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Disputation in stone: Jews imagined on the Saint Stephen portal of Paris Cathedral

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Chapter Summary

This chapter situates the intricately sculpted Saint Stephen, the Christian protomartyr, tympanum on Notre-Dame within the historic circumstances and interests of Christian hegemony that informed its conception and reception in thirteenth-century Paris. Specifically, it proposes that the imagery on the Paris tympanum is the corollary perhaps also the result of a new and specific form of anti-Judaic practice, the so-called “trial” of the Talmud, and is directly informed by the combats staged between Jewish scholars and their Christian counterparts in Paris in 1240. By considering the variations in the contemporary visual narratives of Stephen and reviewing the anti-Judaism inherent in the primary texts; by exploring the history of the Stephen cult in Paris; by analyzing the disputation of 1240; and, finally, by considering the tympanum as a “disputation in stone,” this chapter offers an alternative construction of anti-Jewish meanings in the Saint Stephen narrative of Paris Cathedral.

Keywords: anti-Judaism; Christian hegemony; Disputation; Jewish scholars; Paris; Paris Cathedral; Paris tympanum; Saint; Saint Stephen; Stone: Jews



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