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Nicholas of Lyra's 'Temple Diagram' from the Commentary on Ezekiel

Although the history of the mapping of Jerusalem is dominated by Christian iconography, there are some aspects of Jerusalem's imagery that demonstrate Jewish influence on these Christian traditions. One such example appears the writings of Nicholas of Lyra, a Christian theologian whose work was highly indebted to contemporary Jewish scriptural interpretation. Indeed, Lyra himself informs readers of his influential commentary on the Bible, Postilla litteralis et moralis in totam bibliam, that he not only relied on the works of prominent Christian theologians but also and ‘especially Rabbi Solomon’, now known as Rashi. Rashi influenced Lyra’s use of illustrations to accompany his commentary, with the Postilla ultimately including around 35 drawings. These included a number of different elevations and plans for the Temple, some based on descriptions found in Kings and Chronicles and others on the prophetic vision of Ezekiel. The plan here is one of Lyra’s diagrams of Ezekiel’s Temple. It is clear from the layout that Lyra was visually quoting both Rashi and Maimonides, weaving Jewish images of the Temple into his own Christian context. At the centre of Nicholas’ rendering is the altar used for sacrifice, with a river flowing past—a crucial part of Ezekiel’s vision of the New Jerusalem (Ezekiel 47:1). Notably, the river does not feature in the plan produced by Maimonides, suggesting that Lyra was more strongly influenced by the Ezekiel vision—or, perhaps, inclined to include it because of the significance of the River of Life in Revelation (compare, for example, the Angers Apocalypse tapestry). Although Lyra was clearly informed by Jewish tradition concerning the Temple's layout, his theological understanding of the significance of this now lost part of Jerusalem differed meaningfully: while Jews such as Rashi continued to long for the restoration of the Temple in a future messianic age, Christians such as Lyra understood Ezekiel’s Temple as a prophetic precursor of the Church.

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Matthaus Seutter's 'Prospectus Sanctae olim et Celebrimae, Urbis Hierosolymae', after Juan Villalpando

The works of Rashi, Maimonides and Nicholas of Lyra all offer literal diagrams of the Temple. Another important part of the iconographic tradition of Jerusalem are other, more imaginative, more theologically motivated, and more extensive reconstructions of the Temple, such as the map of Jerusalem produced by Juan Villalpando, a sixteenth century Spanish Jesuit priest, with a major Temple complex at the centre. Villalpando’s early modern printed reconstructions of the Temple were presented in a monumental illustrated three volume work, In Ezechielem explanationes, produced between 1594 and 1605 CE with assistance from Hieronymo Prado. With this work Villalpando aimed to offer the first comprehensive and to-scale reconstruction of the Temple, including its apparatus and its furnishings. As his title suggests, this was according to the description found in Ezekiel 40–48. As others concerned themselves trying to reconcile the varying accounts of the Temple presented by different biblical books and historical reports, Villalpando believed that the vision in Ezekiel was an accurate description of the Temple built by Solomon. He reasoned that the original Temple was planned by God, and was consequently entirely confident that the fantastic structure described by the prophet must have been a true-to-life memory of the temple destroyed by the Babylonians. Furthermore, the same Temple was also a vision of the Holy Church. Indeed, Villalpando was so confident in the original perfection of Solomon’s Temple that he went even further in his assertions about the architectural merit of the building and its Divine Architect. The Temple, he believed, formed the foundation for Vitruvian architecture and was the blueprint for all classical architecture in Greece and Rome. The work of baroque imagination that Villalpando produced on the basis of his convictions caused a great theological stir when it was published: he was tried for heresy by the Inquisition for misrepresenting scriptural accounts of the Temple, but eventually acquitted. Villalpando’s work considerably influenced later re-imaginings of the Temple, informing the architecture of monasteries and Churches across Europe. The version shown here was produced by Matthaus Seutter around 1734 and gives a sense of Villalpando's influence over subsequent imaginings of Jerusalem’s past.