Visiting the Jerusalem Chamber, Westminster Abbey

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The wooden ceiling of the Jerusalem Chamber. Photo: Leigh Mullins, courtesy of the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall.

Not many people have the opportunity to visit the Jerusalem Chamber in Westminster Abbey. It’s usually off-limits to the public.

Palestine Exploration Fund (PEF) librarian Adam John Fraser was lucky enough to be allowed to see inside, and you can read about it in his blog post. The post also includes images of the room’s tapestries and architectural detailing, and a video on the PEF’s links with the Chamber. The PEF held its first meeting in the Chamber, in May 1865. If you’re a mathematical sort, you’ll notice this means the PEF is currently celebrating its 150th birthday.

The Jerusalem Chamber is part of the former Abbot’s house at Westminster, and was added in the fourteenth century. The origin of its name is unknown, but there are a number of rooms at the Abbey named after locations in the Holy Land, including Jericho and Samaria. In the medieval Palace of Westminster, the biblically-inspired room names became even more vivid, with rooms called ‘Heaven’, ‘Hell’ and ‘Purgatory’ (some might say that the moral character of Westminster’s current political inhabitants means that the latter two names remain appropriate – ho ho, etc).

The room is most well-known as the location of the death of King Henry IV, later dramatised in Shakespeare’s play, Henry IV Part II (Act IV, Scene 5). As the King was preparing to go to the Holy Land, he fell ill, and was brought to the Chamber in the Abbot’s house to recover. When he came to, he asked where he was and was told Jerusalem. It was reportedly at this point that Henry IV realised he was going to die, because of a prophecy that he would die in Jerusalem.

A number of kings sought to die at Jerusalem, or at least, some version of it. This meant, as our network member Anthony Bale puts it in a post about the Jerusalem Chamber on his blog, Remembered Places, that: ‘to die well is to die at Jerusalem. But not, necessarily, the actual Jerusalem, but the Jerusalem of the heart, and of the mind.’

British Mandate Jerusalemites Photo Library

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The Sansur Building on Zion Square, one of the busiest triangles in downtown Jerusalem, bordered by Jaffa Road and Ben Yehuda Street.

If you’re interested in Jerusalem’s early twentieth century history and haven’t yet liked British Mandate Jerusalemites Photo Library on Facebook, I highly recommend that you do. The page has been a welcome addition to my newsfeed since I discovered it earlier this year, popping evocative black and white images of a vastly different city from the one we know today in amongst the usual pictures of food, and other people’s cats (ok, I enjoy the cats).

I’ve particularly appreciated it since the start of the summer, when its intriguing photographs have helped to balance out friends’ seemingly endless holiday snaps, which I gaze at enviously while stuck in the library, writing up my thesis…

The page was set up by Mona Halaby, who lives in Berkeley, California. Halaby is conducting research for a book she hopes to publish about her mother’s life in Jerusalem, through black and white photographs of members of the city’s community during the British Mandate period. She intends to include short essays describing the photographs, as well as their historic significance, and their meaning in her mother’s life. It’s one of the most committed family history projects I’ve seen!

Halaby has an essay on photographs of schoolgirls in British Mandate Palestine in a special issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies, which you can read here. You can also read the Editorial by Issam Nassar, another a scholar of photography in this period, on the journal’s website. In her article, Halaby describes trying to identify the girls in an album she inherited, and feeling as if she was in a ‘”race against time” to rescue the past from oblivion’.

There are fascinating conversations in the comments beneath photographs, as followers of the page manage – amazingly – to identify the people included, and sometimes, the far-reaching places to which they and their families were scattered after 1948. Some followers of this blog with knowledge of the Mandate period may be able to join in. Others might just like to appreciate the bittersweet images of a lost, and often forgotten, era of Palestine’s history.

Here are a few more pictures from recent posts on the page:

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Helen & Georgette Abusharr, Sumaya & Samira Matar, Adele Hannoun, Aida Mistkawi and Salwa Morcos (whose father owned several hotels in Jerusalem), at the Rosary School in Jerusalem, 1947.

Bread seller on Wad St. in the Old City of Jerusalem, 1939.

Bread seller on Wad St. in the Old City of Jerusalem, 1939.

Katingo Hanania Deeb, with her women friends, preparing to demonstrate by car at the onset of the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt in Palestine, which was a nationalist uprising by Palestinian Arabs against British colonial rule, as a demand for independence and opposition to mass Jewish immigration, Jerusalem, 1936.

Katingo Hanania Deeb, with her women friends, preparing to demonstrate by car at the onset of the 1936-1939 Arab Revolt in Palestine, which was a nationalist uprising by Palestinian Arabs against British colonial rule, as a demand for independence and opposition to mass Jewish immigration, Jerusalem, 1936.

