Sunday, April 9, 2017

Entering Jerusalem, the Hinge to the Passion

Pietro Lorenzetti, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Italian, c. 1320
Assisi, Basilica of San Francesco, Lower Church
“When Jesus and the disciples drew near Jerusalem
and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives,
Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them,
"Go into the village opposite you,
and immediately you will find an ass tethered,
and a colt with her.
Untie them and bring them here to me.
And if anyone should say anything to you, reply,
'The master has need of them.'
Then he will send them at once."
This happened so that what had been spoken through the prophet
might be fulfilled:
Say to daughter Zion,
"Behold, your king comes to you,
meek and riding on an ass,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden."
The disciples went and did as Jesus had ordered them.
They brought the ass and the colt and laid their cloaks over them,
and he sat upon them.
The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road,
while others cut branches from the trees
and strewed them on the road.
The crowds preceding him and those following
kept crying out and saying:
"Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;
hosanna in the highest."
And when he entered Jerusalem
the whole city was shaken and asked, "Who is this?"
And the crowds replied,
"This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.

Gospel of Matthew 21:1-11, Gospel Read at the Procession of the Palms, Palm Sunday, Year A

Attributed to Sante Avanzini, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Cuttings from Missal of Innocent X
Italian (Rome), c.1644
London, British Library
MS Additional 18196, fol. 88




Each year on the Sunday before Easter, known universally as Palm Sunday, the Church reads two distinct Gospels.  The first is read in an unusual position within the Mass, at the very beginning.  This is the point at which palms are blessed and we recall the joyous entry of Jesus into Jerusalem during the preparation for what would be His last Passover under the Old Law.  


Very often, parishes assemble in some location outside the church building, read the Gospel and bless the palms, then recreate the entry by processing into their church, carrying the blessed palms.  During this procession the mood is joyful and light hearted. The hymns sung during the procession are all about praise, like "All Glory, Laud and Honor" or are settings of "Hosanna Filio David", the cry of the Jerusalem crowds.  There is a note of triumph.

Glass Roundel, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
German, 15th Century
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art




When Mass begins inside the church, however, the tone changes abruptly.  The sorrowful hymn "O Sacred Head Surrounded" may be the musical choice at Offertory.  The Old Testament reading speaks of beatings and bleeding, of buffets and spitting (Isaiah 50:4-7).  The responsorial psalm refrain is “My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?” and the Psalm itself (Psalm 22) speaks of mocking and the piercing of hands and feet, the numbering of bones.  The New Testament reading from Philippians tells us that Jesus became “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-11).  And the Gospel reading is The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, read in its entirety.  This year we will be reading the Passion from the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 26:4-27, 66).  All the joy of the entry has been crushed by contemplation of the terrible ordeal of Calvary.

The entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem is, therefore, a kind of hinge.  On one side there is the public ministry of Jesus, the years from the beginning of His ministry, with its teaching, its miracles, its healings.  On the other is the time of pain through which He must pass to complete His earthly mission.  This day, with its joyful procession is the transition point.  Thus, the entry itself has significance.  It is the beginning of the end.  Once He has committed to entering Jerusalem, there is no way out.  He must go through with the final work given Him by His Father. 

Sarcophagus with Biblical Scenes
Roman, 4th Century
Vatican, Pio-Cristiano Museum
The Church has recognized the importance of this moment in its art for a very long time.  Barely had the Church been permitted to worship freely by the Edict of Milan (315) than Christians of means began to order sculpted marble sarcophagi for their tombs to demonstrate their faith.  And some of the earliest of these incorporate images of the Entry into Jerusalem among the biblical images that form their decoration.  
Sarcophagus with Scenes from the Lives of Christ and St. Peter
Roman, early 300s with modern reconstructions
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
The most famous of these is the securely dated tomb of the high Roman official, Senator and Urban Prefect of Rome Junius Bassus, now in the Vatican.  
Sarcophagus of the Urban Prefect Junius Bassus
Roman, 359
Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica
Sarcophagus of the Urban Prefect Junius Bassus
Detail -- Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Roman, 359
Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica


While some of the early sarcophagi place the Entry to Jerusalem slightly to one side of the center, the sarcophagus of Bassus places it in the center panel, just below the image of Christ, seated in majesty, giving His law to the disciples, an image known as the Traditio Legis. 1   This important location, emphasizes the importance of the event, which was already seen as part of the Passion, scenes of which are depicted in the right upper quadrant of the sarcophagus (Christ led before Pilate and Christ standing before Pilate).

