Jerusalem Illuminated: An Illustration in a Unique Manuscript of Nicholas of Lyra’s Commentary of Ezekiel

By Felicity Richards

The Special Collections of Walsh Library at Fordham University in New York City preserves several folios of a medieval manuscript with text from the Postilla super total Bibliam, a biblical commentary of the thirteenth-century Franciscan scholar Nicholas of Lyra (b. 1270 in La Vielle-Lyre France, one hundred thirty-five kilometers west of Paris).[i] This work was copied widely in later medieval Europe and published in an early printed edition of 1472, though it has never appeared in a modern scholarly edition.[ii] The text on the folios held at Fordham corresponds to Nicholas’s commentary on Ezekiel 42-48. On the last of these manuscript folios is a stylized depiction of the city of Jerusalem that has heretofore never been described or analyzed in published scholarship. 

By way of introduction, a few notes about the manuscript as a whole are in order. The folios are approximately 42 x 21 centimeters. Each folio has two columns, and, in each column, there are approximately 66 lines. On the folio with the Fordham image, there are approximately 24 lines per column. The parchment itself has survived in good condition; the top left corner of several folios is torn, but otherwise there is no additional excess damage to the parchment.

There is no attached date to the Fordham MSS Group 2 folios, but an approximate date and a potential geographic location can be surmised when examining the script. The Fordham manuscript is a conglomerate of two scripts. On the one hand, the script itself is most closely related to a French style of script called Lettre Bâtarde, commonly used in France throughout the fifteenth century, which helps point to a potential location and time for the creation of the Fordham manuscript.[iii] The elongated and tall shape of the letter s and f, in addition to the slightly angular slant of letters such as a, indicate that they belong to this style.  On the other hand, it also bears some similarity to another script found throughout Europe during the Gothic period (thirteenth through fifteenth centuries), Gothic Quadrata Bookhand.[iv] Gothic Quadrata Bookhand is characterized by angular letters and the regularity of the handwriting.[v] Another characteristic of Gothic Quadrata Bookhand that appears in the manuscript is “biting of bows.”[vi] This refers to instances when two letters share one stroke and the bows of the letters overlap.[vii] This is often the case in the Fordham manuscript. The script is thus an unusual blend of these two different styles.

The city of Jerusalem was a central subject for illuminators of medieval manuscripts. Images of Jerusalem often supplement texts, helping the reader to imagine what Jerusalem could look like. Some provide an idealized vision of Jerusalem; others strive for accuracy.  Scholarship traditionally views these images through the lens of biblical exegesis. It is clear that a major driver behind the depiction of Jerusalem in these manuscripts is the tradition of a Heavenly or New Jerusalem, an idea first found in the Book of Ezekiel and developed as well in the Book of Revelation and other ancient texts.  In these works, the Heavenly or New Jerusalem is imagined as a heavenly or future incarnation of Jerusalem; the New Jerusalem is often but not always associated with the apocalypse.

In medieval Hebrew manuscripts, Jerusalem is invoked in a variety of ways. One of the most direct references to Jerusalem is associated with a line often recited towards the end of the Passover Seder, “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Among Jews of the diaspora, the hopeful exclamation looks forward to the Jews’ return to Jerusalem while also invoking the coming of the Messiah, and more generally a sense of hope and renewal. Another focus of Jewish manuscript illuminations is the temple of Jerusalem, as it appears in various biblical texts.  1 Kings and other passages throughout the Prophets and later Jewish texts portray the Temple of Solomon as God’s dwelling place on Earth, and illuminations in biblical manuscripts illustrate the temple accordingly.

Figure 1: Next Year in Jerusalem from the Bracelona Haggadah
London, British Library, MS Add. 14761, f.88.

Christian devotional manuscripts often place images of Jerusalem in two different contexts. First, Jerusalem is illustrated in depictions of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Mt. 21:1–11, Mk. 11:1–11, Lk. 19:28–44 and Jn. 12:12–19). The manuscript illuminations that depict this scene from the Gospels vary greatly in how they depict Jerusalem. Some manuscripts, such as the St. Alban’s Psalter and the Isabella Breviary, depict the walls of Jerusalem in the background with Jesus on a mule entering the city gate. It is the walls and gateway of the narrative, and not the larger city, that is the focus.[viii]  These illuminations serve as reminders of how important Jerusalem was in the stories of Jesus as they are told in the Gospels, and how sacred the city became for Christians after its Christianization in the fourth and fifth centuries.

Depictions of Jerusalem also frequently appear in apocalyptic contexts, often in relation to the book of Revelation. In these cases, it is the New Jerusalem that is depicted, rather than the historic city, the Jerusalem of Jesus’ lifetime.  These illustrations attempt to render what this heavenly city will look like. In the Christian Bible, the idea of a new Jerusalem appears towards the end of the Book of Revelations and it is believed to be where God will manifest upon return to Earth. John believes that the New Jerusalem is the place that Saints will return to Earth, alongside God.[ix]  Revelations 20 describes the final judgement that occurs. This centers around both God and Satan deciding who is pious and who has sinned and thus if they will be sent to hell or to the New Jerusalem. But in Revelations 21:1-3, the New Jerusalem appears as a beacon for all who have been judged as pious:

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth was gone, and the sea is now no more.  And I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a great voice from the throne, saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them.” (Revelations 21:1-3)

For Christians, Jerusalem holds a special place as it is where Jesus died and was resurrected. But in the book of Revelation, composed by a Jewish follower of Jesus, John of Patmos, in the decades after Jerusalem’s destruction by the Romans, Jerusalem becomes the ideal city where the resurrected Christ will reside for eternity – and it is no longer the same Jerusalem in the same physical location, it is, rather, an ideal. This version of Jerusalem, while it resembles the physical city of Jerusalem, in fact comes down from Heaven along with the Saints and angels.[x] Creating an apocalyptic New Jerusalem reassures the believer of the promise of an experience with God and a hope for life after death.[xi] Jerusalem thus symbolizes eternal life alongside God in a metaphorical city of Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem, according to later Christian depictions, appears to be a place where God will always be found, replete with angels.

The image of Jerusalem in Nicholas of Lyra’s manuscript is interesting because it does not appear in a text about Jesus’ entry into the city nor as an illustration of the Book of Revelation.  Rather, it is placed after the commentary on the description of the vision of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 48, immediately following the verses detailing the city gates:

“And these are the goings out of the city: on the north side thou shalt measure four thousand and five hundred.  And the gates of the city according to the names of the tribes of Israel, three gates on the north side, the gate of Ruben one, the gate of Juda one, the gate of Levi one.” (Ezekiel 48:30-31)[xii]

Figure 2: The depiction of Jerusalem by Nicholas Lyra. New York, Fordham University Library Special Collection MSS Group 2, folio 3v (upper register)

There is nothing ornate about the illustration: there is no gold leaf and it does not contain a lavish rendering complete with people and a narrative. A closer examination, however, reveals that it is more than a simple schematic. The illustration in the manuscript depicts the city.

While the Jerusalem image is the only major artwork in the folios held by Fordham, the manuscript does feature some decorations associated with reading aids in the text, such as red underlining of the biblical text, red chapter headings, and illuminated book headings, showing which part of the Bible is dealt with in the associated commentary. The only parts that could be considered lavishly decorated are the abbreviations for the names of the biblical books on the top of the page. These, in addition to several initials, resemble common features in deluxe manuscripts. The drawing surrounding the letters is intricate and is featured across all of the folios. There is a large amount of detail prevalent in these initials. The artist who created this manuscript had an artistic flair.

Figure 3: Book heading “Eze” New York, Fordham University Library Special Collection MSS Group 2 folio 1v
Figure 4: Book heading “Eze” Book heading “Eze” New York, Fordham University Library Special Collection MSS Group 2 folio
Figure 5: Initial C[ompleta]: short treatise on the “vision image” of Jerusalem in Ezekiel 48 ” New York, Fordham University Library Special Collection MSS Group 2 folio 3v

These three images are examples of the intricate headers, or initials, on the top of the manuscript folio that state what part of the Bible is being discussed. These are just some of the more intricate decorative initials that are found scattered throughout. When these textual design features are compared with the image of Jerusalem, it becomes clear that the simplicity of the Jerusalem image was deliberate.

