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'Fair and friendly, sweet and beautiful': Hopes for jewish conversion in Synagoga's song of songs imagery

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Chapter Summary

Many scholars, ignoring the multiple roles Synagoga plays within salvation history, assume that her image necessarily signaled degradation to medieval viewers. Although medieval artists frequently denigrated her in this context in precisely this way, Christians were also capable of conceiving other, equally important roles for Synagoga. One of these was to signal the Jews’ conversion and union with the Church at the End of time. This chapter explores this other role and posit an alternative reading to the more common understanding of Synagoga as belittled at the Crucifixion. In certain contexts, such as the Old Testament nuptial poem, the Song of Songs, Synagoga carries “positive” connotations, albeit from a Christian point of view. The chapter mines both visual and textual evidence (including commentaries, drama and sermons) for high medieval conceptions of Synagoga as Christ’s Bride in order to highlight a new emphasis on the Jews’ conversion in Christian art.

Keywords: Christian art; Crucifixion; Jewish conversion; nuptial poem; Old Testament; salvation history; Song of Songs; Synagoga



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