אריות ונחשים: עיטורי בית הכנסת של קלן בימי הביניים וההתנגדות להם

Translated title of the contribution: The Struggle over the Lion and Snake Decorations of the Medieval Synagogue in Cologne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

A controversy erupted in eleventh century Cologne with the appearance of lion and serpent decorations on the stained glass windows of the local synagogue. This imagery aroused the ire of Rabbi Elyakim ben Joseph of Mainz (d. 1152), who penned a letter in protest. This article analyzes what the letter teaches about the Cologne synagogue decorations, as well as about the dispute between R. Elyakim of Mainz and the community lay leaders (parnasim) in Cologne, who most probably commissioned the synagogue decorations, and against whom the rabbi's letter seems to have been directed. Through comparison with other texts, and with the aid of recent archeological discoveries in Cologne, the identity of the historical figure who may have been the very lay-leader at whose behest the lion and serpent decorations were made, is tentatively suggested. This incident offers a rare view of Jewish life and leadership during this early period in Cologne, probably prior to the First Crusade, and reveals the tension between the leadership of the Cologne community and the rabbinic leadership in Mainz. The article has three parts. The first deals with R. Elyakim's letter of protest, and its date. Even though it is depicted by the Ra'avyah as a response to a question, it is not, in fact, a responsum. The second section addresses the content of the letter, and especially the meaning of the lion and serpent decorations. The third part attempts to broaden the scope and examine the historical framework of this dispute, It suggests the possible identity of the Jew(s) who commissioned these decorations. The historical information that can be gleaned from this study is not limited to the text itself and its immediate concerns. The letter sheds light on the early community in Cologne, the origins and early life of which have until now been largely shrouded in mystery. Indeed, this study demonstrates how a multi-disciplinary approach opens up new venues for research into the society and leadership of the early Ashkenazi Jewish community.
Translated title of the contributionThe Struggle over the Lion and Snake Decorations of the Medieval Synagogue in Cologne
Original languageHebrew
Pages (from-to)175-205
Journalציון: רבעון לחקר תולדות ישראל
Volumeפ
Issue numberב
StatePublished - 2015

IHP publications

  • ihp
  • Decoration and ornament, Architectural
  • History -- Sources
  • Jewish art -- Germany
  • Jewish diaspora
  • Jews -- Germany -- Cologne
  • Jews -- History -- Middle Ages, 500-1500
  • Lions
  • Synagogue art
  • Synagogues -- Germany
  • אומנות בבתי כנסת
  • אומנות יהודית -- גרמניה
  • אלמנטים דקורטיביים במבנים
  • אריה (יונק)
  • בתי כנסת -- גרמניה
  • היסטוריה יהודית -- ימי הביניים
  • יהודי גרמניה -- קלן
  • נחש (דמות מיתולוגית)
  • קהילה יהודית בתפוצות
  • תעודות ומקורות היסטוריים

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