A wonderful caption on the above photograph:

‘This photograph speaks a thousand words about these dignified and politically committed women, but it also provides us with a glimpse of their style and sophistication, the way they dressed, the hats, the scarves, the sunglasses. A little gem of a photo that makes me proud to be a Palestinian woman, walking in the footsteps of such giants.

Hannah Boast

Memories of the Holy Land

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The Tower of David, Jerusalem. Photograph by Michele Campopiano, April 2013.

A post from Imagining Jerusalem network member Michele Campopiano (University of York), on some of the upcoming activities of his project with the Universiteit van Amsterdam, ‘Cultural Memory and Identity in the Late Middle Ages: the Franciscans of Mount Zion in Jerusalem and the Representation of the Holy Land (1333-1516)’.

Call for Papers: An interdisciplinary conference: ‘Memory and Identity in the Middle Ages: The Construction of a Cultural Memory of the Holy Land (4th-16th centuries)’ (Amsterdam, 26 & 27 May 2016)

Session at the International Medieval Congress: ‘Memory, Identity, and Renewal in the Late Middle Ages: The Franciscans of Mount Zion in Jerusalem and the Representation of the Holy Land, 14th-16th Centuries’ (Leeds, 6 July 2015)

The Holy Land has played an important role in the definition of the identities of the so-called Abrahamic religions. Constitutive narratives about the past of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam were largely bound to this shared and contested space. As put forward both by Maurice Halbwachs and Jan Assmann, memory adheres to what is ‘solid’: it is stored away in outward symbols. The Holy Land is a focal point around which the shared memories of these different groups formed, and has been crucial for defining their identities. Our project: ‘Cultural Memory and Identity in the Late Middle Ages: the Franciscans of Mount Zion in Jerusalem and the Representation of the Holy Land (1333-1516)’ is trying to analyze the role of the Franciscans in the construction of a cultural memory of the Holy Land. In the Late Middle Ages, when pilgrimage to the Holy Land experienced an extraordinary blossom, the Franciscans welcomed, helped and guided pilgrims in the Levant. We also aim to place our research in a broader cultural and religious context. We have therefore organised two different meetings in order to stimulate further exchange of ideas among different scholars of the Holy Land. In chronological order, the first will be our session at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds: ‘Memory, Identity, and Renewal in the Late Middle Ages: The Franciscans of Mount Zion in Jerusalem and the Representation of the Holy Land, 14th-16th Centuries’ (Monday 6 July 2015).

We are however also organizing an interdisciplinary conference in Amsterdam (26 & 27 May 2016). With this conference, we are hoping to work with an even broader range of specialists in different disciplines and periods about the connection between the Holy Land as site of memory and the formation of religious and political identities from Constantine to the Ottomans. The contribution of specialists in Jewish and Islamic studies, as well as that of students of Eastern Christian Churches, is particularly welcome. The period between the age of Constantine and the late Renaissance was formative for constructing this memory. It saw the valorisation of Christian holy places under Constantine, the birth of Islam, the construction of an important Jewish scholarly community in the Holy Land, the Crusades, the massive growth of late medieval pilgrimage involving Jewish, Christian and Islamic groups, as well as other crucial events. The conference aims to bring together scholars who study the memories of the holy places within these religious galaxies from various disciplinary perspectives, in order to achieve a constructive exchange of ideas. Scholars of all so-called Abrahamic religions are invited to submit proposals, including scholars of Western and Eastern Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The call is open for historians, art historians, literary scholars, theologians, philosophers working on topics ranging from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance.

This conference is organised by me and the other members of the team of the research project ‘Cultural Memory and Identity in the Late Middle Ages: the Franciscans of Mount Zion in Jerusalem and the Representation of the Holy Land (1333-1516)’: Valentina Covaci, Guy Geltner and Marianne Ritsema van Eck. The project is funded by the Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO).

We are looking for papers about 30 minutes long, and will be followed by 15 minutes of discussion. Participants are asked to send an abstract of 300 words to memory.and.identity.conference@gmail.com before 1 December 2015, together with information concerning their academic affiliation. Travel costs and two nights of accommodation will be financed by the project.

For further information, please download the call for papers here.

If you have other question about our session at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds or our Conference in Amsterdam, feel also free to contact me (michele.campopiano[at]york[dot]ac[dot]uk). All comments on this website are welcome: we are looking forward to engaging the broader public in our multidisciplinary research!

Michele Campopiano

University of York

Universiteit van Amsterdam

Malcom Barber and Keith Bate on letters from crusaders and pilgrims

Hannah Boast:

This looks like an intriguing new collection.

