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Map of the City of Jerusalem, from 'Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam' by Bernhard von Breydenbach (1440-97.jpg

Bernhard von Breydenbach and Erhard Reuwich's 'Map of the City of Jerusalem' from Peregrinatio in Terram Sanctam

Peregrinatio in terram sanctam, a guide for pilgrims, is probably one of the earliest examples of an illustrated travel book. It was produced by Bernhard von Breydenbach following his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1483–84, with illustrations by Erhard Reuwich of Utrecht. It includes the first printed map of Jerusalem. This section is from a pullout gatefold of the Holy Land, which in full stretches a remarkable 1.5 metres long.The panorama offers a relatively realistic rendering of the city, although the artist, viewing the city from the Mount of Olives to the east, has made several alterations to the geography of Jerusalem in order to accommodate his outlook. There were both aesthetic and theological reasons for these creative repositionings. Not only did the vantage point offer a spectacular view of the Holy City, but it was also the site at which Jesus wept for Jerusalem (Luke 19:41–44). By presenting the city from this perspective, Reuwich enables his viewers to see as St Luke's Christ saw. More than any other work of its time, the map presented a realistic rendering of the city, albeit skewed in relation to its surrounds. The architectural accuracy with which Reuwich presented the Dome of the Rock, which is accompanied with the inscription Templum Salamonis or 'Temple of Solomon'—a elision of past and present also seen in the Hague Map—is acknowledged as an early example of a new type of realism in the depiction of the architecture of the Holy City. Reuwich's work signals a shift from previous, more theologically influence and imaginative conceived maps towards work of greater architectural and geographical accuracy. As a result Reuwich’s map of Jerusalem became one of the most influential of its time, shaping artistic renderings of the city and the Temple in the following centuries, including Holbein’s Icones as well as numerous maps up until the middle of the eighteenth century.

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Babylonian Chronicle for the year 605–594 BCE

This clay tablet, the Babylonian Chronicle for the years 605–594 BCE, records events from the twenty-first and final year of the Babylonian king Nabopolassar’s reign and the first twelve years of king Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. The text describes king Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Jerusalem, including his capture and exile of king Jehoiachin. The text reads: “In the seventh year, the month of Kislev, the king of Babylon mustered his army and marched to Ḫatti-land (=the Levant). He encamped against the city of Judah and on the second day of Adar he took the city and captured the king. He appointed a king of his own choice there, received its heavy tribute and sent (them) to Babylon.” Nebuchadnezzar invaded because king Jehoiachim (Jehoiachin’s father) had rebelled against him, refusing to send tribute (2 Kings 24:1). Jehoiachim, however, died shortly before or during the siege. He was replaced by his son Jehoiachin who, at the tender age of 18, found himself on the receiving end of Babylonian wrath. Nebuchadnezzar deported Jehoiachin and other members of the royal family and some of the elites of Jerusalem—warriors, priests, artisans, and officials—into exile in Babylon (2 Kings 24:14–16), and placed Zedekiah (Jehoiachin’s uncle) on the throne instead (which indicates that not all of the elite was exiled). The tablet does not say what “heavy tribute” Nebuchadnezzar received, but 2 Kings 24:13 reports that he took all the gold, vessels, and treasures of the Jerusalem temple. The Babylonian Chronicle constitutes an extra-biblical witness to events reported by the biblical text and, in this instance, this evidence corroborates the basic version of events in the Bible. This agreement means that three things may be considered very likely to be historical. First, Jerusalem was invaded but not destroyed in 597 BCE. Second, a king of Jerusalem (Jehoiachin) was deported to exile in Babylon (see also Weidner's ration list). Third, Nebuchadnezzar replaced Jehoiachin with a king of his own choosing—the Bible gives the name Zedekiah. From this point on, Jerusalem's and Judah’s fate were firmly intertwined with that of Babylon. In hindsight, the state and the city had little more than a decade to stand.

