Nina Rowe deposited Synagoga Tumbles, a Rider Triumphs: Clerical Viewers and the Fürstenportal of Bamberg Cathedral on CAA Commons 1 year, 3 months ago
Paired female personifications of Church and Synagogue had become an established subject for medieval art from as early as the ninth century. But in the thirteenth century the theme gained particular popularity, given pride of place in decorative programs adorning the most ambitious cathedral building projects of northern Europe. While the figures continued to carry established meanings that manifested both the ecclesiological notion of the harmony between the Old and New Testaments and the triumph of Christianity over Judaism, monumental, lifelike instantiations of the theme in the new context of the cathedral facade invited interpretations in relation to contemporary secular and sacred ideologies of power. This article argues that in the eyes of Bamberg’s clerics, ceremonial movement through the Fürstenportal of Bamberg Cathedral activated new meanings for the Ecclesia-Synagoga motif, binding the figures to the Bamberg Rider sculpture within the building. The bishops and chapter of Bamberg were strong adherents of Emperor Frederick II, whose policy and ideology hinged in part on notions of the correct position of Jews in society. Viewed during a ritual entrance to the cathedral, an aestheticized yet impotent figure of Synagoga, along with the larger constellation of sculptures at the Fürstenportal, could project and reinscribe conceptions of Jews as fundamentally base, yet necessary, cogs in the machinery of a divinely ordered society.