Yamit Rachman-Schrire, PhD
Documentation of Western pilgrims’ accounts, from the 12th century onwards; Analysis of the iconography of selected sacred places/complexes in Jerusalem
Christian Sacred Stones in the Middle Ages: Images, Traces and Spaces
Many sacred places and Christian traditions in medieval Jerusalem were connected with rocks and stones: Christ’s Crucifixion was identified with the rock of Golgotha integrated into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Prayer of Agony with a rock included in the Church of Gethsemane, and the place from which Christ ascended to Heaven shown in a stone atop the Mount of Olives enclosed within the Church of the Ascension.
These stones and rocks, their setting, appearance and practices of devotion, were depicted by almost all the Christian pilgrims who travelled to medieval Jerusalem. Using pilgrims’ accounts as my point of departure, my study focuses on the changing iconography of the stones in the context of their architectural surroundings. The iconography of the stones and the alterations they were subjected to during the processes of creating and (re)forming Jerusalem’s sacred places is discussed in relation to devotional trends in the medieval West. By focusing on the stone as a holy place in and of itself, this study contributes to our understanding of sacred places in Jerusalem and to the various relations between them and the medieval West.
As part of the research group Visual Translations of Jerusalem, I document Western accounts of pilgrims who travelled to Jerusalem beginning in the twelfth century. Their descriptions of the sacred sites in Jerusalem, and especially the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Via Dolorosa, inform on the appearance of the places and the rituals practiced within them. Moreover, the accounts reveal the pilgrims’ expectations of their encounter with the sacred places and their cultural background. This can aid the mapping of affiliations between the sacred places of Jerusalem and sacred and liturgical sites in Europe.