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Anselm Kiefer's 'Heavenly Jerusalem'

Anselm Kiefer is a German artist whose work is deeply focused on the trauma of World War II and the Holocaust, German identity, mythology, and Jewish culture. The city of Jerusalem has been consistently central in his work from the late 1980s onwards. Using both Jewish and Christian symbolism, Kiefer’s work questions how it is possible to continue to make art in a world scarred by devastation. The city of Jerusalem functions as a powerful image of the human history of struggle, but also its persistent spirituality. In his vision of Heavenly Jerusalem, Kiefer eschews any biblical or historical iconography of the city, developing his own visual language instead. He plays with the dual identity of Jerusalem to create an image that is both dark and light, full of horror but also hope. In the centre of the canvas are what appear to be railway tracks, a frequent motif in Kiefer’s work, disappearing at the horizon. The tracks link the image to the Nazi use of the railway in Germany and function as a means of remembering the horror of the Holocaust. Simultaneously, their lines, carved into the landscape, resemble a ladder. This is another common motif in Kiefer's work and resonates with the story of Jacob’s vision of a crossing place between heaven and earth (Genesis 28:10-19); its use here represents Jerusalem as a liminal space between earthly and divine realms.

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An Iron Age toilet

This is a toilet installation in one of the service rooms to the north of the House of Ahiel in the City of David in Jerusalem. The installation was set into a thick plaster floor over a deep cess pit. Unsurprisingly, the excavations of the cesspit turned up faecal remains, as well as human parasite eggs and other organic matter, including fish bones. The presence of a stone toilet seat and cess pit shows a significant level of sophistication in the hygiene practices within the city, or at least in parts of it, while the remains from the cess pit shed light on the diet of the ancient inhabitants. The parasite eggs may reflect the difficulties brought upon the city by the prolonged siege of the Babylonian army in 588–586 BCE, while the fish bones suggest commercial activities between the city and traders operating more widely afield.

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Amulets with a blessing formula from Ketef Hinnom

This amulet is one of two that were found beneath the burial chamber of a rock-hewn tomb near Jerusalem, in a cave in Ketef Hinnom. The amulets probably date to the seventh or sixth centuries BCE. The amulets are made of thin, beaten silver, with inscriptions scratched on using a sharp tool. They were discovered rolled up, and were probably worn hung around the owner’s neck. Originally discovered in 1979, these amulets were re-photographed in 2004 by the West Semitic Research Project, allowing for more comprehensive translations. The amulets are particularly interesting for biblical scholars as they both contain a blessing in the name of Yhwh, which echoes the one found in the book of Numbers (6:24-26):'Yhwh bless you and keep you; Yhwh make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;Yhwh lift up his face upon you and give you peace.' The inscription on the amulet shown here (Amulet 2) reads: [top of inscription broken]May (s)he be blessed by Yhwh, the helper and the rebuker of [E]vil. May Yhwh bless you, may he keep you. May Yh[w]h make his face shine upon you and grant you p[ea]ce. The 2004 photographs of the amulets indicate that both amulets are intended to seek protection from evil, and thus have an apotropaic function (to protect the wearer from evil).

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Altar from Tel Rehov

This clay altar has two stories, with a roof that extends beyond the width of the altar and a slightly raised horn at each of the four corners. It is made from coarse clay and there is a certain roughness to its manufacture; the figures either side of the window are at different heights and the windows are asymmetrical. It is decorated with two molded figures flanking the lower windows, with an incised palm tree between. Each horn of the altar is incised with a palm frond and the space on the sides in between the horns is decorated with incised lines. The palm decoration is a symbol for an unidentified goddess. The altar shows signs of burning on the top, which indicates it was used for burning offerings at some point. The signs of burning on the sides are a result of the fire that destroyed the building it was found in. The altar was found along with a painted chalice and some other vessels close to an area that was devoted to producing honey and beeswax (an apiary). A number of clay cylinders bore traces of beeswax and were used as beehives. This apiary is the only one ever found in an excavation in the Levant. The altar and related objects found near the apiary are probably part of a 'cult corner' in this industrial area and, while the palm fronds on the altar indicate that a goddess is in view, they are also a symbol of fertility—an emphasis on which is to be expected given the apiary was dependent on the productivity of its bees. Another four horned altar of a similar, though finer, style was found at Megiddo, along with fragments of twelve others. These cult stands (see also this one from Jerusalem) were clearly popular among the inhabitants of the site in the tenth century BCE.

