‘Pictures at an exhibition’: The book culture of the medieval Holy Land

Rarely can one see so many manuscripts grouped together outside an archive or a library reading room. Little did I know what I was going to witness at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art ‘Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven’ exhibition last week. Nearly a dozen rooms covering the material and cultural history of Jerusalem between the years 1000 and 1400 (roughly, of course) tell the story of a cultural cauldron capable of assimilating and transforming nearly all the cultures of Eastern and Western Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and even sometimes the Far East. While the exhibition focuses on the medieval city of Jerusalem, more than two-thirds of the exhibits were manuscripts.

I am furious now that time was so limited and I couldn’t spend more than 2 hours among artifacts which would naturally claim at least 5, if not more. And that is because, since I was visiting New York for the first time, priority was given to the MET, and a follow-up was not possible. I thought 2 hours just before closure time would be enough to go through medieval Jerusalem. Silly me. Fortunately, however, just before they almost literally dragged me out of the showrooms, I managed to take some pictures of the dozens of manuscripts on display. However, as every silver lining has its corresponding, fiercer lead lining, I couldn’t even stop to write down what I was looking at. So most of these photos are doomed to untitled-ness (unless you guys help me title them). The gallery starts with gold coins, which is a fitting metaphor for the tons of manuscripts which follow, with their weight and value measured in gold. Enjoy.



The great voyage – Matthew Paris’ Chronica Majora and its famous maps of the route to the Holy Land. As the pilgrim travelled from England to Jerusalem, so this manuscript travelled from England to New York for this exhibition.


JER 11

JER 12

JER 13

JER 14

JER 15

JER 16

JER 17

JER 18

JER 19

JER 20

JER 21

JER 22

JER 23

JER 24

JER 25

JER 26

JER 27

JER 29

JER 30

JER 31

JER 32

JER 33

JER 34

JER 35

JER 36

JER 37

JER 38

JER 39

JER 41

JER 42

JER 43

JER 44

JER 45

JER 46

JER 47

JER 48

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: