The Great Cyclorama of Jerusalem

Cyclorama

— post by Helen Smith

Soon after we received news that we had been successful in our bid for network funding, I told a friend I was about to spend a few days in Quebec. ‘You must see the Jerusalem cyclorama!‘, he said.

Tucked away in the tiny town of St-Anne-de-Beaupré is a striking round building, home to a vast perspectival representation of the crucifixion. 14 metres high, and 110 metres in circumference, the ‘cyclorama’ is viewed from a small central platform, as a spectral voice guides you, step by step through the landscape of the Holy City.

Though the guidebook boasts that ‘Cyclorama creates an illusion of life … so real that it gives visitors the feeling that they are themselves in Jerusalem’, the truth – at least for those living in an age of 3-D cinema – is less compelling, though the intricate detail of the painting is still remarkable.

How did the Cyclorama end up in rural Canada? It was made in Munich between 1878 and 1882. The painter, Her Bruno Piglhein was so determined to achieve an absolute realism that – along with two companions – he spent a year in Jerusalem, taking photographs and studying the history of the city. His aim was to educate an ignorant public on biblical history, including details of dress, customs, and the surrounding countryside.

In trying to locate the scenes of the crucifixion within the places of Jersualem, Piglheim and his associates were following in the long tradition of Geographia sacra, or sacred geography, which flourished during the late-sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Cartographers and biblical scholars worked hard to map biblical events onto the landscape of the Middle East, sometimes struggling to resolve obvious discrepancies between the biblical text and the physical features of the countryside (the abundant fertility of Jerusalem was one such trope).

The panorama was an exceptionally popular form. Conceived by Robert Barker in 1787, as he walked in the hills overlooking Edinburgh, panoramas were supposed to immerse the viewer completely in the scene, blurring the line between art and reality. Barker and his son created the first 360-degree panorama – a view of London – in a rotunda in Leicester Square.

Over time, the subjects of panoramas transformed, changing from sublime landscapes to military battles and biblical scenes. During and after the Napoleonic wars, panoramas displayed the victories and defeats of the Emperor. As his leading artist, Piglhein chose Paul Philippoteaux, already famous for his panoramic depictions of the Siege of Paris, the Battle of Gettysburg, and – perhaps most famously – the Battle of Waterloo.

The Cyclorama went on tour, displayed in the capital cities of Europe before it was taken to Montreal. In 1895, with the popularity of the panorama in decline, it was given its permanent home, near the Shrine of Ste. Anne de Beaupré.

Though the Cyclorama was designed to both immerse and educate visitors, it is clear that the ‘historic’ costumes and scenes bear the hallmarks of late nineteenth-century taste, and many visitors went to marvel at least as much at the size and technical achievement of the painting as to learn the story it told.

On a late September day in 2013, the Cyclorama was very quiet. It stands now opposite a car park, and the interior lacks the vivid freshness it must once have possessed. Its reviews on TripAdvisor are mixed, though one of the happier visitors records that ‘My wife and myself visited Jerusalem in Jul 2015’ – a momentary collapse of the city and its representation that would have made Piglheim proud!

Where the Cyclorama was once applauded as a compelling, immersive landscape, it stands now as a souvenir of the great age of the panorama, and the democratisation (in part, at least) of the great sites and scenes of the world and its history. It stands as a compelling reminder of the shifting priorities of heritage, commemoration, and display – now less a record of the biblical scenes and more a reminder of the competitive history and technical challenges of three-dimensional display.

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Tracing the Jerusalem Code: The Significance of Jerusalem in Western Christianity

jerusalemklippet

An international conference organised by colleagues in Oslo, including network member Kristin B. Aavitsland:

Tracing the Jerusalem Code: The Significance of Jerusalem in Western Christianity

Oslo, MF School of Theology, Gydas vei 4, 0302 Oslo

December 9-11 2015

Throughout the entire Christian history, the idea of Jerusalem, earthly and celestial, has been formative to the Christian Church and produced a fundamental structure of literary and visual religious language. In Western Christianity, this topos has been so influential that it may be described as a code to Christian culture. A new research project hosted by MF Norwegian School of Theology aims to explore the structuring significance of Jerusalem in Scandinavian history. Through a creative, interdisciplinary and cross-­‐period investigation of literal and visual sources and with the changing idea of Jerusalem as a lens, we want to develop new theoretical perspectives on the history of Christianity in Scandinavia. In order to posit the Scandinavian case, we have invited international scholars to a broader exploration of the formative impact of Jerusalem on identity constructions and legitimation strategies in diverse religious and political traditions.

Register for the conference by contacting Joar.Haga[at]mf.no

The registration fee includes conference materials, coffee, tea and snacks.

Price including all meals: NOK 2000,-

Price without meals: NOK 300,-

Download the conference programme.

