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

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

sharing

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

Miniature Jerusalems

By Laura Slater

The ERC-funded SPECTRUM: Visual Translations of Jerusalem project documents and examines visual translations of Jerusalem across Europe, including such famous examples as the Temple Church in London or the Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy, but also a multitude of lesser known sites which have hitherto been studied only at a regional level. One well known English example of these monumental reproductions of Jerusalem is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Northampton, built in the early twelfth century by Simon de Senlis, the first Norman earl of Northampton and Huntingdon.

Round nave of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Northampton: Laura Slater

Round nave of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Northampton: Laura Slater

On a research trip to the town, however, I discovered that Northampton contains not one translation of Jerusalem, but two:

Model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Northampton Museum and Art Gallery: Laura Slater

Model of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, Northampton Museum and Art Gallery: Laura Slater

This model of the Holy Sepulchre is owned by the Hutton family and can be visited at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery. These miniature scale models record the appearance and architectural features of the Holy Sepulchre from the period of its 1555 restoration to the disastrous fire in 1808. They are now valuable sources for historians. The models were constructed in relation to the detailed plans and drawings of the Holy Sepulchre drawn up at the end of the sixteenth century by a Franciscan friar, Bernardino Amico. The practical execution of these models was not the responsibility of the Franciscans, but craftsmen in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The scale models were produced in relatively large numbers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: as souvenirs for pilgrims and grand tourists, and as elaborate diplomatic gifts for rulers.

Northampton Museum and Art Gallery: Laura Slater

Northampton Museum and Art Gallery: Laura Slater

Inlaid with ivory and mother of pearl, the Northampton model is made out of shittim or shittum wood – better known today as the acacia. The shittah tree, identified with either the acacia nilotica or more usually, the acacia tortilis, can be found across the Middle East, especially in Egypt and the Sinai peninsula. It is probably from here that our model’s materials were sourced. The use of shittim wood to make the Northampton Holy Sepulchre model was not simply a question of using cheap, locally available timber. Shittim is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. It is the material from which God commanded that the Ark of the Covenant and parts of the tabernacle, including altars and holy vessels, be made in Exodus 25-27. The connection back to the Old Testament, and the sense of continuity with a lost sacred object it might provide, helps us understand why these models were so treasured.

The models were designed like Lego bricks – they could be detached and rebuilt part by part, and each individual ‘brick’ was signed with letters or numbers. Every model came with a parchment scroll detailing what each letter or number signified. This might be a bell tower, a gate, a chapel, an altar, the site of a particular tomb, or a place where the Virgin Mary stood during the Passion. In this way, one could inspect every feature of the church, remembering and imagining Jerusalem exactly how one pleased and in as much detail as desired. Nor were such scale models restricted only to the Holy Sepulchre Church. There are also surviving models of the Grotto of the Nativity and the entire Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. In this view of the south transept facade of the church, still the main public entrance of the Holy Sepulchre, you can see the attention to detail in the model. Just as it still is today, the right hand side of the door has been blocked up. The building on the right, up the tiny staircase, is the medieval Chapel of the Franks, now the tenth station of the Via Dolorosa.

Northampton Museum and Art Gallery: Laura Slater

Northampton Museum and Art Gallery: Laura Slater

South transept facade of the Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem. Source: Wikimedia Commons

South transept facade of the Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem. Source: Wikimedia Commons

And on the other side of the miniature building is the Anastasis Rotunda, where the empty tomb chamber can be found.

Northampton Museum and Art Gallery: Laura Slater

Northampton Museum and Art Gallery: Laura Slater

England, Jerusalem and Catholicism

By Dr Lucy Underwood.

In July 1581, in Oxfordshire, a government agent infiltrated a Catholic Mass said illegally by a Jesuit priest, Edmund Campion. According to George Elyot, the Jesuit preached a long sermon:

the effect of his text being, as I remember, That Christe wept over Ierusalem &c., And so applied the same to this our Countrie of England, for that the Pope his authoritie and doctrine did not so floorishe heere as the saide Campion desired…(1)

This vignette – coming via the hostile observer who then arrested the preacher – offers a rare glimpse of Catholic preaching in Elizabethan England, a phenomenon about which we know little more than its existence. And it tells us that the Catholic missionary’s central metaphor involved Jerusalem. What roads does this point to for exploring how Jerusalem was imagined in the Reformation era? How Jerusalem – which has been appropriated as a symbol by so many competing groups – might be used to express the interlacing of religious and national identity, when both were conflicted and could be seen as mutually exclusive? Campion imagined Jerusalem as England, appropriating to his own country the identity of the biblical Holy City. But the implications of this casting are ambivalent. Campion’s text – the designated gospel reading for that day – was Luke 19:41-47:

And when he drew near, seeing the city, he wept over it, saying: [42] If thou also hadst known, and that in this thy day, the things that are to thy peace; but now they are hidden from thy eyes. [43] For the days shall come upon thee, and thy enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and straiten thee on every side, [44] And beat thee flat to the ground, and thy children who are in thee: and they shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone: because thou hast not known the time of thy visitation. [45] And entering into the temple, he began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought. Saying to them: It is written: My house is the house of prayer. But you have made it a den of thieves. [47] And he was teaching daily in the temple. And the chief priests and the scribes and the rulers of the people sought to destroy him: [48] And they found not what to do to him: for all the people were very attentive to hear him.

England is imagined as ‘faithless Israel’, rejecting the Messiah. Early modern Christian appropriations of Israel/Jerusalem tend to carry as much (or more) warning, even threat, as they do aspiration or endorsement: integral to their view of Jerusalem and the Jewish people was that their city was destroyed by the Romans in consequence of their rejection of Christ, which echoed their frequent rejections of earlier prophets. Imagining Jerusalem network member Beatrice Groves is exploring early modern depictions of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, and how they could function as warning: you too may be destroyed if you don’t live up to your role as God’s people. The Catholic Campion’s use of Luke 19 demonstrates that Protestants had no monopoly on this kind of imagery.

We have no information on the content of Campion’s sermon, beyond the comparison of Jerusalem’s rejection of Christ with England’s rejection of ‘the pope his authority and doctrine’, i.e. Catholicism. But there are various possibilities: the pope himself, perhaps, is imagined as Christ’s representative, mourning England’s self-destructive apostasy. Or perhaps the missionary priests – Campion and his colleagues – are linked to Christ, creating an opportunity to compare the executions of missionaries in England with the death of Christ.

How much ‘warning’ might Campion have invoked? Threat was not far away. The papacy had condemned Queen Elizabeth’s Protestant regime as illegitimate; religious wars were being fought in the Netherlands; European Catholic powers were beginning seriously to consider attack on England. The idea that England’s failure to return to Catholicism might put her in danger of destruction was no mere literary flourish. Campion probably did not refer specifically to the political context at Lyford on 11 July 1581; Elyot would have told us if he had. But, then, he hardly needed to.

Yet, from a Catholic point of view, the predictions of Luke 19 had already been fulfilled: England’s Catholic shrines had been destroyed, and English Catholics had been reduced to subjection. Was Campion preaching a retrospective repentance? Protestant persecution should be understood as the result of Catholic England’s inadequate holiness.

Campion’s invocation of this particular Jerusalem text also invokes a rhetoric of patriotism, at the same time as it castigates England. If Christ weeping for Jerusalem represents Catholic missionaries, their imagination of England as a ‘faithless Jerusalem’ becomes a sort of tragic patriotism, an attitude found in other Catholic texts dealing with England’s apostasy.

Elyot doesn’t tell us how Campion expounded any or all of these themes. But this vignette opens up many possibilities, which may be pursued through other texts, of how Jerusalem could be imaginatively appropriated and deployed to express the ambivalent interplay between religious and national identity.

(1) George Ellyot, A very true report of the apprehension and taking of that Arche Papist Edmond Campion the Pope his right hand, with three other lewd Iesuite priests, and divers other Laie people, most seditious persons of like sort (London, 1581), sig.B3

CFP: Sharing the Holy Land: Perceptions of Shared Sacred Spaces (London, June 12-13 & Leeds, July 6-9, 2015)

A Call for Papers and Symposium that sound very relevant to our network interests. The deadline for the CFP is 12 September, so if you want to submit a paper, you’ll need to act quickly!

Medieval Art Research

Call for Papers:
Sharing the Holy Land: Perceptions of Shared Sacred Spaces
International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, 6-9 July 2015
Deadline: 12 September 2014

A symposium, Sharing the Holy Land: Perceptions of Shared Sacred Space in the Medieval and Early Modern Eastern Mediterranean will be held at The Warburg Institute, in London on 12-13 June 2015, featuring keynote speakers, Prof. Bernard Hamilton, Prof. Benjamin Kedar, and Prof. Ora Limor. See http://warburg.sas.ac.uk/events/colloquia-2014-15/sharing-the-holy-land/ for information.
detail-of-middle-eastholy-land-on-mainz-world-map-c-1110

Following on this, three sessions are being organized for the International Medieval Conference to be held at Leeds on 6-9 July, 2015. The three sessions seek to address how both Western pilgrims, and the indigenous Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Levantine populations perceived the sharing of religious shrines with other faiths. Of particular interest is how this sharing was described and explained in contemporary accounts and how this influenced the knowledge of other faiths among the Semitic religions…

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Professor Nabil Matar added as keynote speaker at ‘Remembering Jerusalem’ conference

We are delighted to announce that Professor Nabil Matar, of the University of Minnesota, will join us at ‘Remembering Jerusalem: Imagination, Memory, and the City’ on 6-7 November, to deliver a keynote lecture.

Professor Matar is renowned for his research on relations between early modern Britain, Western Europe, and the Islamic Mediterranean. His many book projects include the recently published British Captives in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic: 1563-1760 (Brill, Leiden, 2014), Through the Eyes of the Beholder: The Holy Land, 1517-1713 (Brill, Leiden, 2013),  with Judy Hayden, and a forthcoming abridged, translated and introduced edition of An Arab Ambassador in the Mediterranean: Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Miknasi, 1779-1788 (Routledge, 2015).

In recognition of his “pioneering scholarship on the relationship between Islamic civilisation and early modern Europe,” Professor Matar was given the Building Bridges award at the University of Cambridge in 2012.

Professor Matar’s lecture will be entitled “Sufi Jerusalem in Arabic Pilgrimage Accounts, 13th-18th Centuries”. We will share more details in an abstract in the near future, and are very much looking forward to welcoming Professor Matar to King’s College London.

CFP: ‘Remembering Jerusalem: Imagination, Memory, and the City’, London, 6-7 Nov. 2014

Remembering Jerusalem: Imagination, Memory, and the City
6th-7th November
King’s College London

Organised by the AHRC-Funded Research Network ‘Imagining Jerusalem, 1099 to the Present Day’

Keynote speakers: Professor Anthony Bale (Birkbeck), Professor Eyal Weizman (Goldsmiths).

Further keynotes TBA.

Perhaps the world’s most iconic city, Jerusalem exists both as a physical space and as a site of memory, ideas, and re-memberings. In art, literature, film, and history writing; in acts of public and private worship; and in communities across the globe, memories of Jerusalem have, for centuries, been created, invoked, and relived. This cross-period, interdisciplinary conference invites paper and panel submissions on the theme of Jerusalem and Memory, c. 1099 to the Present Day. Topics may include, but need not be limited to:

– techniques of memorialisation / techniques of memory
– place, space, and memory
– souvenirs, mementoes, and memory aids
– the materiality (or immateriality) of memory
– memory and sensation
– memory, land and environment
– memory and warfare
– memory and governance
– forgetting, false memory, and fictional remembering
– narrative and memory
– memory and the archive
– national, local, and transnational memories
– memory and community
– ethnography as remembering
– ritual, repetition, and performance
– sacred and secular memory

The organisers are particularly keen to receive panel submissions which address a shared theme across more than one discipline and/or historical period.

Abstracts of c. 300 words for single papers and c. 1000 words for panels consisting of three papers should be sent to imagining-jerusalem@york.ac.uk by 1st July 2014. For more details or inquiries, please contact the same address or visit the Network website: https://jerusalems.wordpress.com/

This conference is organised by the lead members of the Network: Dr Anna Bernard (KCL), Dr Michele Campopiano (York), Dr Helen Smith (York), Dr Jim Watt (York), and the Network Coordinator, Hannah Boast (York).

Download the Call for Papers.