It should be mentioned here that, at this time, images of the Crucifixion were not part of Christian art.  This sarcophagus was carved around 359 (the date of death of the Senator), which is barely twenty years on from the abolition of crucifixion as a punishment of the Empire by Constantine.  The first images of a crucified Christ, barely recognizable as such, were still twenty years in the future.  

Very quickly, indeed with these first images, the iconography of the Entry into Jerusalem became set.  It derives partly from images of a Roman triumph, although that portrayed a very different atmosphere.  It derives also partly from adherence to the descriptions found in the Gospels, which were, at that time, just achieving canonical status. 2 
Triumph of Titus
Roman, 81
Rome, Arch of Titus

The connection to the Roman triumph is not particularly astounding, given that these Roman Christians, who were living in the heart of what was still the capitol of the Empire, would have turned naturally to the kinds of triumphal procession with which they were familiar.  The triumph provided a model for showing the movement of someone using a horse for propulsion and for the reaction of those around him.  It need hardly be mentioned that the image of the lone man seated on a donkey is very far from the image of the Emperor driving a four-horse quadriga chariot, with a crown held over his head by a figure of winged Victory.  

Ivory Pyx with Scene of Jesus Entering Jerusalem
Byzantine (Constantinople), 6th Century
Cleveland, Museum of Art
Palms have been added to the basic image.





What is most interesting, however, is the fact that these images slightly predate the first generally accepted list of Christian narratives that named which of the many writings then in circulation were to be accepted as “canonical”.  For, the creation of images such as these implies that there was already a widespread agreement about the events the Gospels describe, and what they might have looked like – before there were generally agreed canonical texts. 3  This points out the importance of the orally transmitted teachings of the Church, of Tradition, in the formation of Christian belief.  People already knew what the stories were and how to depict them, before there was an officially recognized New Testament to tell them.

Ivory Book Cover (Back Cover), Scenes from the Life of Christ
Byzantine, 550-600
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9384, Cover
The scene of Jesus Entering Jerusalem is at the far right of the very bottom register.









































Rabbula Gospels, Scenes from the Life of Christ
Byzantine (Syria), 586
Florence, Biblioteca Mediceo Laurenziana
MS Cod. Plut. 1, fol. 11v
Rossano Gospels, Jesus Enters Jerusalelm
Byzantine, 6th Century
Rossano, Diocesan Museum
The number of persons involved has increased and now includes children.  A representation of the city of Jerusalem has also been added at the right.  It is a walled city with a city gateway and some of its inhabitants are joining in the festivities from their windows.  


The earliest images all include the figure of Jesus, seated on a donkey, while someone lays a garment under the donkey’s feet, with another person shown in a tree.
Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Sacramentary of Drogo
French (Metz), c. 850
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9428, fol. 43

Ivory Plaque, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Byzantine (Constantinople), 10th Century
Berlin, Skulpturensammlung usn Museum fuer
Byzantinische Kunst der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin
This beautiful Byzantine ivory includes a wealth of detail, some of
it charming, such as the man and woman welcoming Jesus at the
city gate.  The man holds a small child by the hand, while his wife
carries another child on her shoulders, holding it by the ankle, just as
people still do today!  That child is the only one with a palm branch.
Ivory Plaque, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Ottonian (Milan), c. 900-925
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Comparison of this plaque with the Byzantine
plaque on the left offers a useful demonstration
of the difference between the continuity of skill
found in Byzantium and the skills being 
reconstructed in Western Europe during
this period.
































Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from the Benedictional of Aethelwold
English, 963-984
London, British Library
MS Additional 49598, fol. 45v
Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from the Gospel Book of Otto III
German (Reichenau), c. 1000
Munich, Bayerisches Staats bibliothek
MS Clm 4453, fol. 234v




























Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from the Bernward Column
German,1000-1020
Hildesheim, Church of St. Michael

To this was added, over time, varying numbers of disciples, people waving palms, children, architectural elements, and, eventually, around the year 1000, the donkey’s foal.  The last is another interesting feature.
The Two Disciples Request the Donkey and Foal
from the Book of Pericopes of Heinrich II
German (Reichenau), c. 1007-1012
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
MS Clm 4452, fol. 77v
Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from the Book of Pericopes of Heinrich II
German (Reichenau), c. 1007-1012
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
MS Clm 4452, fol. 78r

Only the Gospel of Matthew mentions that the donkey on which Jesus rode was a mother, with a foal.  As anyone who has seen working mares can testify, their foals follow them wherever they go, unless restrained.  Therefore, the inclusion of a foal means that the person creating the work of art knows, or has been instructed by someone else, that the Evangelist Matthew specified a female donkey.  This is another indicator that, at the beginning, the images were less determined by the written word in the Bible than by tradition.

Master of San Baudelio de Berlanga, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Spanish, c. 1125
Indianapolis, Museum of Art
Tweede Groep, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from a Psalter
Flemish (Ghent), c. 1270-1280
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M72, fol. 11v

Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from Psalter-Hours of Yolande of Soissons
French, c, 1280-1300
New York, Pierpont
MS M729, fol. 310v



























Giotto, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Italian, 1304-1306
Padua, Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel

Duccio, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Italian, 1308-1311
Siena, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

Jacqemart and Collaborators, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from Grandes heures de Jean de Berry
French (Paris), 1409
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 919, fol. 61
Jean Colombe, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from Hours of Anne of France
French (Bourges), 1473
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M677, fol. 11v



























Master of Edward IV, Jesus Prepares to Enter Jerusalem
from the Vita Christi
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1487-1490
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M894, fol. 140r
In this unusual treatment, Jesus, clad in brown and standing at the right, waits while two of the Disciple (John the Evangelist who holds the reins and one other) drape the back of the donkey.  At the same time, her foal is on his knees having a meal.


The iconography of the Entry into Jerusalem remained surprisingly stable through time.  More and more figures were added, generally spectators with palms.   Greater emphasis was placed on the physical surroundings of the event.  The city came into focus, first by representing the city gate and associated buildings.  Later an entire cityscape was depicted.

Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from a Gospel Lectinary
Austrian (Salzburg), c. 1070-1090
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
 MS M780, fol. 26r
Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from the Psalter of Christina of Markyate
English (St. Alban's), 1124-1145
Hildesheim, Dombibliothek, p. 37



























Mosaic, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Italian, 1140-1170
Palermo, Cappella Palatina
Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from the Huntingfield Psalter
English (Oxford), c. 1212-1220
New  York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M43, fol. 21vb
Soissons Workshop. Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from a Psalter
French (Paris area), c. 1229-1246
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M283, fol. 14v

Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from the Legend of King Abgar of Edessa
Italian (Rome), c. 1275-1300
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 2688, fol. 72

Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from Livre d'images de Madame Marie
Flemish (Hainaut), c. 1285-1290
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition francaise 16251, fol. 29





Workshop of Pacino da Bonaguida, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from Scenes from the Life of Christ and the Life
of the Blessed Gerard of Villamagna

Italian (Florence), c. 1315-1325
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M643, fol. 7v




























Silver Enameled Plaque, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
French (Paris), c. 1330-1350
London, British Museum
Giovanni di Benedetto and Collaborators
Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from a Missal
Italian (Milan), c. 1385-1390
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 757, fol. 322
Alabaster carving, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
English, 15th Century
London, Victoria and Albert Museum
