Visit the research network homepage.

Call for Papers: Jerusalem Quarterly Special Issue on ‘Spying, Intelligence Services, Security and Surveillance’

The editors of Jerusalem Quarterly are seeking contributions for a special issue on ‘Spying, Intelligence Services, Security, and Surveillance in the Recent History of Jerusalem and Palestine’, to be published mid-2016.

The issue was inspired by Shuruq Harb’s essay “The First Palestinian Spy: Rahab the Prostitute and Yashu’ Ben Nun’s Army in Jericho”.

Suggested topics include:

1. The NILI Group: Abrahamson, the Ottomans and the British

2. Aziz Bey: Jamal Pasha’s Mukhabarat in Damascus and Jerusalem

3. British, German, Austrian and French Intelligence in Syria and Palestine

4. Antonin Jaussen: The Archaeologist as Spy

5. Max von Oppenheim, the Eighth Bureau and Teshkilat Makhsusah (Teskilat Mehsuseh)

6. Aerial Photography, Surveillance and the Bavarian Air force in Palestine

7. Monitoring ‘Suspicious Activities’ in the Old City: Cameras, Sound Sensors and Bio Metric Surveillance

8. Jordanian Intelligence Records in Jerusalem: The ISA archives.

9. Um al Qura: The Village Leagues and their newspaper during the First Intifada

10. Review of al Istikhbarat al Uthmaniyya published recently by Dar al Farabi (Beirut)

Please consider sending chapters from books in preparation, or recently published.

All contributions should be sent to Jerusalem Quarterly, IPS, Ramallah POB 212, Palestine or by email to stamari[at]palestine-studies.org.

Thanks to Roberto Mazza for sharing.

The Jerusalem Chamber, Holy Land Relics and the British Monarchy

A guest post from network member Dr Beatrice Groves, of the University of Oxford.

Beatrice’s latest book, The Destruction of Jerusalem in Early Modern English Literature, has just been published by Cambridge University Press. Among many topics examined in the book, one chapter focuses on the siege of Jerusalem in the work of Shakespeare. Perhaps Shakespeare’s most famous reference to Jerusalem is his depiction of the death of Henry IV in the Jerusalem chamber at Westminster Abbey, a scene discussed by Beatrice below:

Like the author of a recent network blog, I was lucky enough (while a friend was instituted as a canon) to visit the Jerusalem chamber this year. Following on from this, I thought I’d write about an ironic aspect of Henry IV’s death in this chamber which I noticed when I looked above my head and which has not, to my knowledge, been previously noted.

Henry IV’s death in the Jerusalem chamber is most famously described in Shakespeare’s Henry IV part 2:

It hath been prophesied to me, many years,
I should not die but in Jerusalem,
Which vainly I suppos’d the Holy Land.
But bear me to that chamber; there I’ll lie;

In that Jerusalem shall Harry die.                  (4.5.236-40)

The word ‘vainly’ is Henry’s caustic acknowledgement that while he had believed he had many years to live he has now discovered that, through an accident of naming (and no-one now knows why this room is called the Jerusalem chamber) he has only hours before he will die. In Holinshed – from whom Shakespeare takes this account – the king takes it slightly differently:

they bare him into a chamber that was next at hand, belonging to the abbat of Westminster, where they laid him on a pallet before the fire, and vsed all rememdies to reuiue him. At length, he recouered his speech, and vnderstanding and perceiuing himselfe in a strange place which he knew not, he willed to know if the chamber had anie particular name, wherevnto answer was made, that it was called Ierusalem. Then said the king; “Lauds be giuen to the father of heauen, for now I know I shall die heere in this chamber, according to the prophesie of me declared, that I should depart this life in Ierusalem”.

Offering ‘Lauds’ to God, Holinshed’s king seems to gain some kind of comfort from the knowledge that he will die in the Jerusalem Chamber (as Shakespeare’s Henry does, belatedly, in his more affirmatory final line: ‘In that Jerusalem shall Harry die’).

Our fellow network member, Anthony Bale, has written on his blog Remembered Places that many kings sought to die in Jerusalem. Henry’s death in the Jerusalem chamber is one link in his long project of associating himself with the Holy Land and its legitimating aura of sanctity. When Henry IV was still merely Harry Bolingbroke, he had taken a pilgrimage to Jerusalem (and he had done it properly: records suggest that he followed the pious custom of travelling the final forty miles from Jaffa on foot). Bolingbroke retained this respectful attitude towards the Holy Land when he came to be crowned, for his coronation is the first definite record we have of an English coronation taking place on that most contentious royal relic, the Stone of Scone.[1] In contemporary discourse the Stone of Scone is virtually synonymous with Scottish nationalism (its return to Scotland in 1996 was watched by 10,000 people who lined the Royal Mile) but this has obscured another aspect of the stone. When it was taken from Scotland by Edward I it was not only the site of coronation for Scottish kings but also a major relic from the Holy Land. It was believed to be – as noted by a chronicler in 1292 – ‘the stone on which Jacob had rested his head’ at Bethel (Genesis 28:10-22).[2]

