referred to is also a member; and it is authoritatively suggested that these two MSS. were executed in the same studio, although there is the customary variation in the handling 1 J. Warichez : La CatUdrale de Tournai (1930) p. 79 (154). 2 A Descriptive Catalogue of the Second Series of Fifty Manuscripts in the Collection of Henry Yates Thompson (1902) pp. 20, 24. The MS has since passed into the Gulbenkian Collection. 3 British Museum Quarterly, Vol. VI (1932) pp. 71 and 109?</page><page sequence="14">74 SOME ENGLISH EXAMPLES OF THE MEDIAEVAL REPRESENTATION OF CHURCH AND SYNAGOGUE of details. This appears so with regard to the illustrations of Church and Synagogue where the only difference seems to be that the figures in the one case are sitting and in the other standing, and save for this the description just given of the details in the Yates Thompson MS. applies to those of Add. MS. 42555. In his catalogue of the Eton College Manuscripts,1 James describes another Apoca? lypse of the English School of the thirteenth century some of the illustrations of which he believed were actual designs for stained glass windows. The two which here concern us are, first a Crucifixion, with the Church standing on the left, depicted as a nimbed female holding a chalice; on the right a six-winged seraph sheathing his sword; above the cross-beam are two heads, one beardless, looking at Christ and the other the blindfold Synagogue looking away. The other shows the Synagogue unveiled; she is seated on a throne, full-face, with her arms extended and holding in her right hand the Tables of the Law, which are partly green and seem to be sprouting, while in her left hand is a gold vase. A hand from above draws a veil off her face and head. On each side is a bearded figure, pointing to her. The inscription on the border runs "Hactenus obscuris legis velata figuris Adveniente fide rem synagoga vide". In the Library of the Society of Antiquaries is the Psalter of Robert de Lindeseye, Abbot of Peterborough, of early thirteenth century date. Dr. Millar2 explains that "the provenance of this exquisite psalter" is shown by the inscription "Psalterium Roberti de Lindeseye, abbatis" on the first fly-leaf and by some distinctive Peterborough entries in the Kalendar. Robert was abbot from 1214 to 1222. Herbert3 fixed its date as between 1220 and 1222, but states that the miniatures show the thirteenth century style in full maturity. He describes that of the Crucifixion as the most striking of these, and after detailing the principal figures, he speaks of the shaft and arms of the cross "covered with a symmetrical leafy stem?a very unusual feature; less rare, especially about this time, are the half-length figures of the Old and New Dispensations, and of Moses balanced by S. Peter, in medallions at the corners". The Church and Synagogue are of the usual character and bear the customary symbols ; Moses holds a book in the right hand and wears the horns on his forehead?on this occasion rather crumpled? and S. Peter a book in his left hand and the double-warded key in his right, and wears the tonsure. With the Society of Antiquaries MS. may be compared the reverse of a leaf from a Psalter executed in England in the 13th century and stated to resemble the former in its style. It is now in the British Museum (Cotton MS. Vespasian A.I.f.l).4 In the left hand medallion at the top of the page is represented the crowned Church, in a blue mantle and holding the standard; in that on the right, the Synagogue, a tottering figure with falling crown now just discernible, and so far as can be seen her hands free. There are other kinds of Church decoration or of furniture which might be expected to exhibit the two conventional figures, e.g. bosses or misericord seats but so far I have been unable to discover any examples. The late C. J. P. Cave, the well-known authority on bosses, did not recollect any, as he kindly informed me ; and with regard to misericords 1 ... Manuscripts in Eton College (1895) pp. 95, 100, 103. 2 English Illuminated Manuscripts from theXth to theXIIIth century (1926) PI. 92-3 PL 69. 3 Illuminated Manuscripts (1911) pp. 180-1 ; pi. XXII. The page is also reproduced in Burling? ton Fine Arts Catalogue, PI. 36. 4 A description is given in British Museum Reproductions from Illuminated MSS, Series III, 1908, p. 11, but only the obverse is reproduced?as Plate XV. See also Millar, op. cit. p. 48:</page><page sequence="15">SOME ENGLISH EXAMPLES OF THE MEDIAEVAL REPRESENTATION OF CHURCH AND SYNAGOGUE 75 Francis Bond's1 remarks are apt: "To the wood-carver on the other hand, ecclesiastical subjects made little appeal. He was a man of the people, and evidently those whose taste he was allowed to consider, and did consider, were not bishops and abbots or monks or canons but just such common people as himself. . . . But probably the reasons why ecclesiastical dignitaries who paid for the work preferred as a rule other scriptural subjects were that they did not wish a delineation of sacred things to be placed where it would be normally in contact with the least honourable portion of the human person". It may be observed that a very high percentage of the works of art which have been discussed belong to the period from 1200 to 1350. We may reject, as it has been rejected, Viollet-le-Duc's2 view that the personifications of Church and Synagogue were set up where there were settlements of Jews, and direct connection between their representations and the oppressed condition of the Jews may be difficult directly to trace. But it cannot be an accident that within the period mentioned there took place both the Expulsion from England in 1290 and that from France in 1306. Thanks are due and are appreciatively rendered for photographs supplied by or by permission of the following : The Trustees of the British Museum ; the Victoria and Albert Museum ; the National Buildings Record ; Eton College ; the John Rylands Library; Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd; the Rev. Canon Fred Harrison, Chancellor of York Minster; and Messrs. Bernard Rackham, C.B., M.A., F.S.A., and Arthur Gardner, M.A., F.S.A. Some of these are reproduced herein and the courtesy is gratefully acknowledged. ADDENDUM While this paper was in the press, an account appeared in The Times of 16th January, 1957, of the discovery on 23rd November, 1956, in the Minories, London, of a headless and mutilated female figure. Dr. Joan Evans, Director of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and Mr. Norman Cook, f.s.a., Keeper of the Guildhall Museum, expressed the view that the figure may possibly represent the Synagogue. A further article will be appearing in Volume CXIII of the Archaeological Journal. It is fair to state that the identification has not been universally accepted, as the correspondence following The Times report has shown, but whatever may be the result, if any, of the controversy, it has been thought necessary to record these facts and opinions. 1 Wood Carvings in English Churches, I. Misericords (1910) pp. 128, 129. 2 Dictionnaire Raisonne de VArchitecture Francaise (1867-8) T. 5 Arts: Eglise Personnifiee p. 155.</page></plain_text>

bottom of page