The Colmar Treasure: A Medieval Jewish Legacy | Ancient Art Links

The Colmar Treasure: A Medieval Jewish Legacy | Ancient Art Links


>>>On July 22, 2019, the
Metropolitan Museum of Art at the Cloisters unveiled a
small exhibition: “The Colmar Treasure: a
Medieval Jewish Legacy”. The Met Cloisters is the
branch of the museum devoted to the art and
architecture of medieval Europe.>>>It’s my very strong
feeling that the Cloisters is the public face in the
United States of the medieval world. Our
architecture makes it pretty clear that we’re
going to be talking about castles and kings and
monks because we’re somewhere between a
monastery — looking like a monastery and looking
like a castle. >>>Colmar is a small town
located in the north France, not far from the
German border. In 1863, a small group of treasure
was discovered inside a hotel wall. The jewelry
was dated back to the 13th and 14th century.
It belonged to a Jewish family, who never
came to collect it.>>>This particular
treasure, it’s been linked always to the black death,
right? And other exhibitions have been called Treasures
of the Black Death.>>>The Colmar Treasure,
from the Musée de Cluny, Paris, is now displayed
alongside select works from the Met Cloisters and
other organizations. ♪ [Music] ♪ The most significant
piece of jewelry is a golden Jewish ceremonial ring,
which was only worn at the wedding ceremony.
The golden hexagon on the ring represents the lost
temple in Jerusalem, the Hebrew letters on it
spell “mazel tov”, meaning “congratulations”.
The belt was also for the wedding ceremony. Colmar’s record shows, around the 1340s, there was
a lively Jewish community living side by side with
its Christian neighbors before the Black Death
hit Europe. The plaque killed 30 to 60% of the population.
Facing an unknown cause of death, everyone panicked.
The Church pointed the finger at the Jewish community.>>>What our records show,
is that there probably was a mass burning. >>>In December 1348, a
Jewish man, while being tortured, falsely confessed
to the poisoning of the towns water supply. And in early
1349 the Jews of Colmar were put to death,
many were burned alive.>>>And this wasn’t just
in Colmar. This occurred in other cities along the Rhine
in the same region and also there are examples in Italy
and there are examples in Belgium of that same
phenomenon occurring. ♪ [Music] ♪>>>This prayer book from
the Met Cloister shows three elegant men on
horseback, unexpectedly encountering their own
images in death.  The owner of the book, Bonne
of Luxembourg, was the sister of the Holy Roman
Emperor, who died in 1349 of the Black Death plague.>>>We included that to
really emphasize how pervasive the impact
of the plague was.>>>This black onyx ring
was rare then. This “Hands and Faith” pattern
ring was probably for mourning. A book written in Hebrew
around 1290 asserts that if a person wants to talk
to his dead friend in his dreams, he should
put on an onyx ring.>>>We have some coins
right behind you there. Those are the coins that
were found with the treasure. There are around
three hundred of them. Actually, at this time,
the monetary circumstance are still quite complex. >>>Throughout history,
Colmar has been a wine city. Different types of
coins were used for trade with different regions. ♪ [Music] ♪>>>Another object, which is
surprising, is a little tiny pen, which you would
have used in combination with an ivory plaque,
like the one that you see, from our collection, and on the back, it’s blank.
The surface is slightly carved in so that it’s
indented. They would have put a thin layer of wax
there and then you use the silver tip to write notes.
It’s kind of a junior high meets texting in
the 14th century. The Jewish population,
along the Rhineland, some of them, quite a few
of them, came into the Rhineland in the early 14th
century, when they were kicked out of the kingdom
of France, and they became involved with
the translation of romances, romance stories
from French into German.>>>The inscriptions on
this jewel box attest to the cultural obsession
with romantic notions. >>>A long time, decades,
we thought that this treasure was the only
evidence of the Jewish community of Colmar. But
quite recently a wonderful scholar from France, she’s
been studying Christian printed books, which on
their inside pages, has, as their end pages, bits
and pieces of 14th century Hebrew manuscript. Now,
how does that happen? After the Jewish community
was killed, in Colmar, their property remained
and so their books passed to the local religious
institutions and they used the end papers from those
earlier Hebrew manuscripts to form the end papers of
their books and the library in Colmar was kind
enough to lend us this one, which is the only one
with a fully illuminated page from the early
14th century. ♪ [Music] ♪>>>For over 600 years the
Colmar treasure was hidden inside the walls and
bearing witness to a once lively Christian and
Jewish community that lived side by side. This
exhibition reminds us of the painful tragedy of the
dark ages and the progress we have made by showing
this Jewish treasure at the Met Cloisters today. ♪ [Music] ♪

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