Wood Relief with Paint and Gilding, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
German, 15th Century
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters

Lorenzo Ghiberti, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Italian, 1403-1424
Florence, Baptistry
Jesus Enters Jerusalem
French, c. 1423
Chambery, Musee des Beaux-Arts






















Master of the Thuison Altarpiece
Jesus Enters Jerusalem
French, c. 1450-1500
St. Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum
Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from Fleur des histoires by Jean Mansel
French, c. 1450-1475
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 56, fol. 37
Fra Angelico, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from the Armadio degli Argenti
Italian, 1451-1452
Florence, Museo di San Marco
Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Swiss, 1472
Konstanz, Church of Our Lady, Chapel of St. Sylvester
Jan van Haldern, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Dutch, 1498
Kalkar Kreis Kleve, Catholic Parish Church of Saint Nicholas
Hans Holbein the Elder, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
German, 1500
Frankfurt (Main)
Katholische Pfarrkirche Sankt Leonhard






















Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from Saint mistere de la glorieuse piteuse et angoisseuse
passion de notre seigneur et saulveru Jhesucrist

French, c. 1510-1510
London, British Library
MS Royal 19 V VI, fol. 1
Simon Bening, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Prayer Book of Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1525-1530
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
MS Ludwig IX 19, fol. 77v
Pieter Coecke van Aelst, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Flemish, c. 1530-1535
Maastricht, Bonnefantenmuseum

Valerio Belli, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Rock Crystal Carving
Italian (Vicenza), c. 1531-1533
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art























Frequently also, the image of the Entry into Jerusalem was combined within the same object with images from other events from the life of Jesus, and especially of His Passion, or from the Old Testament.  This was especially true in images made during the Middle Ages and early part of the Renaissance period. Over time it diminished and the Entry became a stand-alone subject.

Raising of Lazarus, Woman Washes the Feet of Jesus,
Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from Orations of Gregory Nazianzus
Byzantine (Constantinople), 879-882
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Grec 510, fol. 196v
Jesus Enters Jerusalem, Crucifixion
from Gospel Book
German, c. 1015
Hildesheim, Dom-Museum Hildeshein





























Portion of an enamel Altar with Scenes from the Passion
German, c. 1170-1179
Hildesheim, Dom-Museum Hildesheim
Jesus Enters Jerusalem, Washing of Feet
and Last Supper
from Picture Bible
French (St. Omer, Abbey of St. Bertin), c. 1190-1200
The Hague, KB
MS KB 76 F 5, fol. 15v
Raising of Lazarus and Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from a Psalter
English (London), c. 1200-1225
London, British Library
MS Landsdowne 420, fol. 10v

Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from the Psalter of St. Louis and Blanche of Castille
French, c. 1225
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Arsenal 1186, fol. 21v

Jesus Enters Jerusalem
fro a Psalter
German (Hildesheim), c. 1230-1240
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquistion latine 3102, fol. 9v



























Baptism of Jesus and Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from the Grosbois Psalter
Belgian (Liege), 1261
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M440, fol. 10v
Jesus Is Tempted Three Times and
Jesus Enters Jerusalem
from a Psalter
French (Paris), c. 1265-1275
New  York, Pierpont
Ms M101, fol. 18v




























Guido da Siena, Triptych with the Transfiguration of Jesus, Jesus Entering Jerusalem and the Raising of Lazarus
Italian, 1270-1280
Siena, Pinacoteca Nazionale
Diptych With Scenes from the Life of Christ: Raising of Lazarus,
Jesus Enters Jerusalem, Crucifixion and Entombment
German, c. 1350-1375
Cleveland, Museum of Art

Diptych With Scenes from the Passion of Christ: Jesus Enters Jerusalem,
the Last Supper, Betrayal by Judas and Crucifixion
French, c. 1350
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art























Entry of David into Jerusalem, Jesus Entering Jerusalem
from a Psalter
Italian (Mantua), c. 1430
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 772, fol. 63v

Very occasionally also it was combined with some images not from the Bible, but from other sources, to make specific points. For example, the image at the left combines the image of David bearing the head of Goliath as he precedes King Saul into Jerusalem (1 Samuel 17:54) with the entry of Jesus.  This ties together the response of the crowds to Jesus (Hosanna to the son of David) with the exploit of His ancestor.  It also provides a contrast between the pomp of the kingly entrance to the city, with the king and his sons mounted on horses and the musicians who form the welcoming party, to the simpler entry of Jesus, mounted on a donkey, His followers on foot and ordinary people giving welcome.