The 48 lines underneath the illustration contain a brief essay or extended sequence of Nicholas of Lyra’s thoughts connecting the idea of a historical city of Jerusalem with the description of the future Heavenly city of Jerusalem.  For example, Nicholas of Lyra writes:

“It is certain however, from 3 and 4 Kings that the Temple of Solomon was built in the city of Jerusalem, and by consequence the temple was rebuilt by Zerubbabel, and in this the Latin and Jewish historians agree.  The Temple, however, and the city of the vision which are described above are distant from each other by 28 miles or more. Therefore, it is impossible, it would seem, that the vision both of the rebuilding of the Temple and of the city should be understood [as taking place] after the return from Babylon.”[xiii]

This section of Nicholas of Lyra’s text indicates that he is concerned with solving the conundrum of the relationship between the temple in Jerusalem that Ezekiel describes in his text (that appears after the destruction of the first temple) and the temple in Solomon’s Jerusalem (that is, the first temple). This sentence, in conjunction with the illustration, demonstrates Nicholas of Lyra’s impulse to harmonize divergent biblical texts and solve textual problems.

The illustration itself depicts twelve distinct gates, which correspond to the tribes of Israel. At the top, labeled the western side (occidens), is Gad, Asher, and Naphtali. Next, on the side labeled North (aquilo), is Reuben, Judah, and Levi. At the bottom, where it is labeled East (oriens), is Dan, Simeon, and Joseph. The final set of names on the southern side (auster) is Zabulon, Issachar, and Benjamin.[xiv]

For a reader of Nicholas of Lyra’s commentary, the names associated with these gates gesture both backwards and forwards in the biblical text, referring both to the sacred geography of the Holy Land and also to the eschatological architecture of Ezekiel’s heavenly Jerusalem. The twelve tribes refer to Jacob’s sons (and in two cases grandsons), who appear in the second half of the book of Genesis as individuals, are then blessed by Jacob at the end of Genesis, and become tribes within the People of Israel in the remainder of the Pentateuch and Prophets, playing a prominent role as well in the conquest of the land following the Exodus from Egypt and the time spent wandering in the desert. The prominence of the names in the image of Jerusalem would likely have called to mind some elements of this sacred history and the sacred geography that went along with it. 

But the reader would also have been reminded of the New Jerusalem, the city described in the book of Revelations 21, even though this image accompanies a commentary of Ezekiel. The chapter begins: “And I John saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:1). In the description of the New Jerusalem that follows, John turns to the city’s gates: “And it had a wall great and high, having twelve gates, and in the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.  On the east, three gates: and on the north, three gates: and on the south, three gates: and on the west, three gates” (Rev. 21:12-13).  This description refers directly to Ezekiel 48 and the gates that the text describes, but John is very explicit about the function of these gates in an eschatological context: “And the gates thereof shall not be shut by day: for there shall be no night there.  And they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. There shall not enter into it anything defiled, or that makes abomination or a lie, but they that are written in the book of life of the Lamb” (Rev. 21: 25-27).  The image of Jerusalem can thus also be viewed as a map with the center representing the holiness of the coming New Jerusalem. At the center of the image, Jerusalem is not written but rather “city” (civitas), a city at the center of all the tribes, and perhaps the center of the world.

Figure 6: Cambridge, Trinity College Library, R.16.2, f. 25 v

The apocalyptic resonances of the Jerusalem image in the Fordham folio become especially clear when compared with an image of Jerusalem in the Trinity Apocalypse (Cambridge, Trinity College Library, R.16.2) from the thirteenth century.  In the Trinity Apocalypse, the city of Jerusalem is depicted as a simple square surrounded by twelve gates, three on each side. Unlike the Lyra illustration, however, the center of this apocalyptic rendering features the figure of Jesus Christ, an angel, and a tree. An angel at the bottom left corner of the illumination guides an individual into the center of New Jerusalem to be joined with God. God is clearly marked as being in the center of the image due to the figure of Jesus sitting with a lamb on one side and the Bible on the other side.

The image from the Fordham manuscript is not the sole image from a manuscript of Nicholas of Lyra’s commentary on Ezekiel that depicts the temple in Jerusalem. A manuscript from Oxford University (Bodleian, MS. Canon. Bibl. Lat. 70, fol. 165v), for example, contains an image depicting a vastly different depiction of the temple in Jerusalem.  A manuscript of Nicholas of Lyra’s Postilla litteralis on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art likewise contains a drawing of the “Elevation of Solomon’s Temple” in bright reds, blues, and yellows.

Figure 7: Bodleian, MS. Canon. Bibl. Lat. 70, fol. 165v
Figure 8: Elevation of Solomon’s Temple, from Nicholas of Lyra’s Postilla Litteralis, Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Cloisters Collection, 2011.20.4

In recent years, scholars have shown that Nicholas of Lyra’s commentary was influenced by the Tanakh commentary composed by Shlomo Yitzchaki, known as Rashi (1040-1105).  Rashi had a unique style of commentary that subsequently became widely adopted. He often applied a more literal approach to commentating on the Bible, prioritized the “literal translation” rather than agreeing with midrashic commentaries often found in earlier rabbinic compilations of biblical exegesis.[xv] This method was soon adopted by Christian and Jewish scholars.[xvi]

How did Nicholas of Lyra learn about and read Rashi?  Nicholas of Lyra grew up in Lyra, nearby a town called Evreux, also a center of Jewish thought at that time.[xvii]  It is possible that he learned Jewish commentary orally through interacting with individuals in this town. However, this is not the broadly accepted theory. The more likely scenario is that Nicholas read and worked with Hebrew manuscripts themselves.[xviii] Several studies have noted Nicholas of Lyra’s dependence on earlier Jewish biblical commentaries, a reliance Nicholas himself acknowledged.[xix] Sarah Bromberg, in her study of Nicholas of Lyra, mentions, for example, the similar use of diagrams in Rashi’s writings.[xx]

What does a close examination of Nicholas of Lyra and Rashi’s commentary on Ezekiel reveal? Ezekiel discusses the layout and structure of the temple in Jerusalem. Rashi seeks to clarify portions of the Bible that seem confusing. One such example is Ezekiel 46:2-3:

“And the prince shall enter by the way of the porch of the gate from without, and he shall stand at the threshold of the gate: and the priests shall offer his holocaust, and his peace offerings: and he shall adore upon the threshold of the gate, and shall go out: but the gate shall not be shut till the evening. And the people of the land shall adore at the door of that gate before the Lord on the sabbaths, and on the new moons.” (Ezekiel 46:2-3)

Rashi’s commentary seeks to clarify this passage, which states that the gates to the temple will only close in the evenings.  Rashi questions the specific timing of the gates’ closure: why do they remain open all day?  His commentary explains that the gates are open to allow the people to come and bow down all day long. As Rashi writes: “And the people of the land shall prostrate themselves: all day, and whoever comes, too, and in the evening they shall close it.”[xxi]  Rashi’s commentary does more than simply clarify the confusing parts of the text, however. It also points out some instances where there may be some inconsistencies, unusual wording that needs to be clarified, or expands on concepts.

Like Rashi, Nicholas of Lyra attempts to interpret the discussion of the temple courtyard to fit his reading of scripture, discussing the dimensions of Solomon’s temple in the context of the historical city of Jerusalem. Then, Nicholas compares the historical city with the city represented in Ezekiel as the New Jerusalem. Lyra attempts to understand exactly how the two biblical descriptions of Jerusalem relate in terms of their scale, layout, and architecture.

If Nicholas of Lyra himself depended on Rashi, and perhaps worked alongside Jewish scholars in making his commentary, what relationship might the Jerusalem image in the Fordham manuscript have with images of Jerusalem in Jewish manuscript traditions? In Hebrew religious manuscripts, the idea of a New Jerusalem is not closely tied with the notion of an apocalyptic narrative ending as much as it is with the idea of the community’s return to the actual city or the advent of the Messiah to the city to take up divinely ordained leadership.  For example, the Worms Mahzor, a thirteenth-century manuscript from Germany, depicts a rebuilt Jerusalem – that is, the city in the future, when Jews will return and rebuild.[xxii]

Figure 9: Jerusalem, National Library of Israel, Hebrew MS 4 (Worms Mahzor), vol. 1, f. 98r.

In the Worms Mahzor, the illumination frames the text, acting as an accompaniment to it. Unlike the Fordham illustration, in which the image works to visually depict the text, the Worms Mahzor illumination works as background to supplement the words written. The most important words on the folios are encased by the historical city of Jerusalem. In the Fordham illustration, the text is placed below the image, suggesting that the text is in part explained by or subsidiary to the illustration. Also, the decorative elements stand in stark contrast to the Fordham manuscript.

Both the Fordham illustration and the Worms Mahzor depict Jerusalem’s gates, but they direct the gaze of the viewer very differently.  In the Worms Mahzor, the viewer is invited to peer into the gates – and thus into the city – but what the viewer sees when they do so is the text of the Mahzor itself.  In the Fordham illustration, in contrast, the eye is automatically drawn to the writing in the center of the illustration. The margins on the previous folio appear to draw a line oriented in the east-west orientation to the names of the tribes written. Once your eye is drawn to the first tribe, it then travels to all of the other names written across the border. This then suggests that the most important part of the illustration is the words, rather than the decorations. Or perhaps, they can be viewed in tandem.[xxiii]  In both, the text stands at the center, with the illustrations supplementing, adorning, and explaining the text.

Felicity Richards received her BA from Fordham College at Lincoln Center in 2019 and her MA in History, with a medieval concentration, from Fordham University in 2021.

This blog post is an excerpt from Felicity Richard’s MA thesis, titled “Commentary on Ezekiel Found in the Fordham Collection: An Examination of Jerusalem in Nicholas of Lyra’s Commentary.”  This manuscript illumination and corresponding essay will be featured in an upcoming exhibition at Fordham’s Walsh Library, curated by Prof. Sarit Kattan Gribetz in conjunction with her “Medieval Jerusalem: Jewish Christian, Muslim Perspectives” course. 

Image Credits

The Depiction of Jerusalem. Nicholas of Lyra.  Fordham Library. New York City, Fordham University Library, MSS Group 2m. f. 3v.

The New Jerusalem. Trinity Apocalypse. Cambridge, Trinity College Library. R. 16.2, 25 v.

Worms Mahzor. Jerusalem, National Library of Israel, Hebrew MS4, vol 1, f. 98r.

Next Year in Jerusalem. Barcelona Haggadah. London, British Library. MS Add 14761, f. 88. 

Temple Diagram. Nicholas of Lyra. Bodleian, MS. Canon. Bibl. Lat. 70, fol. 165v.

Elevation of Solomon’s Temple. Nicholas of Lyra. Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Cloisters Collection, 2011.20.4.

Bibliography:

Dombibliothek Hildesheim, St. God. 1 (St. Alban’s Psalter).

London, British Library Add MS. 18851 (Isabella Breviary).

Bromberg, Sarah. “Exegetical Imagery for King Manuel I of Portugal: Solomon’s Temple in Nicholas of Lyra’s ‘Postilla.’” Zeitschrift Für Kunstgeschichte 77.2. (2014): 174.

Clemens, Raymond, and Timothy Graham. Introduction to Manuscript Studies. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007.

Geiger, Ari. “A Student and an Opponent: Nicholas of Lyra and His Jewish Sources,” in Nicolas de Lyre: francise an du XlVe siècle, exégète et théologien, edited by Gilbert Dahan(Paris: Institut d’études augustiniennes, 2011, 167-203.

Gundry, Robert H. “The New Jerusalem: People as Place, Not Place for People.” Novum Testamentum 29.3 (1987): 254-264.

Kogman-Appel, Katrin. “Jewish Art and Non-Jewish Culture: The Dynamics of Artistic Borrowing in Medieval Hebrew Manuscript Illumination.” Jewish History 15:3 (2007): 187-234.

Krey, Philip D. “Nicholas of Lyra: Apocalypse Commentator, Historian, and Critic,” Franciscan Studies 52 (1992): 53-84.

Lee, Pilchan. The New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation: A Study of Revelation 21-22 in the Light of its background in Jewish Tradition. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001.

Lucie-Smith, Edward. The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Art Terms, 2nd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2003: “Lettre bâtarde.”

Lyra, Nicholas. Postilla Super Totam Cum Postilla Nicolae Lyrani, edited by Jean and Jacques de Cuilly. Venice: Giunti, 1603.

Matenaer, James M. “Lyra in Light of Condemnation.” Franciscan Studies 65 (2007): 349-69.

Merrill, Eugene H. “Rashi, Nicholas de Lyra, and Christian Exegesis.” The Westminster Theological Journal 38.1 (1994): 66–79.

Meyer, Ann Raftery. Medieval Allegory and the Building of the New Jerusalem. Cambridge: DS Brewer, 2007.  

Nuvoloni, Laura. “The Woodcut as Exemplar: Sources of Inspiration for the Decoration of a Venetian Incunabulum.” Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 15:1 (2012): 141-163.


Notes:

[i] Philip D. Krey, “Nicholas of Lyra: Apocalypse Commentator, Historian, and Critic,” Franciscan Studies 52 (1992): 54.

[ii] Nicholas of Lyra, Postilla Super Totam Cum Postilla Nicolae Lyrani, edited by Jean and Jacques de Cuilly (Venice: Giunti, 1603).

[iii] Raymond Clemens and Timothy Graham, Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2007), 169-170; “Lettre bâtarde,” in Edward Lucie-Smith, The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Art Terms, 2nd ed. (London: Thames & Hudson, 2003).

[iv] Clemens and Graham, Introduction, 153-154.

[v] Clemens and Graham, Introduction, 154.

[vi] Clemens and Graham, Introduction, 154.

[vii]  Clemens and Graham, Introduction, 154.

[viii] Dombibliothek Hildesheim, St. God. 1 (St. Alban’s Psalter); London, British Library Add MS. 18851 (Isabella Breviary).

[ix] Robert H. Gundry, “The New Jerusalem: People as Place, Not Place for People,” Novum Testamentum 29.3 (1987): 255.

[x] Gundry, “The New Jerusalem,” 255.

[xi] Pilchan Lee, The New Jerusalem in the Book of Revelation: A Study of Revelation 21-22 in the Light of its background in Jewish Tradition (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), 8.

[xii] All references to Ezekiel in the context of the Latin commentary are from the Douai-Rheims translation, originally published in 1582.

[xiii] Nicholas of Lyra. Postilla, cols. 1479-1480.

[xiv] In Latin, the first row is Gad, Aser, Neptalim. The second row is Reuben, Juda, Leui. The third column is Dan, Simiamin, Ioseph. The final row is Zebulon, Isarcar, and Binyamin.

[xv] Eugene H. Merrill, “Rashi, Nicholas de Lyra, and Christian Exegesis,” The Westminster Theological Journal 38.1 (1994): 68-69.

[xvi] Merrill, “Rashi, Nicholas de Lyra, and Christian Exegesis,” 68.

[xvii] Geiger, Ari. “A Student and an Opponent: Nicholas of Lyra and His Jewish Sources,” in Nicolas de Lyre: francise an du XlVe siècle, exégète et théologien, edited by Gilbert Dahan(Paris: Institut d’études augustiniennes, 2011), 167-203, at 7.

[xviii] Geiger, “A Student and an Opponent,” 8.

[xix] James M. Matenaer, “Lyra in Light of Condemnation,” Franciscan Studies 65 (2007): 350; Sarah Bromberg, “Exegetical Imagery for King Manuel I of Portugal: Solomon’s Temple in Nicholas of Lyra’s ‘Postilla,’” Zeitschrift Für Kunstgeschichte 77.2. (2014): 174; Laura Nuvoloni, “The Woodcut as Exemplar: Sources of Inspiration for the Decoration of a Venetian Incunabulum,” Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 15:1 (2012): 146.

[xx] Bromberg, “Exegetical Imagery,” 175.  The majority of the article discusses the depiction of Solomon’s Temple in Nicholas of Lyra’s Postilla. This illustration follows along with Lyra’s tradition of using diagrams to supplement his commentary. 

[xxi] Rashi on Ezekiel 48:3.

