Ecclesia et Synagoga

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ECCLESIA ET SYNAGOGA , the name given to the symbolic representations in Christian art of the Middle Ages of the victorious Church and defeated Synagogue, symbolizing the triumph of Christianity. The representation is often found in medieval Christian manuscript art. It also became a conventional decoration in many medieval churches, especially in France, England, and Germany, and took the form of two graceful female figures, usually on the outside of the building. The Church is shown erect and triumphant, bearing a cross; the Synagogue is usually blindfolded and dejected, bearing a broken staff and sometimes decorated with the Tables of the Ten Commandments symbolizing the Old Testament. The best known statues of this type are on the exterior of the cathedrals of Strasbourg and Bamberg. They are also found in Rheims, Paris, and Bordeaux. In England, they figure, generally in a mutilated condition, in Rochester, Lincoln, Salisbury, and Winchester. The representation of the blindfolded synagogue was paradoxically reflected even in Jewish manuscript art: as for example in the miniature of the blindfolded Torah with her spouse, the People of Israel, in a 14th-century manuscript prayer book (Hamburg, Cod. Lev. 37; possibly having a symbolic meaning, representing the Torah and the People of Israel).


W.S. Seiferth, Synagoge und Kirche im Mittelalter (1964); B. Blumenkranz, Juden und Judentum in der mittelalterlichen Kunst (1965); E. Roth, in: awjd, 18:1 (1963); L. Edwards, in: jhset, 18 (1958), 63–75; P. Hildenfinger, in: rej, 47 (1903), 187–96.

[Helen Rosenau]