Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a Dutch master who ranged across printmaking, painting and draughtsmanship and had a particular interest in dramatic biblical scenes. His etching of Christ driving the money changers from the Temple (Matthew 21:12-14) was influenced by Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut image (c. 1508) of this scene and also by a general sixteenth century interest in the metaphorical symbolism of the purification of the Temple. The Temple had come to be seen as a symbol of the Church’s own need for purification, through condemnation of heresy and through internal reform. In this lively etching, Christ is depicted as the central figure from whom all the other action flows, as in the El Greco image of this scene. Unlike Dürer, who lights the scene from a candle above Christ’s head, Christ is illuminated here by light which emanates from his raised hand. People and animals scatter all around in the face of Christ’s anger—note the man being pulled along by his own cow on the right hand side of the image, which suggests that Rembrandt was perhaps inspired by the Johannine version of this episode, in which Christ finds merchants selling cattle, sheep and doves, in the Temple alongside the money changers. In the background, a religious ceremony continues uninterrupted, presided over by priests. In the foreground one of the money changers looks up at Christ in desperation—a very human moment amid the chaos.
For many medieval Christians, the most powerful physical reminders of the New Jerusalem that they would encounter were the great cathedrals and churches of the medieval era. Nowhere would this have been more the case than at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Jerusalem itself. These buildings, often entered via a door depicting the Last Judgement, self-consciously evoked the New Jerusalem and all its promise, with their soaring height, light-filled space and stained glass. This is powerfully evoked by Chaucer, in the prayer he places on the lips of the Parson at the end of the the pilgrims' journey to Canterbury in England: ‘So, may this earthly pilgrimage show you pilgrims the way to the perfect pilgrimage...which culminates in entry to the heavenly Jerusalem (Jerusalem celestial).’ The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the alleged site of Christ’s crucifixion, is an imposing, sprawling building, dating in its current form to 1149 CE. It was built to bring together under a single church roof the chapel where Christ’s tomb was supposed to have been located; a chapel on Golgotha, the hill on which the crucifixion was thought to have taken place; and another basilica on the site that Constantine’s mother Helena was reported to have found the true cross in 320 CE. A constant source of acrimony between Christian Crusaders and Muslim Arab residents during the medieval era and beyond—as well as between the four Christian dominations guarding over it—the Church was and is still considered by Christians to be the most holy location in the world and the climactic end point of any pilgrimage.
This early twelfth century CE image of the New Jerusalem is from the Beatus family of Apocalypse manuscripts and depicts Christ seated on his throne, above the river and tree of life. Produced mainly in Spain between the ninth to the twelfth centuries CE, at monasteries in Catalonia, Aragon, Navarre, and elsewhere, the Beatus Apocalypse manuscripts are all based on the Apocalypse commentary of the eighth century Abbot Beatus of Liebana. They all reflect a similar iconography, quite distinct from the Anglo-Norman Apocalypse iconography that had developed in Northern Europe and is reflected in the Trinity Apocalypse and the Angers Apocalypse tapestry. The images in the Beatus Apocalypse manuscripts tend to be uncluttered, dramatic and vividly coloured. This image of the New Jerusalem, from the Silos Apocalypse, is no exception. An angel with very elongated fingers shows John not the descending city of the New Jerusalem but instead the River of Life, descending from the throne of God and the Lamb (Revelation 22:1–2). This throne is depicted as identical with the Heavenly Throne Room described in Revelation 4–5. Thus God/Christ is surrounded by the twenty-four elders, who point at him with elongated fingers. To the left of the river is the Tree of Life. While the text declares the Tree of Life to be growing on both sides of the river—a physical impossibility—the artist has quite sensibly elected to depict it on one side only. This image of the New Jerusalem radiates a reassuring sense of calm but, with its heavy visual divide between the heavenly and earthly realms—evoked via a heavy and ornate brown barrier underneath the heavenly throne room—it perhaps lacks the sense of interactivity between the divine and the human that the text of Revelation is at pains to stress.