[xxii] Ann Raftery Meyer, Medieval Allegory and the Building of the New Jerusalem (Cambridge: DS Brewer, 2007), 5.  

[xxiii] Katrin Kogman-Appel, “Jewish Art and Non-Jewish Culture: The Dynamics of Artistic Borrowing in Medieval Hebrew Manuscript Illumination,” Jewish History 15:3 (2007): 206.

An Indulgence from William of Adam in Fordham’s MS 29

By Liam Pardo FCRH’22

Guillaume Adam, better known by his English name William Adam or William of Adam, or by what he called himself and as he was addressed, Guillelmo Ade, was a French Dominican who traveled throughout southern and eastern Europe, Ethiopia, India, and Persia, where he spent much of his time in service to the Church.[i]  It is unknown when he was born, but he lived during the first half of the fourteenth century, dying between 1338 and 1340.  Although most of the major Crusades were long over, the idea of taking back the Holy Land and Jerusalem, under Islamic rule at the time, was still a topic of discussion throughout the Church.  William was a staunch advocate of another Crusade, and his travels throughout the East, especially in Persia and the Byzantine Empire, greatly influenced his ideas about a potential future conflict in the region.  Williams states in one of the works attributed to him, titled De modo Serracenos extirpandi or How to Defeat the Saracens, that “Among other members of my order who go to the nations of the infidels to preach the faith, I have seen many lands, traveled through many provinces, and experienced the ways of many peoples, and often such laments have filled my ears, often they have moved me to bitter inner heartfelt tears.”[ii]  (The term “Saracen” was used by medieval European Christian writers to refer to Arab Muslims, and is common in Crusader literature.)  In this text, William writes about how to root out the Muslims from the Holy Land and even focuses on the capture of Constantinople as a necessary measure to achieve on the way to Jerusalem.[iii]  

William of Adam’s treatise, translated by Giles Constable, reads more like a call to arms than a how-to manual, as its name suggests.  William is incredibly passionate about this endeavor, especially its connection to Jerusalem.  He states: 

The voice of the church weeping with Rachel, the voice of the oppressed Christian people, the voice of those trapped in servitude to the Saracens, the voice of the land consecrated by the blood of Christ fill the world and resound with frequent, bitter, and loud laments.  The church cries to the heavens, and there is no one to hear that her splendid sons have been taken. Her children are led into captivity before the face of the oppressor (Lamentations 1:5), and there is no peace for them on account of the affliction and extent of servitude…  

Lastly, the Holy Land cries that strangers devour it before our face (Isaiah 1:7); it keeps a Sabbath in the enemy’s land (Leviticus 26:35) and remains without its due inhabitant (Jeremiah 4:7).  It is crossed and occupied by uncircumcised and impure people, who pollute the temple and trample on holy things.  It is inhabited by men who have shed like water the blood of their own Christian sons in the surroundings of Jerusalem.[iv]

In the first portion of this passage, William alludes to the matriarch Rachel, associated in medieval Christian literature with the Church.  Rachel’s weeping refers to a passage in Jeremiah 31:15, in which Rachel weeps on behalf of the exiled Children of Israel who leave Jerusalem for Babylon: “Thus says the Lord: A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping.  Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”[v]  In William’s text, Rachel weeps not for the Jews but for the Christians, who have lost sovereignty over Jerusalem.  In the second half of this passage, William characterizes the Muslim rulers of Jerusalem as intruders in the Holy Land, claiming that they have desecrated it and all the holy things that it holds.  He is also upset at the Christian rulers, whom he regards as a problem in the region because they sent Christians to die without true reason or a well-thought-out plan.  William may have written this treatise not only to promote another Crusade but also in order to prevent unnecessary Christian deaths should another Crusade occur.  During this time, the Egyptian Mamluks had control over the region, and William was one of the first writers to highlight the importance of the Indian Ocean and the trade routes connecting the Near East and Egypt to Asia, both for purposes of commerce and war.  He suggests that a blockade would be needed in order to cut off the Mamluks from this important trade network.  

Although these wars and plans never came to fruition, William had a successful career.  He became a bishop of the archdiocese Sultanieh, which included a large portion of western Asia, Smyrna in Asia Minor, and Antivari, now known as Bar in Montenegro.  With his experience in these regions, one could say that William would have been considered one of the leading thinkers of his day on the topic of whether and how Europe could launch another Crusade.  

William of Adam wrote other works in genres apart from his Crusader thinking.  For example, he is thought to have authored MS 29, an indulgence pertaining to Tarentaise, a valley in France, dated to 1335 and 1337.  This manuscript is currently housed in Fordham’s Special Collections.[vi]  While the indulgence is not from Jerusalem, one can see the importance of the city in William’s earlier writings.  Michael Sanders and David Howe did extensive work on MS 29, and this essay expands upon their findings and contextualizes it within William of Adam’s broader world, including Jerusalem. 

Indulgences are one of the most criticized aspects of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages, and many disliked them even then.  The major use of indulgences is what persuaded Martin Luther to write his 95 Theses and pin them to the door of the Wittenberg Church.  But, what are indulgences?  The official definition from the Roman Catholic Church, canon 992, states that “An indulgence is the remission before God of temporal punishment for sins whose guilt is already forgiven, which a properly disposed member of the Christian faithful gains under certain and defined conditions by the assistance of the Church which as minister of redemption dispenses and applies authoritatively the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.” Anne Bysted explains that there are three specific parts of this definition that help describe what an indulgence is.[vii]  Firstly, an indulgence is a remission of temporal punishment, meaning that it does not remiss one of eternal punishment in Hell or the guilt of sin, which can lead to eternal punishment.  One would need to go to confession before one dies in order to absolve yourself.  Secondly, an indulgence is a remission before God, since the Church has a “treasury” of the merits of God and the saints, so one pays for an indulgence in order to receive those goods.  Lastly, indulgences are remissions of penances, but not the sacrament of penance.  In order to receive an indulgence, one needs to have gone to confession and had their sins absolved beforehand.  

Even though the morality and ethics of indulgences are questionable, the organization that made it work was large and influential.  Indulgences characterized the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages, and especially during the Crusades, one of the bloodier times in medieval Europe and the Near East.  Apart from fighting for God, indulgences were used in order to make people fight during the Crusades.  Fighting and/or dying during battle, or in later Crusades, sending money or supplies to Crusaders, were considered automatic indulgences that allowed the soldier or patron to go to heaven without fear of repercussion.  Although the official Church has not confirmed that Crusaders who died were martyrs, to some like Jacques de Vitry, a medieval bishop of Acre during the early 13th century, it was an indulgence that Crusaders’ sins would be absolved and they would go straight to heaven if they “picked up the cross” and died.[viii]  Crusaders had temporal and spiritual privileges that helped persuade them to go on a Crusade, and indulgences were there to confirm that their spiritual life was safe and that their property would be secure while going to war.[ix]  Many Crusade indulgences were influential to the indulgence system and impacted how they could be used in the future, showing that even though Jerusalem and the Holy Land were incredibly far away, they were important enough to protect and die for. 

Figure 1: MS 29.  Notice the colorful illustrations and detailed penmanship of this indulgence.  The response by the archbishop can be seen at the bottom.

Not all indulgences, however, were connected with the Crusades.  MS 29 is a specific genre of indulgence called the collective indulgence that became increasingly popular.  Collective indulgences were different from regular indulgences in one major way – they implemented multiple bishops in their creation in order to bypass certain rules about how many indulgences a single bishop could give.  For example, there is evidence of a papal indulgence from the Church of Bethlehem, only a few miles away from Jerusalem, that would remiss one of sin for 40 days.  This indulgence was issued at a time when the Church of Bethlehem needed money and land from England in the mid-13th century.  The indulgence allowed “enjoined penance to anyone who aided them or sought to join their fraternity.”[x]  Although this indulgence from Bethlehem was not a collective one, it highlights one of the main reasons why collective indulgences and indulgences in general were used – they were profitable.  Since bishops had a limit for the amount of indulgences they would sell, they were limited in how much money they could make.  By working with other bishops, they could bypass this rule and group their indulgences together, thereby selling more than they would be able to sell on their own.  Sanders and Howe state: “They wanted financial support from the papacy for their dioceses or personal projects. Collective indulgences, or rather the fees garnered from them, were one of the ways they collected money.”[xi]  This was especially true in poorer dioceses.  