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Albrecht Dürer’s 'Apocalypse'

Although referred to as 'The New Jerusalem' image from Dürer’s Apocalypse, it is unclear whether this image is really meant to represent the New Jerusalem. If so, it is notable for its rendering of Jerusalem as contemporary Nuremberg, the town in which Dürer himself lived. Heavily influenced by the Koberger Bible of 1483 CE, Dürer’s Apocalypse of 1498 was one of the first printed Apocalypses and one of the most successfully early printed illustrated books. Capitalising on the new medium of print, Dürer visualised the entire narrative of Revelation in just fifteen images. The condensed visual narrative has both a synchronicity and an immediacy that earlier book versions of Revelation often lacked. Throughout the series, the heavenly and earthly realms are clearly demarcated, by clever placement of clouds and dense hatching over the human portion of the sky to evoke the spiritual darkness that plagues it. However, in this final image the sky is clear save for a few birds: it is as if a new dawn has broken, ushering in the New Jerusalem. At the gates, of the city an angel stands ready to usher in the multitudes. Nevertheless, the placement of the ‘chaining of Satan’ at the foreground of the image (Revelaation 20:1–3), leaves the viewer unsure of what Dürer intends to depict: the 'chaining of Satan' is the prelude in Revelation to the ushering in of the Millennium that precedes Armageddon and the Last Judgement. It is thus unclear whether Dürer meant this as an evocation of the New Jerusalem, or of the Millennial Age that will precede the arrival of the eternal city. Either way, we see a return of the urban emphasis in Dürer’s depiction, in contrast to The Ghent Altarpiece, as well, perhaps, as a hint at the idea that the New Jerusalem cannot be satisfactorily visualised by the human imagination at all.


Ahiel Inscription from Jerusalem

This fragmentary inscription was discovered in the House of Ahiel. It is written in ink on a jar in formal handwriting. Sherds (broken pieces) from storage jars were often used as a writing surface, so the inscription may be unrelated to the jar or its contents.The inscription's meaning is difficult to understand, but it mentions three individuals by name. Two of the names mention Yhwh. There is also a desciption of each person. These are harder to decipher, but may be tentatively translated as:...]s son of Ahiel, who marks [?] rags...]yahu son of Hesedyahu, who gathers silver...]yahu [son of Y]adayahu, who gathers [gold ?]Although the purpose of the inscription remains enigmatic, the House of Ahiel is named after the first individual named in the text.

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'The River of Paradise' from The Angers Apocalypse Tapestry

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).

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'The New Jerusalem' from the Trinity Apocalypse

The Trinity Apocalypse comes from a group of Apocalypse manuscripts known as the Anglo-Norman Apocalypse family. Produced in England and France from 1250 CE onwards, they are characterised by the sheer number of images that they used to depict the Apocalypse (up to eighty images in some cases). As with earlier Apocalypse manuscripts, these images were integrated with the text of Revelation and commentary extracts—in this case, extracts from the Berengaudus commentary—as well as illustrated lives of St John and other saints. The large number of images in these manuscripts tended to slow down the narrative and led to a more episodic approach to Revelation. In some chapters almost every verse was visualised. The Trinity Apocalypse devotes two relatively large images to the New Jerusalem. The first image depicts the city coming down from heaven while John is ordered by the angel to write down everything he sees in his book, akin to the scene in the Bamberg Apocalypse. The second image, shown here, is more interesting. It visualises the city from a bird’s eye, architectural perspective. The bejewelled walls of the city are arranged in a perfect square, in keeping with Revelation 21:16, and are set against a gold background, reflecting the textual claim that the city is made of pure gold and built on foundations of precious stones. John and the angel are depicted as almost crouching in worship at the bottom left corner. In the centre of the city, the Lamb (Christ) and God are situated in a mandorla (the almond-shaped aureoles of light), rather than mingling freely with the people as specified in Revelation 22:3. This is testament to reticence on the part of the artists about depicting God and Christ interacting with humanity in an unmediated setting; similar reticence may be seen in the Bamberg, Flemish and Silos Apocalypses. In the Trinity Apocalypse, too, there is a real emphasis on the architectural splendour and majesty of the New Jerusalem, as opposed to the breaking down of barriers between the divine and the human proclaimed in the text.