Francesco Hayez was a Venetian painter working in Italy in the nineteenth century. Hayez was known for his theatrical history paintings of biblical and classical themes, rendered in neo-classical style. This chaotic, dramatic, and rather violent image of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and his Roman army in 70 CE, as described by Josephus in his Jewish War, is typical of Hayez’s style. The focal point of the image is the fighting taking place on the giant stone altar in the middle of the Temple precinct. This stone altar, used for burning the offerings specified in Deuteronomy 27:6-7, was an actual feature of the Second Temple buildings. In this respect Hayez's work represents a move towards a more architecturally accurate rendering of the Temple. Nevertheless, the placement of the altar is inaccurate, as are the steps, as the stone altar was accessed by a ramp. The symbolism inherent in the Jewish victims being thrown to their deaths from the altar is typical of Hayez’s allegorical style. The sense of sacrilegious chaos is also echoed by the visible theft of the golden menorah, the holy seven-armed candlestick, in the foreground of the image, as well as by the flight of a group of angels in the top left hand corner of the painting.
This remarkable realisation of Revelation 21:4 (‘And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes') was produced by Max Beckmann as part of series of lithographs produced while in exile in Amsterdam during World War II. The work represents a very different dimension in the tradition of visualisations of the New Jerusalem. Other images in this collection, such as the Angers Apocalypse tapestry and the Ghent altarpiece, exemplify the strong tradition of representing the New Jerusalem as either a city or a landscape. Human presence and interaction has been notable mainly by its absence—even in William Blake’s The River of Life the human figures are secondary to the landscape and the river. In Beckmann's work, however, the New Jerusalem is conceived in primarily relational terms. In the colour rendering a winged figure dressed in a golden robe wipes away tears from a squat, human figure lying on a table. The prone figure is thought to be Beckmann himself as, in the tradition of Albrecht Dürer (1471–1526) and Jean Duvet (1485–c.1561), Beckmann has inserted his own likeness into his Apocalypse series several times. Through a circular window which resembles a port-hole lies what one presumes to be the new Heaven and new Earth of Revelation 21:1, but this is very much not the focus of the image. This presentation of the New Jerusalem as a place of consolation and intermingling between the divine and the human takes the imagined New Jerusalem a long way from the actual city of Jerusalem.
This image of the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE is taken from illuminated images made by master illustrator Jean Fouquet to accompany a French translation of Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews. Fouquet began around 1410 CE, originally intending the work for the Duc de Berry, and finished around 1476 CE, with the work ultimately destined for the Duc de Nemours. There was an upsurge in interest in manuscripts dedicated to Jewish history in fifteenth century Europe and this work is part of that trend. The siege and subsequent capture of Jerusalem and the Temple was a pivotal moment in Jewish history and Josephus, a first century CE Jewish historian, devotes a significant part of his Antiquities of the Jews to the episode. He reports that Nebuchadnezzar, having besieged the city, sent in General Nebuzaradan to pillage and burn the Temple, to kill and capture the priests, and to exile the Jewish people to Babylon. Fouquet’s lavish images follow Josephus’ text fairly faithfully. We see, for example, the Babylonian forces entering the temple and killing and capturing priests in the background of the image. The Temple has been set on fire, and flames and wisps of smoke are visible. The habit of depicting Jerusalem and the Temple in contemporary terms, which apparent also in Cranach and the Angers tapestry, is clear here as well. The Temple itself, for example, though faithfully depicted as gold and cubic in shape, resembles the Cathedral at Tours more than any historical or biblical descriptions. See also Fouquet's image of Herod's entry into Jerusalem.