The English monarchy has long been drawn to relics from the Holy Land. Henry IV’s coronation on the Bethel Stone has been followed by English royalty ever since, and when Charlotte Elizabeth Diana Windsor was baptised this year with water from the River Jordan she was following in a royal tradition, which, it is claimed, ‘dates from the Crusader king Richard I’ (Majesty, 5.9 (January 1985): 17). This ancient and persistent royal habit is due to the legitimising aura of holiness conferred by such relics and this aura was, of course, particularly necessary in the case of Henry IV. Henry IV was probably the first English king to be crowned seated on the Bethel Stone because his usurpation of Richard II’s crown meant that he needed all the symbolic legitimacy he could muster.

Henry IV, therefore, both began and ended his reign in (or on) the Holy Land: crowned on the Bethel Stone and dying in the Jerusalem chamber. But there is also a further circularity here. Henry IV needed the Bethel Stone at his coronation because his claim to the throne was a little shaky given that he had deposed and murdered Richard II, and Richard II was symbolically present at his death likewise. The Jerusalem chamber was built during Richard II’s reign and the ceiling is one of the few aspects of its original interior that remains. Had Henry IV looked up as he lay dying he would have seen (alongside the mitred initials of Abbot Nicholas Litlyngton) a ceiling richly decorated with the crowned ‘R’ of Richard II and emblazoned with the golden suns that were Richard II’s emblem.

Photo courtesy of the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall

Photo courtesy of the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall

Henry’s death in the Jerusalem chamber involves a certain irony given that the king believed he would die in the Holy Land; had he noticed Richard II heraldically triumphant above him, Henry himself might have found his death in this room even more pointed than subsequent generations have thought it.

[1] Johannis de Trokelowe and Henrici de Blaneforde, Chronica et Annales, Regnantibus Henrico Tertio, Edwardo Primo, Edwardo Secundo, Richardo Secundo, et Henrico Quarto, ed. Henry Thomas Riley (London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, 1866), p. 294.

[2] Willelmi Rishanger, Chronica et annales, regnantibus Henrico Tertio et Edwardo Primo : A.D. 1259-130, ed. Henry Thomas Riley (London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer, 1865), p.135

Book Launch: Jerusalem In World War I, by Roberto Mazza

Readers in Jerusalem might be interested in attending a talk by our member Roberto Mazza at the Kenyon Institute on 28 October 2015.

Roberto will discuss his book Jerusalem in World War I: the Palestine Diary of a European Consul with noted scholar Salim Tamari, to mark its publication in paperback.

If Jerusalem is less convenient, you can view an earlier talk about the book by Roberto on Youtube.

Jerusalem in World War I presents the diaries of a young diplomat, Antonio de la Cierva y Lewita, better known as Conde de Ballobar, who was sent to Jerusalem to take charge of the city’s Spanish consulate after the break out of World War I. Ballobar recorded the events he witnessed and described his experiences and opinions in a unique document that has become an invaluable resource for historians. His diary provides an unparalleled insight into late Ottoman Jerusalem – and the upheavals of wartime life in the city – and includes a detailed account of the battle amongst the local churches over control of the city’s holy places. Also touching upon the spread of Zionism and the establishment of British rule, Ballobar writes as a privileged observer of an exceptionally complex historical period.

Roberto Mazza earned his PhD from SOAS in 2007, and he has been recently appointed Lecturer in History at the University of Limerick (Ireland). His other publications include Jerusalem from the Ottomans to the British (2009) and a chapter on the Nebi Musa Riots in Urban Violence in the Middle East: Changing Cityscapes in the Transition from Empire to Nation State (2015, U. Freitag, N Fuccaro and C Ghrawi, Eds.).

Salim Tamari is a sociologist senior fellow at Institute for Palestine Studies and former director of the IPS-affiliated Institute of Jerusalem Studies. He is editor of Jerusalem Quarterly and Hawliyyat al Quds, and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.  Recent publications include: Year of the Locust: Palestine and Syria during WWI (2010); Ihsan’s War: The Intimate Life of an Ottoman Soldier (2008); and The Mountain Against the Sea (2008).

The launch will take place at the Kenyon Institute, 15 Mount of Olives Road, Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem (Next to the Gallery Cafe), on 28th Oct. 2015, 6.30pm.

A flyer can be downloaded here, and further information is available on the website of the Council for British Research in the Levant.

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.’