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'The New Jerusalem' from the Trier Apocalypse

This is a very early manuscript image of the New Jerusalem. It is from the Trier Apocalypse, one of the oldest extant examples of an apocalypse (Revelation) manuscript, produced in northern France in the early ninth century CE. Apocalypse manuscripts were copies of the text of Revelation, produced with integrated commentary extracts and sumptuous coloured images; they sometimes also included a ‘Life of St John’ or of other saints. They were produced for devotional use in monasteries and convents and for wealthy private patrons, often royalty. In this image from the Trier Apocalypse, we see the first of three images of the New Jerusalem. In this first scene, John is being shown the New Jerusalem by an angel. The following two images follow the typical medieval New Jerusalem schema, depicting John being instructed to measure the New Jerusalem by the angel (as in the Bamberg Apocalypse) and the Tree of Life (visible in the Silos Apocalypse). This image is notable for its spare evocation of the New Jerusalem, as well as its adherence to the detail of the text. As specified in Revelation 21:10, the angel has taken John to a mountain to view the celestial city as it descends and, in accord with Revelation 21:12, the artist has faithfully rendered the twelve gates of the city.

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'The New Jerusalem' from The Flemish Apocalypse

The Flemish Apocalypse is the first extant illustrated Apocalypse originating from the Low Countries and dates to around 1400 CE. In contrast to earlier illustrated Apocalypses such as the Trinity Apocalypse or the Bamberg Apocalypse, which sometimes devoted more than eighty images to visualising the text of Revelation, The Flemish Apocalypse uses only twenty-two images. This results in a more compressed, economical imagining of the vision, in which each image combines several elements of the narrative. In this case, all the elements of the New Jerusalem vision from Revelation 21—the descent of the city, the measuring of the city, and so on—are presented in a single image, while The River of Life from Revelation 22 is not depicted at all. Although the disproportionately large Lamb representing Christ is situated in the middle of the city, God remains in the heavenly realm above, indicating resistance on the part of the artists or theological advisors to depict God amongst mankind. Similar reservations are reflected in the Angers Apocalypse Tapestry and in the Trinity Apocalypse. The city itself takes the form of a castle, with twelve gates guarded by the twelve angels decreed in Revelation 21:12. While clearly not based on the actual city of Jerusalem, the Flemish Apocalypse's visualisation of the celestial Jerusalem has a realism lacking in earlier representations. The Flemish artists have also made an attempt to people the city (contrast the Bamberg Apocalypse), with kings offering each other gifts. This also gives the Flemish New Jerusalem a more celebratory air, compared to previous renditions.

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'The New Jerusalem' from The Bamberg Apocalypse

The Bamberg Apocalypse was commissioned for the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto III, although it was not completed until after Otto’s death. The manuscript was produced in the scriptorium at Reichenau and contains the text of Revelation accompanied by fifty-seven illuminated images. This image, of the New Jerusalem, is typical of images throughout the series: uncluttered, even sparse, but effective at conveying both the narrative and the essence of Revelation. By removing all extraneous detail, the Bamberg artists focus the viewer’s attention firmly on the interaction between the angel and John, front and centre in the image. The angel appears to be pulling John up from his feet (in Revelation 22 John falls at the feet of the angel, attempting to worship him rather than God/Christ), while giving him the measuring rod with which he measures the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21. The art historian Frederick Van der Meer has drawn attention to the ‘shifty’ eyes of the main protagonists in the Bamberg series, suggesting that they convey a haunted quality. Here the focus is not so much on the New Jerusalem, which stands sparse and empty in the background, but on John. He appears here at the end of his visionary journey, wide-eyed with amazement at all he has seen. The Lamb (Christ) dominates the city of Jerusalem, cutting a rather lonely figure at the centre of the seemingly deserted city—at odds with the description in Revelation 21, in which it is filled with people from all nations. Visual priority has thus been given to John, perhaps at the expense of the city. The image stands as a fascinating counterpart to more conventional visualisations of the city of the New Jerusalem.