In this specific indulgence, William of Adam writes to James, the archbishop of Tarentaise, an area nestled within the French alps.  With 16 other bishops, he asks “We, bishops, desire that the chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Blaise, which is in a village of the sacred diocese of Tarentaise, will be venerated frequently with fitting honors and perpetually by the faithful of Christ; by all who are truly sorry and have confessed; by all who go to the said chapel for the sake of devotion, prayer, or pilgrimage…”  The bishops then say that in the chapel they will celebrate a multitude of feasts and holidays and that the people who worship there will take wonderful care of the chapel and what is inside of it.  To those that succeed in this task, William writes, “we, by the mercy of the omnipotent God and the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul whose authority has been entrusted to each of us, each mercifully grant 40 days of indulgences from penances imposed upon them, provided that the will of the bishop of Tarentaise approves and consents to it.  In witness of these things, we have ordered that the present letters be fortified with the affixing of our seals.”  Note how he writes “each mercifully grant.”  This is evidence of the loophole in effect, that each of the 16 bishops can give their allotted 40 days of indulgences to this one project, for a total of 640 days!  The archbishop of Tarentaise responded two years later, in 1337; his response appears on the bottom of the paper in a different color and handwriting.  Giving his seal as well, he accepts the conditions stated in the indulgences and grants the bishops the ability to sell them.  According to Sanders and Howe, the remnant of strings at the bottom of the manuscript may have held the seals that the bishops provided in order to give the indulgence credibility and authenticity.[xii]

Figure 2: A focused view of the leftover strings and the puncture marks that used to hold the seals.

Figure 3: A magnified view of the illustration of Saint Blaise.  Note the marks of the first draft of the bishop bishop behind the finished depiction of the saint. 

MS 29 is more than just a collective indulgence, however. It is an illustrated collective indulgence.  It features large lettering at the beginning of each major word, illustrated drawings of people and saints, and beautiful penmanship.  Most likely, this indulgence was hung up and displayed, since there are puncture marks in the corners, to show that the bishops were given permission to sell indulgences.  The upper left-hand corner features the depictions of people, angels, and prominently a beheaded bishop, who is believed to be Saint Blaise, one of the patron saints of the region.  If you look closely at the illustration of Saint Blaise, one can see an older, original version of the drawing in pencil behind the illustrated one.  It is thought that a scribe simply did not like the way he was drawing the saint or he made a mistake, so he stopped and started over.  Seeing this reminds us that people living during this time were human beings, and that not all artifacts have to be the remnant of a perfect piece; making mistakes is part of being human and this small detail highlights that very well.

William of Adam was well versed in the customs and ideas of his day.  He was fascinated by the crusading culture and wrote extensively on the subject, highlighting ways that Europeans may be able to win control over Jerusalem were they to go to war again.  Although Jerusalem was not the subject of this collective indulgence, its author most certainly had experience both in the region and with the people of the city.  This indulgence, however, most likely never left France until modernity.  From what is known about the provenance, since the beginning of the 20th century it was in New York, switching hands between Jesuit institutions until it reached Fordham University in the 1980s.  Since then, it has been in the collections of the university, kept in a climate-controlled room to make sure it is safe and secure.  On a worldwide scale, this piece is miniscule, but it is still an incredibly important manuscript that allows us to understand what the average business dealings of the church were during the 14th century, especially with people who are not necessarily known a global scale, but nonetheless important in their local contexts.  


Liam Pardo is a junior History major and Medieval Studies minor.  He is an avid fisherman who loves hiking to find new spots, all while enjoying the plant life along the way.


This blog post was originally written for Prof. Sarit Kattan Gribetz’s “Medieval Jerusalem: Jewish Christian, Muslim Perspectives” course; the indulgence manuscript and this essay will be featured in an upcoming exhibition at Fordham’s Walsh Library.  

Bibliography:

Ade, Guilelmus. How to Defeat the Saracens: Tractatus Quomodo Sarraceni Sunt Expugnandi. Translated by Giles Constable. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012. 

Bysted, Ane. Ane Bysted, 2005, www.anebysted.dk/English.html.  

Bysted, Ane. The Crusade Indulgence: Spiritual Rewards and the Theology of the Crusades, c. 1095-1216. Leiden: Brill, 2015. 

Carr, Mike. “Benedict XII and the Crusades.” In Pope Benedict XII (1334-1342): The Guardian of Orthodoxy, edited by Irene Bueno. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018. Pp. 217–240. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv513csm.13. Accessed 3 Dec. 2020. 

“Chapter IV. Indulgences.” Code of Canon Law – IntraTextwww.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/_P3I.HTM.  

Richard, J. “Adam, Guillaume,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/4, pp. 447-448; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/adam-guillaume-14th-century-traveler

Sanders, Michael, and David Howe. “An Indulgence with William of Adam, Archbishop of Antivari and Author of How to Defeat the Saracens.” The Crusader States. www.crusaderstates.org/indulgence-commentary.html.  Vincent, N. “Goffredo de Prefetti and the Church of Bethlehem in England.” The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 49.2 (1998): 213-235. doi:10.1017/S0022046998006319


[i] Ade and Constable, How to Defeat the Saracens, 1; Richard, “Adam, Guillaume.”

[ii] Ade and Constable, How to Defeat the Saracens, 25.

[iii] Richard, “Adam, Guillaume.”

[iv] Ade and Constable, How to Defeat the Saracens, 23.

[v] NRSV.

[vi] Sanders and Howe, “An Indulgence with William of Adam.”

[vii] Bysted, The Crusade Indulgence, 11.

[viii] Bysted, The Crusade Indulgence, 149.

[ix] Bysted, The Crusade Indulgence, 156.

[x] Vincent, “Goffredo de Prefetti,” 220.

[xi] Sanders and Howe, “An Indulgence with William of Adam.”

[xii] Sanders and Howe, “An Indulgence with William of Adam.”

The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem and American Evangelicalism

By Julia Kohut

Mary Angeline Hallock published The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem in 1869 in New York City through the American Tract Society.  The book was part of a series that consisted of at least two other books, titled The Child’s History of King Solomon (1869) and The Child’s History of Daniel (1870).  The book is a children’s chapter book.  It contains large font and several illustrations throughout. 

Figure 1: Cover of The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem,featuring an image of a Roman Judea Capta coin

The cover of the book is a deep red and embossed with a leaf design.  The words on the cover are written in gold.  The two halves of the title, “The Child’s History of” and “the Fall of Jerusalem,” are written in two different fonts.  An image of a Judea Capta coin, a coin Emperor Vespasian issued to commemorate the Roman victory in Jerusalem in 70 C.E., appears between the two parts of the title.  The cover page has the same Judea Capta image, with the words “Vespasian’s Triumphal Midal” written underneath it.  Fordham’s copy of the book appears to be in excellent condition.  The front cover is slightly worn, and the color has somewhat faded, but that is expected for such an old book. 

Not much is known about the author, Mary Angeline Hallock.  She was, however, a prolific author who published multiple books with the American Tract Society.  In addition to The Child’s History Series, the cover page of The Fall of Jerusalem also credits her with two other books, That Sweet Story of Old and Life of Paul.  She published other books as well, including Bethlehem and Her Children (1859), Beasts and Birds of America, Europe, Asia and Africa (1870), and Story of Moses, or Desert Wanderings from Egypt to Canaan (1888).  Her work with the American Tract Society, an evangelical publication, is most likely indicative of her religious upbringing and communal affiliation.[1]  According to documents from the American Tract Society’s online archive, the group was created in 1825 for three main reasons.  First, the Second Great Awakening in 1790 caused the widespread creation of new Christian groups and societies in America.  Secondly, America was annexing states in great succession, and these Christian groups wanted a way to spread their faith to those living in these new territories.  Lastly, there was a surge of immigration to America in the early 1800s, and so they felt the pressing need to educate the growing country and its new residents about their religion and its history, especially Jesus Christ.[2]

Figure 2: Table of Contents of  The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem

Based on this information, it is possible to assume that the American Tract Society published Christian authors who fit their narrative and bolstered their agenda.  In addition, we know that Mary Angeline Lathrop married William Allen Hallock, the son of Reverend Moses Hallock, who worked for the American Tract Society and was fundamental to its success.  Several of Mary Angeline Hallock’s books were already published with the American Tract Society when they wed.  The couple was married before The Fall of Jerusalem was published.[3]

The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem can be classified as historical fiction.  While the historical information is accurate to a degree (determined through comparison to historical documents and Josephus’s works), the facts are told through a fictional father, Mr. Sherman, who converses with his teenaged son and daughter, Charlie and Jennie.  The book is easy to understand and was probably intended for slightly older children.  The main characters are 12 and 14, probably the imaged age of the book’s ideal readers.  Throughout the book, Mr. Sherman assigns Charlie and Jennie their own research on people and events during Jerusalem’s destruction.[4]  Hallock might have decided to frame the story in this way to inspire her young Christian audience to conduct their own research and further develop their knowledge about their faith while cultivating good study or educational habits. 

