Cinema, Art etc.

Treasures of Jerusalem On Display in New York


 Terrasanta.net |  November 21, 2016

One of the Nazareth capitals on display at the Metropolitan Museum of New York.

The Virgin and Apostle capital. The capitals are on loan from the Custody of the Holy Land to the exhibition.

An illustrated codex also from the Custody.

A temporary exhibition on Jerusalem between the 11th and 15th centuries is showing at the Metropolitan Museum of New York until 8th January 2017. The exhibition include objects from the Custody of the Holy Land.


(i.s.) - Five finely sculpted capitals, Four, octagonal in shape, portray scenes from the lives of the apostles Peter, James, Matthew and Thomas. The fifth and central one has a different shape and also a different subject to which different interpretations have been given. It represents a woman with a crown on her head as she walks, accompanied by a barefooted man, between figures of devils. Some academics have read in the sculpture a scene of Byzantine inspiration which relates the liberation of Adam, others identify the crowned woman as the Mother Church holding the hand of an apostle.

We are speaking about genuine artistic masterpieces of the Crusades (they are dated between 1099 and 1291), forgotten for centuries. It was not until 1980, thanks to the work of the Franciscan friars, that the chapters were found and put on display in the Archaeological Museum of Nazareth.

The capitals of Nazareth which for the first time in history have left the Holy Land, are some of the finest pieces in the Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven exhibition, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York until 8th January 2017. The Custody of the Holy Land has made an important contribution to this exhibition, offering the curators many objects, as explained in an article published in The Holy Land Review published by the Custody in the USA.

The Franciscans have played an invaluable role in the network which allowed the curators of the exhibition to find the works of art to be exhibited in New York. Fra Eugenio Alliata, archaeologist and lecturer at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum showed the curators the precious illustrated antiphonaries. Fra Sergey Loktionov recovered a precious firman from the archives, with a decree by the Sultan which confirmed the right of the Franciscans to operate in the Holy Land.

For most of the objects requested, the Custody did not raise any problems for the loan, with the exception of the precious capitals of Nazareth. The fear was that the long journey could have damaged the fragile sculptures. This is why initially the answer given to the curators was “no”. The situation was unblocked by the “secret weapon” of the Metropolitancurators: Jack Soultanian, one of the world’s greatest experts in conservative restoration. Thanks to his work, the chapters were restored to their ancient splendour and the damage caused by damp and salt has been repaired. Thanks to Mr Soultanian’s work, the capitals of Nazareth flew to New York and when they return to Israel they can be preserved and shown to the public for even longer.

The Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven exhibition has about 200 works of art, from lenders all over the world, including about a dozen key pieces lent by the different religious communities of Jerusalem. Sculptures, reliquaries, thuribles for incense, illuminated codices and parchments can be admired. Like the Chapters of Nazareth, many of these had never been lent before. This is a further element which increases the value of an exhibition like this one which illustrates the different cultural traditions and the aesthetic elements that have embellished and illuminated the Holy City in a period of time spanning four centuries. This was a period when Jerusalem, as never before, was home to many cultures, religions and languages.

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