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The Middle Ages

Christian Images of the Jews


The Church versus
the Synagogue...



The "Living Cross"...



A Biblical scene
in a German church...



Although Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor...


IN MEDIEVAL EUROPE, Christianity is the dominant religion. The Catholic Church not only holds the highest moral authority, but bishops also join the nobility in governing the Christian states. Because Christianity developed out of Judaism in the Middle East, the Church's attitude to Jews remains ambivalent: To force or entice all Jews to convert to Christianity; or to let them continue to practice their faith under many restrictions at the margins of society as a constant reminder of the superiority of Christianity over Judaism.

In many churches, images appear that symbolize the "Victory of Christianity (Ecclesia) over Judaism (Synagoga)." Jews are portrayed as traitors and as murderers of God. They are often shown together with a pig - a particularly insulting image, as Jewish religion considers pigs unclean.

As Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire, many medieval Bible illustrations diminish the role of the Romans in the trial and crucifixion of Christ. Instead, they show Jews in medieval clothes as the main culprits. In a time when the great majority of the population is uneducated and cannot read or write, these church images are the essential instruments in spreading a negative view of Jews and Judaism.


"Church versus Synagogue"
in a French cathedral...



A variation on the
"Church versus Synagogue"...

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