Hallock provides background information on the city, beginning with Abraham taking Isaac to the land of Moriah. She explains that the Israelites took control of the city and that David became the king of Israel.  She also briefly describes the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes.  Four of the ten chapters are devoted to significant people, including Josephus, Antonius Felix, Agrippa, and Titus.[5]  Only three chapters are devoted specifically to the destruction.  The last three chapters of the book examine three different themes of the destruction: hunger, famine, and death.

There are 21 illustrations throughout the book.  Each of the ten chapters begins with an image depicting the main person or event introduced in that section.  The illustrations are incredibly detailed drawings and usually depict a Roman perspective. Roman soldiers are often in the forefront of the image and are drawn in more detail than Jewish aspects or people. Furthermore, several of the illustrations include “SPQR” in their borders. SPQR stands for the Senate and People of Rome (Senatus Populusque Romanus in Latin).

Figure 3: Illustrations from The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem

The first drawing (Figure 3, above) appears before the text begins.  It depicts Roman control of the city with Roman soldiers standing in line.  Juxtaposed to the Roman soldiers are disordered Jews on their knees in the background.  Spears are pointed to a menorah, and the words “Judea Capta” are written at the bottom of the image alongside a Roman emblem.  The second illustration (Figure 4, below), placed above the book’s opening lines, is a circular image of people walking into the city, some on horseback.

Figure 4: Illustrations from The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem

In this illustration (Figure 4), the people depicted on horses are most likely Roman Soldiers overseeing this movement of people.  On one side of the circle is a crate with a jug, perhaps containing olive oil.  On the other side is a table with a menorah and several ambiguous blocks.  The circle is encased with a variation of Psalm 48:12: “Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following.” This psalm personifies Jerusalem as a woman and encourages pilgrimage to the city to spread its history to others.  Both of these concepts are key themes in the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, and the citation of this Psalm alludes to this larger constellation of traditions, including to the feminization of Jerusalem in contexts of conquest in particular.  Other illustrations in the book show Roman soldiers on horseback as well (see Figure 5 below).

Figure 5: Illustration of Roman soldiers on horseback, preparing to enter Jerusalem

The work’s final illustration (Figure 6) is found at the conclusion of the book where the story transitions from Jerusalem to Rome, with the erection of Vespasian’s Temple to Peace. The illustration depicts the iconic panel from the Arch of Titus, featuring what appears to be smiling Roman soldiers carrying the precious Jewish artifacts that were seized during the destruction to Rome (the relief on the Arch of Titus has also been interpreted by scholars to depict enslaved Jews carrying the temple objects).[6] The artifacts include a golden menorah and the Book of the Jewish Law set on a golden table.[7]

Figure 6: Drawing of the relief from the Arch of Titus, depicting the Temple vessels taken out of Jerusalem to Rome
Figure 7: Arch of Titus in Rome
Figure 8 (right): Digital reconstruction of the colors of the Arch of Titus panel[8]

The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem describes the city in a tone similar to biblical texts.  The text emphasizes the inherent holiness and divinity of the city at various points throughout the narrative.  For example, on page eight, Hallock writes: “Troy was no more than any other city, while Jerusalem is identified with the church of God in all ages.”[9]  Like Jerusalem, the ancient city of Troy was a critical city.  After a long and strenuous battle, Troy was conquered by the Greeks.  Introducing Jerusalem as an important city to Christianity was a key strategy for Hallock, and probably the American Tract Society as well.  This would have cemented the younger generation’s notion that Christianity and Jerusalem were intrinsically connected and that each played a part in the other’s history – and, in turn, in their own history and identity. 

There is also an act of “othering” in the text that creates a divide between Christians and Jews, making the text slightly prejudicial and biased.  For instance, in reference to the Jews, Mr. Sherman tells his children that “their sin lay in not believing. Their scriptures were very plain; and in perfect harmony with them were Christ’s life and miracles, which were sufficient proof of his divinity.”[10]  Mr. Sherman tells his children that the Jews in ancient Jerusalem were negatively impacted because they did not accept Jesus Christ as their savior.  The children who would have read this book are thus  taught the same supersessionist lesson as Charlie and Jennie learn in the narrative.  Potentially, an entire generation of young Christians in America grew up believing in their superiority over Jews and that their claim to Jerusalem was more robust than anyone else’s claim. 

The history of Jerusalem is a contested history.  Debates about who deserved to live in the city and control it have persisted on and off since antiquity.  Researching children’s books, especially ones used for educational purposes, provides insight into what was significant to society at the time of publication.  What is omitted from texts like The Fall of Jerusalem is also significant. Sometimes, excluding certain information is deliberately done to suppress certain ideas.  Even if the history of Jerusalem was taught in American schools or in religious contexts in the 1860s, finding credible works about the city translated into English would not necessarily have been simple.  Hallock’s book might have been one of the only sources about Jerusalem available specifically for children in America.  Prejudice or bias in a children’s book would therefore have serious ramifications. 

For such a short book, it is relatively thorough.  Hallock references biblical passages and relies on Josephus’ account of the city’s destruction for the bulk of the information.  Unfortunately, Hallock does not cite any of the sources she used to write The Fall of Jerusalem, but we might make educated guesses about Hallock’s sources.  In 1737, W. Bowley, a publisher in London, published a translation of Josephus’s work titled The Genuine Work of Flavius Josephus, by William Whiston.  This translation of Josephus’s work included the first seven books of The Jewish War, making it a probable source.[11]  Recently, the University of Oxford collaborated with the UK Arts and Humanities Council to create the “Reception of Josephus Project.”  The project’s mission statement declares that “Josephus has been crucial in the formation of modern Jewish identity.  Our project explores how Jews since the middle of the 18th century have used and recreated his writings and how they have built on earlier uses of them for their own purposes.”[12]  Neither Hallock nor the American Tract Society was listed in this project, but it does include authors and texts written in English that could likewise have helped Hallock create her books – and her book certainly fits into the broader purview of the Oxford project to trace the reception of Josephus in the modern period.  One of the authors mentioned in the “Josephus Project” was Anglo-Jewish author Grace Aguilar who, while being British, had a large audience in America.  A contemporary of Hallock, Aguilar “often [chose] themes from Jewish history and religion, she sought to dignify Judaism and to push back Christian missionary activity.”[13]  Aguilar died in 1847, meaning that The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem was published after her death.[14]  It is possible, however, that Hallock attempted to rewrite Aguilar’s Jewish narrative from a Christian perspective and thus to undo the effects that Aguilar’s work might have had on American views of Jerusalem’s history.[15] 

The book ends with a hymn called “The New Jerusalem,” written by Charles Wesley, the Methodist movement’s English leader and acclaimed hymn writer.[16]  The last stanza reads:

Jerusalem, my happy home!

My soul still pants for thee;

Then shall my labors have an end,

When I thy joys shall see.[17]  

Ending the book with this hymn was another strategic move by Hallock and the American Tract Society because it reinforces the Christian narrative they cultivated throughout the book.  In this narrative, Jerusalem is a heavenly city connected to the Christians.  This hymn draws on and engages apocalyptic literature that suggests that Jerusalem is a destination before Heaven for Christians and a direct bridge to God.  The hymn suggests that when Christians return to Jerusalem their struggles will end and they will be greeted by God. 

