Rabbi Dr. Michael Cook
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Saint Joseph's University
Haub Executive Center, Maguire Room - 5th floor of McShain Hall
Medieval and some Renaissance art routinely showed icons of the Synagogue and the Church under the figure of Jesus on the cross, accompanied by all sorts of symbols whose powerful messages were understood then but are commonly unknown now (goats' heads, oil lamps, staffs [broken or whole], banners, chalices, crowns, the 10 Commandments and others). Scriptural characters, too, were often displayed either under the cross or in proximate settings (Jacob's wives [Leah and Rachel], Mary, St. John, John the Baptist, Judas, etc.). Properly interpreted, all these symbol-laden works of art were heavily influential on the attitudes adopted toward Jews by the Christian masses, conditioning the mind set of millions in Europe, and possibly playing some role in allowing Europe to be caught unawares by the Holocaust.