The Arts

Bling and Beauty: Jerusalem at the Met

Jerusalem 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven 

curated by Barbara Drake Boehm and Melanie Holcomb 

through January 8, 2017 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 


Jerusalem 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven 

(Exhibit companion guide) 

edited by Barbara Drake Boehm and Melanie Holcomb 

Long before Jerusalem’s skyline was punctuated by high-rises and cranes, the Holy City was already a crowded place. One of the wonders of Second Temple Jerusalem, as the rabbis tell it, was that despite the throngs of pilgrims, “No one ever said to his fellow: ‘The place is too cramped for me to lodge in Jerusalem.’” Jostling for space among a sea of visitors one recent Sunday afternoon at the Met’s fall blockbuster, Jerusalem 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven, I could have benefited from just such a miracle. 

The front cover of the museum catalog is an eschatological Jerusalem scene that paints a diverse, dense urban space: Black, brown, and white people sporting turbans, togas, gowns, or just their underwear sit on stoops, converse on street corners, and cavort in the trees. The 13th-century lectionary (a selection of the Gospels to be read in church) from which the image is taken was composed in Syriac, one of many languages and scripts used in polyglot Jerusalem. Medieval eyewitness accounts frequently commented on the town’s confusing babel, and multilingual phrasebooks gave visitors the confidence to ask locals anything from “how much does it cost?” to “woman, let me sleep with you tonight.” 

The Entry into Jerusalem from a Syriac lectionary, Iraq, possibly the Monastery of Mar Mattai, 1216–1220. (© The British Library Board, London.)

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About the Author

Shai Secunda is Jacob Neusner Associate Professor of Judaism at Bard College, where he teaches in the religion department.


gwhepner on January 13, 2017 at 6:45 pm

Some people wear their liberal hearts upon a sleeve,
but conservatives will often wear theirs in a part
of them that's hidden, since their liberal friends believe
that views that are conservative impart
to those supporting them a character from whom
them must as they would from fiend depart,
designating him to PC doom.
Views that are not on the liberal chart
have trumped them recently, and boom.
Instead of falling from the appplecart,
they please a lot of people who consume
what liberals all reject as being far too tart.

I wish someone could find ad a modus viv-
endi between those with a liberal heart
and those who're cardiacly conservative,
so neither need be CPR'd.
Brain death has often been a problem from which both
have suffered by perhaps they could restart
their heartbeats, leading to their brains' regrowth,
if they were far less smug and far more smart.

[email protected]

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