The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

The Typological Temple in the Central Middle Ages

Liturgical commentaries from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries transform the medieval church from a collection of stone and wood into rich array of symbolic meaning. In these commentaries, every architectural element, the columns, windows and even the roof tiles is given significance that links the building to the past, present and the future. The Temple looms large in these commentaries, where it is embedded within the medieval church at different times of the year. It is represented in the altar, the chancel and other parts, forming part of the rich iconographical tapestry that shaped readings of the church building. This paper explores the process of this material exegesis, especially where the Temple is allegorically inserted into the medieval Christian church, especially against the backdrop of the significant deterioration of Jewish experiences across Europe during the central Middle Ages. Typological exegesis forms an important part of this material exegesis, one that drags the historical temple into the contemporary present, but in the process strips it of its Jewish identity. Authors of liturgical commentaries, however (e.g., Honorius Augustodunensis, Pseudo-Hugh of Saint Victor and William Durandus), had complex relationships with Jewish scholarship, often relying on rabbinic explanations of the bible’s literal meaning. The result is a distinct tension in Christian exegesis, where scholarship, practice and architecture form important, but currently unexplored connections.