Anti-Judaism in Christian Art. Some examples of anti-Judaic Christian art. Ecclesia and Synagoga

Some examples of anti-Judaic Christian art. Ecclesia and Synagoga


Negative images of Judaism in Christian Art

Ecclesia and Synagoga



Marburg Bildarchiv

Ecclesia and Synagoga at the double-portal of the south entrance to the Strasbourg cathedral (around 1230)

Here both, the Church and the Synagogue, are symbolized as related to each other in the sense of the concordia veteris et novi testamenti, the unity of the Old and New Testaments. Both figures are of noble character. However, the Church is depicted as triumphant with crown and imperial robe on her shoulders, with staff and chalice in her hands, symbolizing her divine authority. She looks ahead assured of her mission in the world. The Synagogue is symbolized as defeated, her staff broken more than once, the Torah is slipping from her hands, a veil is covering her eyes and her head is bowed.


Wood carving at the choir benches of the Erfurt cathedral, Thuringia, Germany (about 1400-1410)

Ecclesia on a horse is attacking the Synagogue with a lance. Her shield carries the Christian symbol of a fish. The Synagogue is symbolized as riding a pig. Her eyes are closed and with her left hand she holds on to a branch. One of many depictions of the "Judensau" in the art work of European churches.

Marburg Bildarchiv

Berlin, Aufbau Verlag; Martin Dettloff

Church window of St. John"s Church in Werben/ Elbe River, Germany (around 1414-1467)

In the left section of the window the Church is riding a tetramorph (a creature with the heads of eagle, human, lion and bull, symbolizing the four Gospels). She holds the flag of the cross and the chalice in her hands. The divine hand from heaven places a crown on her head.

In the right section the Synagogue is depicted as riding a donkey which is about to break down. In her right hand she holds the head of a he-goat. Her crown is falling. She is blindfolded. The staff of her flag is broken. But worst of all, the divine hand from heaven pierces her head and body with the sword of judgment.
Photos by Brian Wood
One of the panels at the baptismal font at St. Mary"s in Prestbury, UK

The Tree of the ecclesia is in bloom while the tree of the synagoga is dead. The ecclesia is the sun, the moon over the synagoga only reflects the light of the sun.


On October 11th, 2006, Pope Benedikt XVI. consecrated the statue of the Carmelite nun Edith Stein, who was born 1891 in Breslau, Germany, as a Jew and murdered in the concentration camp of Auschwitz on August 9, 1942. The statue fills one of the last free exterior niches at the western facade of St. Peter"s cathedral in Rome. She had converted to Christianity and was baptized on January 1, 1942, entered the monastry in Cologne and received the name Teresia Benedicta a Cruce (Teresia, blessed by the cross). This name is also chiseled into the base of the marble statue.

The personal integrity of Edith Stein and her right to convert to Christianity are undisputed, that she was canonized by the church in 1998 was, however, for Jews and Christians equally a very misleading sign — and precarious for the Christian-Jewish relationship. After all, she was not murdered in Auschwitz because she was a Christian but because she was Jewish and not for her Christian faith but in spite of it, in spite of having been baptised.

The new statue adds to the irritation of Christians and Jews that has set the Catholic-Jewish understanding and dialogue back. When the statue was revealed, many of those present at the ceremony were shocked to see her holding a Torah scroll in both hands and behind the scroll she holds a cross and, as an added Christian symbol, a crown of thorns. The cross surmounts the Torah scroll which has the words Shema Jisrael in Hebrew written on it. Thus the statue becomes an unbearable mixture of Jewish and Christian symbolysm and another visible sign to Jews of Christianity"s attempt to take possession not only of the Jewish tradition but also of the Holocaust. Here, as in the victorious pose of the Ecclesia above, the cross dominates the Torah and reminds us of almost two millennia of Christian anti-Judaism.

See also Heinz Schreckenberg: The Jews in Christian Art: An Illustrated History
Franz Böhmisch: Synagoga et Ecclesia, Exegese einer Beziehung in Wort und Bild

Positive images of Judaism in Christian Art