Originally posted on Ashgate Publishing Blog:

Posted by David Cota, Senior Marketing Coordinator

Letters from the East presents translations of a selection of the letters sent by crusaders and pilgrims from Asia Minor, Syria and Palestine. There are accounts of all the great events from the triumph of the capture of Jerusalem in 1099 to the disasters of Hattin in 1187 and the loss of Acre in 1291.

In this guest blog editors Malcolm Barber and Keith Bate reflect on the letters they selected for their volume.

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There are fascinating and vivid chronicles in the Ashgate series, many of which have been expertly analysed with the aims of determining the motives of the writers, the influences upon them, and the circumstances in which they were composed. We see the letters complementing these, since, even in the hands of a self-conscious author like James of Vitry, Bishop of Acre, they were subject to the…

View original 939 more words

New Publication: Visual Constructs of Jerusalem, ed. by Kühnel, Noga-Banai and Vorholt

visualVisual Constructs of Jerusalem is a new volume of essays, edited by Bianca Kühnel, Galit Noga-Banai, and one of our network members at York, Hanna Vorholt.

Hanna has sent us some further details about the collection:

‘This volume brings together 44 articles by scholars from 15 different countries and is an outcome of the research project SPECTRUM Visual Translations of Jerusalem.

The special position of Jerusalem among the cities of the world stems from a long history shared by the three Abrahamic religions, and the belief that the city reflected a heavenly counterpart. Because of this unique combination, Jerusalem is generally seen as extending along a vertical axis stretching between past, present, and future. However, through its many ‘earthly’ representations, Jerusalem has an equally important horizontal dimension: it is represented elsewhere in all media, from two-dimensional maps to monumental renderings of the architecture and topography of the city’s loca sancta.

In documenting the increasing emphasis on studying the earthly proliferations of the city, the current book witnesses a shift in theoretical and methodological insights since the publication of The Real and Ideal Jerusalem in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Art in 1998. Its main focus is on European translations of Jerusalem in images, objects, places, and spaces that evoke the city through some physical similarity or by denomination and cult – all visual and material aids to commemoration and worship from afar. The book discusses both well-known and long-neglected examples, the forms of cult they generate and the virtual pilgrimages they serve, and calls attention to their written and visual equivalents and companions. In so doing, it opens a whole new vista onto the summa of representations of Jerusalem.’

See the publisher’s website for the full list of essay titles.

Sharing the Holy Land: Perceptions of Shared Sacred Space in the Medieval and Early Modern Eastern Mediterranean

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Registration is now open for ‘Sharing the Holy Land: Perceptions of Shared Sacred Space in the Medieval and Early Modern Eastern Mediterranean’, at the Warburg Institute, University of London, 12-13 June.

The symposium includes keynote addresses from Professor Osama Hamdan (Al-Quds University, Jerusalem), Professor Bernard Hamilton (Nottingham) and Professor Benjamin Kedar (Hebrew University Jerusalem).

Our network members Anthony Bale and Michele Campopiano are also presenting.

From the event website:

This symposium seeks to address how both Western pilgrims and the indigenous Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Levantine population perceived the sharing of religious shrines with other faiths. In particular, scholars will look at how this sharing is described and explained in contemporary accounts and how this influenced the knowledge of other faiths among the Semitic religions. The symposium will focus on the period from c.1100 to c.1600, addressing the changing political context in the Levant and its influence on the sharing of sacred space.

The programme can be viewed here.

Please send any questions to Jan Vandeburie: sharingtheholyland2015(at)gmail.com

Zombies in the Old City

Tablet magazine highlights a new film called JeruZalem, which looks like it could be excellent trashy summer viewing for Jerusalem fans.

Explicitly invoking biblical eschatology in its trailer, JeruZalem presents a modern take on the narrative of the resurrection at the end of days, in the form of (what else?) a zombie horror film. Its premise is as follows:

American tourists visiting Jerusalem arrive just as the mouth of hell opens up and spits out agitated zombies, at which point said tourists take refuge in the world’s greatest hideout, the Old City.

As Tablet points out, Max Brooks’ novel World War Z , made into a film of the same name starring Brad Pitt in 2013, also brought zombies to Jerusalem.

In the film, Israel is one of only two countries (curiously, along with North Korea) to have survived a zombie onslaught, saved by the initiative of its secret service agency, the Mossad. Israel takes in survivors, of all religions and nationalities, and builds an enormous wall around Jerusalem to keep the zombies out. This section of the film does not have a happy ending.

Who am I to say, but I suspect there might be some political metaphors in here.

Hannah Boast