El Greco was a Greek (Cretan) painter who trained in Venice and then moved to Spain in the 1570s. He is well known as a visionary painter of religious scenes, with a style prioritizing colour and light over form. He was in many ways ahead of his time and one of his signature features was his elongated, non-naturalistic figures. El Greco painted many versions of this scene of Jesus driving the money-changers from the Temple (Matthew 21:12–14), an atypical moment in Jesus’ usually non-violent ministry. This is an early version, from around 1570 CE, during his Venetian period. As such, the anatomy of the figures and the composition is more in the Italian Renaissance style than his later versions, in which Christ is more elongated and seems to exude light (as in the National Gallery version, from c. 1600). The composition is divided into two halves around the central figure of Christ, who stands with his whip poised above the group of money-changers on the left. This is a moment of great movement and energy. On the right are the ‘righteous’, commenting on the event. The image is part of an extensive artistic tradition using Jerusalem and the Temple as the backdrop for the depiction of a key New Testament narrative. The Temple itself is classical in style, replete with Corinthian columns, while the surrounding buildings owe more to Venetian architecture than to what we know of the historical Jerusalem of the first century CE. In a rather odd detail in the bottom right corner, El Greco has painted the four artists that he considered to be masters of the Renaissance (Titian, Michelangelo, Clovio and Raphael).
David Roberts was a Scottish painter and printmaker who made his name with Orientalist paintings, sketches and lithographs based on his extensive tours of Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, and Lebanon. In contrast to other artists featured in this collection, therefore, Roberts’ depiction of the New Jerusalem was informed by his visit to and study of the Jerusalem of his own time, in addition to the writings of Josephus (especially the Jewish War). The image here is a lithograph of one of Roberts' most famous paintings, the monumental The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70 (lost in 1854, only to reappear in 1961, long after his death). In this impressive image, we are given a panoramic view of the destruction of Jerusalem from the perspective of the Mount of Olives to the east of the city. It closely resembles another of his lithographs of Jerusalem, made on his trip there in 1839. In this image, the north wall of the city is already on fire, reflecting the staged description of the attack on the city given by Josephus. The Temple complex is visible on the left, with the Antonia fortress in the top left hand corner. In the foreground a Roman garrison of archers attack the city across the Kidron valley, even though in military terms this is rather improbable. Next to the archers is a group of mostly female Jewish captives. Although more architecturally and geographically accurate than others, Roberts’ painting perhaps lacks some of the personal drama and immediacy of his predecessors, although one comes away better informed about the scope and scale of the city and Titus's attack upon it.
This image of the New Jerusalem is from the 14th century Angers Apocalypse Tapestry. Unlike the first image in the tapestry's New Jerusalem sequence, which depicts the New Jerusalem as a city, this image depicts the New Jerusalem as the River of Life, flowing down from God’s throne amidst an Eden-like garden. As in the Trinity Apocalypse, God and the Lamb (Christ) remain in their mandorla (the almond-shaped aureoles of light) and are not mingling freely on earth. John, however, has left his shelter, symbolising his new-found understanding. His exit from the shelter—from which, in the Angers Tapestry, he has thus far viewed the whole of the Revelation—may represent symbolically the removal of barriers between the divine and the human realms that the coming of the New Jerusalem signifies (Revelation 22:2–4).
This image of the New Jerusalem is from the fourteenth century Angers Apocalypse Tapestry, and is typical of the Anglo-Norman apocalypse iconography developed in the preceding century. Many of the illuminated manuscripts on which this monumental tapestry was based devote several images to visualising the New Jerusalem. This image is the first in the tapestry's New Jerusalem sequence, and visualises Jerusalem as a fortified medieval castle-city. The city descends from Heaven under the watchful gaze of God/Christ, hanging slightly awkwardly in the air above what is probably the sea, which is also said to be ‘passing away’ in the text of Revelation. There has been little attempt on the part of the artist, Jean de Bondol, to depict either the architectural splendour of the heavenly city as described in the text—the jewels, gold and precious metals, or its fantastical dimensions—or a city resembling the actual Jerusalem. As with other New Jerusalems (such as Lucas Cranach's woodcut), the artistic rendering of the city is not particularly reminiscent of Jerusalem itself. This is very much a symbol of the heavenly city, rather than a literal rendering. John stands, foot poised to leave his viewing shelter, from the safety of which he has observed his visions up until this moment.A second image from the tapestry's New Jerusalem sequence depicts the River of Life.