Julia Kohut is a sophomore soon-to-be Political Science major and American Studies minor from New Jersey.  She loves baking, reading, and learning about history. 

This blog post was originally written for Prof. Sarit Kattan Gribetz’s “Medieval Jerusalem: Jewish Christian, Muslim Perspectives” course; the book and this essay will be featured in an upcoming exhibition at Fordham’s Walsh Library.  We thank the anonymous donor who donated books from the Yosef Goldman Collection, which included the book featured in this piece.

Bibliography:

“American Tract Society.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 April 2020. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Tract_Society. (Accessed December 9, 2020).

“Early History of the American Tract Society.” Internet Archive of the American Tract Society, 2008. (Accessed December 9, 2020). https://web.archive.org/web/20100525052409/http://www.atstracts.org/readarticle.php?id=4.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Charles Wesley.” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Charles-Wesley. (Accessed December 9, 2020).

“First Judaica & Judaic Firsts: Works of Josephus.” Works of Josephus – Judaic Treasures. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/works-of-josephus-judaic-treasures. (Accessed December 09, 2020). 

Galchinsky, Michael. “Grace Aguilar.” Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women’s Archive. https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/aguilar-grace. (Accessed December 9, 2020). 

Hallock, Mary Angeline. The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem. New York: The American Tract Society, 1869. https://archive.org/details/childshistoryoff00hall/page/192/mode/2up. (Accessed December 9, 2020).

McClintock, John, and James Strong.“Hallock, William Allen, Dd.” The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1880. www.biblicalcyclopedia.com/H/hallock-william-allen-dd.html. (Accessed December 9, 2020).

The Reception of Josephus in Jewish Culture. University of Oxford. January 12, 2020. https://josephus.orinst.ox.ac.uk. (Accessed December 9, 2020). 

The Arch of Titus Project. Yeshiva University, https://www.yu.edu/cis/activities/arch-of-titus (Accessed December 17, 2020).

Rajak, Tessa. “Grace Aguilar.” The Reception of Josephus in Jewish Culture. The University of Oxford. August 27, 2015. https://josephus.orinst.ox.ac.uk/archives/605. (Accessed December 9, 2020).


[1] “American Tract Society.” Wikipedia.

[2] “Early History of the American Tract Society,” Internet Archive of the American Tract Society.

[3] “Hallock, William Allen, Dd,” in McClintock and Strong, The Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature.

[4] Hallock, The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem, 23.

[5] Hallock, The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem, 15-23.

[6] On the Arch of Titus, see “The Arch of Titus Project,” Yeshiva University: https://www.yu.edu/cis/activities/arch-of-titus

[7] Hallock, The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem, 192.

[8] Image credit: VIZIN and the Yeshiva Univ. Center for Israel Studies; https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/MAGAZINE-archaeologists-reconstruct-how-the-arch-of-titus-looked-in-full-color-1.5449144.

[9] Hallock, The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem, 8.

[10] Hallock, The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem, 11.

[11] “Works of Josephus.”

[12] “The Reception of Josephus in Jewish Culture.”

[13] Rajak, “The Reception of Josephus in Jewish Culture.”

[14] Galchinsky, “Grace Aguilar.” Some of Aguilar’s work Galchinsky mentions some of Aguilar’s writings, including History of the Jews in England; Israel Defended; The Jewish Faith; The Spirit of Judaism; Women of Israel; A Vision of Jerusalem, While Listening to a Beautiful Organ in One of the Gentile Shrines.

[15] Galchinsky writes: “Lacking any Jewish translation of the Bible into English, Aguilar often felt she could satisfy her religious yearnings only by going to hear sermons in Protestant churches. These church visits provided the material for one of her most moving and ironic poems, a reverie of Israel redeemed, entitled ‘A Vision of Jerusalem, While Listening to a Beautiful Organ in One of the Gentile Shrines.’ Her practice of attending church would later provide fodder for her critics. Missionaries claimed to be able to see the light of the gospel in her work; Jewish critics claimed she was a ‘Jewish Protestant.’ … Anna Maria Hall introduced her to Robert Chambers (1802–1871), the radical Edinburgh publisher of Chambers’s Miscellany, who solicited an essay from her entitled ‘The History of the Jews in England.’ This remarkable essay, published months before her death, offered a more radical vision of Jewish-Christian relations than Aguilar had dared to put forward in any previous text. Here Aguilar substantially rejected assimilationism and called English Christians to a more stringent account than she had ever done before.”

[16] Charles Wesley,” Encyclopaedia Britannica.

[17] Hallock, The Child’s History of the Fall of Jerusalem, 192.

The Living Bible: Pilgrimage to Jerusalem through Stereoscope Photography

Liliya Fisher FCRH’21

This piece is a stereographic set of 30 images taken on a trip to the Holy Land in 1896.  The images were taken by Bert and Elmer Underwood.  The photos were published by Underwood & Underwood, a well-known stereoscopic company, owned by Bert and Elmer Underwood.  The 30 images in this set are part of a larger collection from the Underwoods’ trip that consists of a total of 100 images of the journey to and at the Holy Land. 

Figure 1: Stereoscope with photographs of the Holy Land and Jerusalem

In 1900, a 220-page book, titled Traveling in the Holy Land Through Stereoscope; a personally conducted tour by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, D.D., written by Reverend Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, D.D., was published to accompany the photos.  Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, D.D. was a clergyman of the American Episcopal Church and held positions all over New Jersey.[i]  The book contains corresponding texts to each of the 100 photographs as well as maps pinpointing the sites that guide the viewer through the images.  The current exhibit only contains 30 photographs and not the book. 

The 30 photographs in this series begin in the Port of Jaffa.  This port is a common entryway to the Holy Land for pilgrims, so it is fitting that the photo series begins there.  The photo of the camel caravan is used symbolically to show the pilgrims making their way out of Jaffa, further inland.  The Underwoods photographed the plains of Sharon, passing through Lydda, Mizpah, and Mount Scopus.  These sites are historical and can be traced to biblical narratives.  As the Underwoods approached Jerusalem, they photographed the Damascus Gate, with a great view of the city and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Jaffa Gate, and the ancient walls.  Other photos specific to Jerusalem include the Valley of Kedron, Tombs of the Prophets, the Garden of Gethsemane, Mount of Olives, and other panoramic scenes.  The Underwoods also photographed lepers, pilgrims, the Dome of the Rock, the Rock itself, the Wailing Wall, David Street, and Christian Street.  They even staged two Syrian women for photographs at the tomb of Jesus, to reenact the finding of the risen Jesus. 

This set of photographs is diverse in a number of ways.  This diversity can be seen through the different subjects that the Underwoods chose to photograph.  In some photos, there are no people, such as the photo taken outside the Dome of the Rock.  In others, the streets and the frame are completely full of people, such as the photo of the Greek Easter procession of the Patriarchs.  The final photo in this specific exhibit shows the pass of Upper Beth-Horon, which is an ancient city northeast of Jerusalem.  The photos also capture the diversity of people who live in and visit the city.  There is no doubt that these photos encapsulated the various types of people in the city, including Greeks, Ottomans, and Jews.

Stereoscopic photography is a form of photography that was popular between 1870 and 1920.  To view these photos properly, you need a stereoscope, a device that looks similar to binoculars.  The card mount photo card has two images placed next to each other.  When the viewer looks through the stereoscope, the images appear 3-D.  This device was fascinating to users in this time period, as it was the first of its kind, and the art of photography was quickly evolving.[ii]  The hope, expressed by Hurlbut, was to create an experience beyond what a 2- dimensional picture provides.  The use of a stereoscope thus creates a super realistic depiction of its scenes.  Adding these depths and dimensions creates grander photographs that are beyond the simple, 2-dimensional photographs.  This also aids in the purpose of the photographs, allowing those who could not visit Jerusalem in person to experience the Holy Land from their homes and elsewhere.  Pairing the images with descriptions, which are written in English, Underwood, Underwood and Hurlburt created an all-inclusive experience.  With Hurlburt’s accompanying book, the addition of maps that traces the path of pilgrimage also creates inclusivity and immersion in the Holy Land experience.  These maps can be accessed in the back of Hurlbut’s book.