In the image below, from a Biblia pauperum, we see the same two images combined with a third one, Melchisedech welcoming Abraham to Salem.  This three-part image is typical of the typological thinking of the medieval period.  All three events took place in the same location, that is the gates of Jerusalem (Salem is the original name for the city) at different times in human and salvation history.  In salvation history, the earliest one, Melchizedek welcoming Abraham, which comes from the Book of Genesis (Genesis 14:18-20), takes place in the period "Before the Law", that is before the Ten Commandments were bestowed on Moses.  David's entry into Jerusalem with the head of Goliath takes place "Under the Law", that is the history of the Israelites following the Exodus and the reception of the Ten Commandments.  The Entry of Jesus takes place "Under Grace" the period which began with the Annunciation, when God entered human history.

Rambures Master, David Enters Jerusalem, Jesus Enters Jerusalem, Melchizedek Welcomes Abraham to Salem
from a Biblia pauperum
French (Hesdin or Amiens), c. 1470
The Hague, Meermano Museum
MS MMW 10 A 15, fol. 26v

In the Middle Ages and early Renaissance period in Germany there was a tradition of conducting a Palm Sunday procession through the towns, accompanying a carved and painted wooden image of Christ on the donkey, called a Palmesel.  Though many must have been destroyed during the Reformation, quite a few of these interesting figures remain. 
Palmesel
German (Franconia), 15th Century
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters
Palmesel
German (Swabia), c. 1520-1525
Paris, Musee du Louvre
























Towards the end of the Renaissance period and the beginning of the Baroque, the setting moved out into the countryside, well beyond the city proper. 

Jan van Scorel, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Dutch, 1526-1527
Utrecht, Centraal Museum
Jan van Hemessen, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
1551-1600
Gotha, Schlossmuseum Scholss Friedenstein, Gemaeldsammlung
Anthony van Dyck, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Flemish, c. 1617
Indianapolis, Museum of Art
Albert Cuyp, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
Dutch, c. 1640-1700
Glasgow, Glasgow Museums Resource Centre
Charles LeBrun, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
French, c. 1650
Saint-Etienne, Musee d'Art et d'Industrie
William Blake, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
English, 1800
Glasgow, Glasgow Museums, Pollok House

Nineteenth-century painters brought the image back into the city, with greater archaeological correctness, thanks to ongoing excavations. 

Benjamin Robert Haydon, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
English, 1814-1820
Cincinnati, Mount St. Mary's Seminary
Hippolyte Flandrin, Jesus Enters Jerusalem
French, 1842-1846
Paris, Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Pres
James Tissot, Jesus Enters Jerusalem, The Procession Through the Streets
French, 1886-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum

Today, Palm Sunday remains an important day in the Christian calendar.  Processions still take place in many places, most notably perhaps through St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.  Most parish churches are crowded, as they are only on a few other days of the year: Christmas, Easter Sunday, Ash Wednesday.  The idea of welcoming Christ to our city and into His Passion, which we call Holy Week, still stands.  And, with the reading of the Passion, Holy Week begins.

© M. Duffy, 2017

  1. See http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803105225451
  2.  Mathews, Thomas F. “Reply to Peter Brown.” The Art Bulletin, vol. 78, no. 1, 1996, pp. 178–178
  3.  For a brief description of how the New Testament came to be see:  http://bibleresources.americanbible.org/resource/how-the-bible-came-to-us

No comments: