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.

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

Memories of the Holy Land

Torre

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

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

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

‘there’s a third party at the negotiations on the city, and that’s Jerusalem herself’

I’ve been writing recently about the Israeli novelist Meir Shalev, particularly his 1988 novel The Blue Mountain, a magical realist account of the lives of Jewish pioneers in an early twentieth century agricultural settlement. Shalev is also well-known in Israel as a journalist, and has a weekly column in the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

In searching for reviews of The Blue Mountain, I came across the following comments on Jerusalem from one of Shalev’s columns, published in September 2000, which reminded me of discussions we’ve had at events and on the blog about personifying Jerusalem, prompted again recently by a post by Laura Sangha.

Shalev criticises the deadly mythology of ‘sacred Jerusalem’, at the same time as producing a version of the city which is perhaps equally romanticised:

Everyone talks of the Palestinians and the Israelis and forgets that there’s a third party at the negotiations on the city, and that’s Jerusalem herself. Although she’s called ‘the eternal city of peace,’ the city has not stopped being the reason for and the arena of wars. Notwithstanding the wonderful words Jeremiah, Isaiah and Jesus spoke there, she has always preferred generals, kings, builders and destroyers over prophets and simple citizens. She has an interesting symbioses with them. Jerusalem demands that they come up to her, pray to her, destroy and build her. In return, she offers them perpetuity on the pages of history. No one would remember Herod and Nehemia had they not built Jerusalem. Titus would have been forgotten if he hadn’t destroyed her. Saladin would not be known in Europe if he hadn’t fought for her. Princess Helena would have vanished a long time ago if she hadn’t, with a fatuous wave of her hand, designated the holy places for which the coming generations’ blood would be spilt. Barak and Arafat are no different from their ancient predecessors. They also throb with a poignant yearning to go down in history. They can go down as the first leaders to tell this city: ‘thus far!’ They can tell her that people will no longer die for the sanctity of her stones and tombs. But neither seems to be made of this stuff. Barak prattles about ‘defending Israel’s holy places’ and Arafat recites ‘Terra Santa’ in fluent Crusader language. And we – – mere Jews and Arabs — will still be placed on the altar of this Moloch called sacred Jerusalem.

Hannah Boast, Network Coordinator