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'The New Jerusalem' from The Angers Apocalypse Tapestry

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.

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'The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb' from the Ghent Altarpiece

The Ghent Altarpiece consists of twenty-four pieces painted by the brothers Hubert and Jan Van Eyck for a side chapel of St Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent. It is a visual unfolding of the entire history of salvation, from Adam and Eve in Genesis, through the incarnation and passion of Christ in the gospels, to the promise of the New Jerusalem in Revelation. The central panel of the altarpiece, shown here, represents a foreshadowing of the New Jerusalem, with all peoples and nations flocking towards the Lamb (Christ) at the centre of the panel. As in the Angers tapestry, the paradisial, horticultural aspect of the New Jerusalem is foregrounded. Although real buildings from the cities of Utrecht and Ghent can be seen in the background, they remain on the periphery. The River of Life from Revelation 22:1–2 was often visualised rather crudely in earlier images, such as the Silos Apocalypse, as a river flowing from the throne of God; here it is conceived in the foreground of the image as a delicate fountain, surrounded by the precious stones of which the New Jerusalem is said to be made (Revelation 21:19–20). The emphasis in this vision of the New Jerusalem on humanity, who are at the heart of the scene, is overwhelming, evoking a vision of a second Eden. From all four corners of the panel come humanity: groups of martyrs—both male and female, saints, Old Testament patriarchs, pious pagans, apostles and popes. They all process towards the Lamb, who stands on the altar at the centre of the image. Unlike, for example, the Trinity Apocalypse, the New Jerusalem is here presented not foremost as a bejewelled and golden city, beyond the realms of human imagination, but as a spiritual place whose foundations are based in the faith and sacrifice of its inhabitants.

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'Jerusalem, with the Temple of Solomon' from the Nuremberg Chronicle

The Nuremberg Chronicle, Liber chronicarum, was authored by Hartmann Schedel (1440–1514) in 1493 CE and presents a world history that celebrates the city of Nuremberg as a spiritual and geographical hub comparable to the true Christian Jerusalem. By making this connection the book's author and its artists promoted their city as equally if not more important than the holy city, asserting Nuremberg’s centrality in the German Empire as well as the wider world. Unsurprisingly, the Chronicle contains more than one image of Jerusalem. In the illustration here, the artist Michael Wolgemut (1434–1519) imagines the cityscape as he thought it appeared while the first Temple stood. Jerusalem is pictured as a circular walled city, with Solomon’s Temple, Templum Salomonis, at its centre. The grand building is topped by three small domes, giving it the appearance of a Byzantine church rather than an antique temple. The destruction of the Temple by Titus is imagined in the same volume. In that image, the Temple blazes; it no longer looks like a church, but echoes the design of the Dome of the Rock, with a large bulbous dome carrying a crescent moon. The artist thus conflates the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, which many Christians hailed as the fulfilment of Christ’s prophecy that the Temple would be destroyed (Luke 21:6), with a contemporary Christian desire to bring an end to Islamic rule over Jerusalem.

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'House of Yhwh' ostracon from Arad

This ostracon—a pottery sherd with ink writing—was written by a subordinate to 'my Lord Eliashib' sometime in the late seventh or early sixth century BCE and was found at Arad. It reports that an unidentified person is 'in the House of Yhwh'. Because the Arad shrine was no longer in use at that time, it is usually understood as a rare extra-biblical reference to the Jerusalem temple. More than two hundred ostraca were found at Arad, dating over several centuries and providing a unique insight into the administrative activity at the fortress.