To the Underwood brothers, photography was powerful, especially in religious contexts.  According to Rachel McBride Lindsey in A Communion of Shadows, the power of photography “facilitate[s] access to the sacred site without physical travel.”[iii]  The photographs, especially when viewed in 3D through a stereoscope, transport the viewer to the Holy Land.  The 3-dimensional image is an involved experience.  Lindsey quotes a viewer, for example, who reported that the experience of viewing these photographs “is almost the same as if we were actually traveling in the Holy Land.”[iv]  In Hurlbut’s introduction, he states that the photos make “the Bible real to us.”[v]  Since the Bible does not contain photographs, these early photographs were important because they allowed viewers to visualize the places about which they read in their Bibles or heard in their church services.  Because most people could not make the journey due to financial or other reasons, these photographs transported them to the Holy Land while they remained, physically, at home in the United States or elsewhere.  The photos thus served as many people’s first images of the real Levant and Holy Land, making once ancient lands a little more accessible.  Importantly, these images represented biblical Jerusalem, not contemporaryJerusalem.  They thus transported the viewer not only through space but also through time, and specifically to the time of Jesus.  This is a different type of immersive experience, more than simply reading biblical texts.  As a minister, the words of Hurlbut were highly valued in his religious community and to religious users of this stereoscope series.  His support of stereoscopic photographs helped make them popular and relevant in religious educational settings.

One important image to highlight is this context is the “Tomb of Our Lord.”  According to Lindsey and the accompanying description on the card mount, the two women in the image were Syrian girls that Bert and Elmer staged for the photograph.  This staging is based on Biblical Protestant interpretation.  Hurlbut references three different versions of the same description of the tomb.  First, he mentions John 19:41, Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.”  He also refers to Luke 23:53, “Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before,” and Matthew 27:60, “and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.” Hurlbut exclaims in the card’s description: “Even the possibility that we may be looking upon the rock walls which once enclosed the body of Jesus brings the scenes of the burial, the sealing and rising vividly before us.”[vi]

This stereoscope series was not unique: it was part of a broader photographic trend.  As stereoscope photography was the new craze in the mid 1800s, it made its way into the religious realm.  Popular religious sets include Holy Land Tours (1900) and The Life of Christ (1904).[vii]  Usually, when images of the Middle East, Levant, and holy sites therein were published, many were published as tourism or archeological photographs, not religious photographs.[viii]  To adapt them for religious purposes, they would be published as “scriptural interpretation.”[ix]  This framing as “interpretation” was important because the photographers and authors did not want them to be misunderstood as icons or sacrilegious images.  Moreover, the photographs and book were sold through the Bible Study Department of the publishing company. 

These images did not only serve as a form of travel from home.  They also served a pedagogical purpose as religious educational materials.  Some ministers actively supported the use of these stereographs as learning tools.  The stereoscope images of the Holy Land, for example, became teaching tools in Sunday school programs and home schooling for American Protestants.[x]  The cryptic description of the image, “Pilgrims in the Temple are: N. from El Aksa to Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem,” shown above, is a great example of this.  The description on the back of this card is an excerpt from Hurlbut’s book.  He first gives a general, geographical description: “We are standing in front of the Mosque El Aksa, just south of the Temple area, looking north to the Dome of the Rock.”[xi]  After Hurlbut establishes the location of the image, he acknowledges that the people seen in the photo are “Mohammedans,” and then he quickly shifts to describe the photograph’s biblical significance.  This gloss of a non-Christian pilgrim comes off as disrespectful, but Hurlbut seems mainly to be considering his Protestant audience, rather than Jerusalem’s local population.  Rather than dwelling on the mosque itself, Hurlbut explains how this is the site of Solomon’s newly built temple.  Then he jumps to explain how King Hezekiah held congregations in this same location.  Hurlbut continues to take his reader through the history of the site, with reference to Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles, stating that “That voice sounded out over this very area and before such a throng as this.”[xii]  It is not necessarily important to question how historically accurate Hurlbut is in his geography skills.  More important, for our purposes here, is to recognize that he sought to provide context for his congregation or whomever else was reading his descriptions.  The fact that Solomon, Jesus, and other famous religious figures were in the general vicinity of the site is proof enough for Hurlbut to keep the faith strong. 


The written descriptions of the images that appear on the back of the photographs play a key explanatory role. Without these explanations that come with the images, viewers would have a difficult time understanding some of the subjects of the images.  A worry in general with photography is that the framing of the image is decided by the photographer.  One must ponder not only what is included in the image, but also what is excluded.  The viewer must be wary of any hints of a forced interpretation of the image.  Consider, for example, image 18 of the Dome of the Rock, as seen in Figure 5.  The angle chosen provides a lot of foreground in the image.  Why did the Underwood brothers choose this angle?  It frames the Dome of the Rock nicely, but the disproportionate focus on the foreground is, at first glance, baffling.  The description explains, however, that this image was taken at the northwest corner of the Haram enclosure, and that the foreground shows the “native rock of Mount Moriah, just as Abraham found it when he climbed this hill for the offering up of his son.”[xiii]  We learn from this description that the focus of the photo is not the Dome of the Rock, as one might expect, but rather the ground before it, which is connected to Abrahamic history.


These stereoscopic images are a fascinating addition to the Fordham collection.  While the collection holds only 30 of the 100 images, they tell a great deal about Jerusalem in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s as well as the relationship that American Protestants sought to cultivate with Jerusalem from afar.  The images contextualize modern pilgrimages and visits to the Holy Land with the new technology of the stereoscope.  Bert and Elmer Underwood worked to reimagine the world of photography.  These 3-dimensional images not only brought a new form of entertainment, but also changed how a biblical scene could be portrayed and viewed.  The role of stereoscopic photographs in religious devotion and education is likewise important as the photographs bring those who cannot make pilgrimage closer to the sites through the medium of photography.  Through such series, photography became an acceptable educational resource used to teach biblical narratives to children and adults.  


Liliya Fisher is a FCRH senior Psychology major and Bioethics minor from Albany, NY.  She is a hiker, animal lover, and proud vegetarian who is currently on her way to join the Catskill 3500 Club with her dog, Patch.

This blog post was originally written for Prof. Sarit Kattan Gribetz’s “Medieval Jerusalem: Jewish Christian, Muslim Perspectives” course; the photographs and this essay will be featured in an upcoming exhibition at Fordham’s Walsh Library.  


Bibliography:

Hurlbut , Jesse Lyman. “Introduction,” in Traveling in the Holy Land, through the Stereoscope: A Tour Personally Conducted by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut (Underwood and Underwood, 1900), pp. 10–14, archive.org/details/travelinginholyl00hurl/page/10/mode/2up. 

Lindsey, Rachel McBride. A Communion of Shadows: Religion and Photography in Nineteenth-Century America. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2017. 

Smith-Pistelli, Della Dale. Reverend Jesse Lyman Hurlbut. 24 May 2018, www.geni.com/people/Reverend-Jesse-Hurlbut/6000000018605674334. 

“Stereographs.” Retrieved December 07, 2020, from https://www.americanantiquarian.org/stereographs.htm

“Stereograph Cards – Background and Scope.” Background and Scope – Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (Library of Congress), Library of Congress, www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/stereo/background.html. 


[i] Smith-Pistelli, “Reverend Jesse Lyman Hurlbut.”

[ii] American Antiquarian Society, “Stereographs”; Library of Congress, “Stereograph Cards.”

[iii] Lindsey, A Communion of Shadows, 201.

[iv] Lindsey, A Communion of Shadows, 203.

[v] Hurlbut, Traveling in the Holy Land, 12.

[vi] Excerpt from image 3106; extract from Hurlbut, “Traveling in the Holy Land through the Stereoscope.”

[vii] Lindsey, A Communion of Shadows, 206.

[viii] Lindsey, A Communion of Shadows, 206.

[ix] Lindsey, A Communion of Shadows, 206.

[x] Lindsey, A Communion of Shadows, 210.

[xi] Back of card #10976, “Pilgrims in the Old Temple Courts.”

[xii] Back of card #10976, “Pilgrims in the Old Temple Courts.”

[xiii] Card #3109 image description, the “Dome of the Rock” where the Temple Altar stood, Mt. Moriah, Jerusalem, Palestine.”