Selling Jerusalem: Relics, Replicas, Theme Parksby Annabel Jane Wharton
Jerusalem currently stands at the center of a violent controversy that threatens the stability of both the Middle East and the world. This volatility, observes Annabel Jane Wharton, is only the most recent manifestation of a centuries-old obsession with the control of the Holy City—military occupation and pilgrimage being two familiar forms of
Jerusalem currently stands at the center of a violent controversy that threatens the stability of both the Middle East and the world. This volatility, observes Annabel Jane Wharton, is only the most recent manifestation of a centuries-old obsession with the control of the Holy City—military occupation and pilgrimage being two familiar forms of “ownership.” Wharton makes the innovative argument here that the West has also sought to possess Jerusalem by acquiring its representations.
From relics of the True Cross and Templar replicas of the Holy Sepulchre to Franciscan recreations of the Passion to nineteenth-century mass-produced prints and contemporary theme parks, Wharton describes the evolving forms by which the city has been possessed in the West. She also maps those changing embodiments of the Holy City against shifts in the western market. From the gift-and-barter economy of the early Middle Ages to contemporary globalization, both money and the representations of Jerusalem have become progressively incorporeal, abstract, illusionistic, and virtual.
Selling Jerusalem offers a penetrating introduction to the explosive combination of piety and capital at work in religious objects and global politics. It is sure to interest students and scholars of art history, economic history, popular culture, religion, and architecture, as well as those who want to better understand Jerusalem’s problematic place in history.
"Selling Jerusalem makes important contributions to art history, as well as the history of landscape, colonialism, cross-cultural contact, and religion. It offers a wealth of detail in its case studies and provides much inspiration for new approaches to landscapes, objects, and cultural history. In an even deeper and more controversial way, it can show us how much of the conflict over “Jerusalem” has actually been fought over its necessarily imperfect, variable, ideological, and illusory representations—in proxy forms from the tiny to the grandiose."
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Read an ExcerptSelling Jerusalem
Relics, Replicas, Theme Parks
By ANNABEL JANE WHARTON The University of Chicago Press
Copyright © 2006 The University of Chicago
All right reserved.
Fragmented Jerusalem: City as Gift
Passing centuries have successively reduced our precious treasure [the True Cross], lost to the winds of revolutions and to the blasts of impiety. There remain few, and their rarity makes each of these relics more precious. Therefore I have taken the liberty of appealing to the Catholic world, and the information that I have received has allowed me to describe those relics that still exist and to chart them.... The result of this table is that the total volume of the relics that are known to us is about five million [cubic] millimeters.... If one considers also the small fragments that are found in churches, convents, and private collections, it is possible to triple that volume. One arrives then at fifteen million millimeters, which is not even a tenth of the 180 million millimeters that we have shown made up the volume of the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ. * CHARLES ROHAULT DE FLEURY, MÉMOIRE SUR LES INSTRUMENTS DE LA PASSION DE N.-S. J.-C. (1870)
The sum total of these precious things constitutes the magical dower.... All these things are always, in every tribe, spiritual in origin and of a spiritual nature. Moreover, they are contained in a box, orrather in a large emblazoned case that is itself endowed with a powerful personality, that can talk, that clings to its owner, that holds his soul. * MARCEL MAUSS, THE GIFT (1924)
A relic is the remnant of a history that is threatened by forgetting. It records duration and postpones oblivion. It offers reassurance that the past retains its authority. It collapses time. A relic is a sign of previous power, real or imagined. It promises to put that power back to work. A relic is a fragment that evokes a lost fullness. It is a part that allows the embrace of an absent whole. It is the living piece of a dead object. It is an intensely material sign entangled in a spiritual significance. A relic avoids intrinsically valuable materials. It works in part through the uniqueness of its survival.
Pegasus Motor Oils is a sign of a demolished gasoline station that reveals its own history (fig. 1). The bullet holes index its poignant prominence at an abandoned site. It suffered through target practice. The rust stains that run like blood from its punctures attest to the duration of its survival. Its deco figuration suggests commerce before commercialism. The sign is a remnant of a more authentic America, an America before Jiffy-Lube, an America where men changed their own oil. Pegasus Motor Oils is now possessed by a man who still changes his own oil or wishes that he did. The sign acts a relic.
But Pegasus Motor Oils is not a sign/relic but an artwork. It was produced in 1999, then artificially aged by artist Todd Sanders at his Austin, Texas, Roadhouse Relics studio. There was no gasoline station; Pegasus Motor Oils Company never existed. The concept was derived from the early signage of Mobil Oil Corporation (fig. 2). No doubt, reference to a once familiar image of mythological speed and power contributes to the persuasiveness of the work. In 1995, Mobil Corporation itself returned to Pegasus, not as an emblem of mobility but as a means of deploying memory to promote sales.
To underscore the historical tenor of the campaign, Mobil is returning Pegasus, its venerable flying horse trademark, to a place of prominence on the packaging for Mobil Motor Oil.... "If we're going to use a heritage approach, Pegasus is a very valuable symbol," said Jim Taverna, retail marketing manager for the lubricant business.... "There is the potential to use Pegasus more heavily," he added, beyond the Mobil Motor Oil packaging and small signs affixed to service stations selling Mobil gasoline. "Our employees responded very, very positively" to the winged horse, he said. Centering the campaign on history stems from research ... [that] indicated that "people have a need for trust in their brand" of motor oils.... The heritage campaign was selected as a way to show consumers "we have a lot of reasons to be trusted."
Pegasus Motor Oils is an artwork that passes as a found object, a deception much harder to enact than the Dadaists' found objects that pose as art. When the artifice of the object is recognized and Pegasus Motor Oils is identified as art, it ceases to function as relic. This object is no duck/rabbit, an image that continuously oscillates in meaning. Once an observer identifies the work as a contemporary invention, she can never again see it as a unique report of a particular history. It may still serve as a source of satisfaction and pleasure; it certainly may be admired; it can accrue value. But its life is no longer a mystery; it is a product of the market. It reveals newly our peculiarly nostalgic present, but it has lost its magical power to conjure the past. Pegasus Motor Oils demonstrates how an artwork can function as a relic until its deception is discovered. Deeply implicated in that deception is the artwork's participation in the market. Prepared by an artist in the expectation of a financial return and bought over the Internet, Pegasus Motor Oils may not be a commodity, but it certainly is an economic good.
Pegasus Motor Oils indicates some of the ways in which medieval relics worked like modern ones. Their agency did not depend on their authenticity, but on the perception that they were authentic. So long as a medieval relic was regarded as real, its pious observer might reexperience the historical whole of which the relic was a part. When its authenticity was doubted, as in the case of Henry III's relic of the blood of Jesus, it did not perform.
More obviously, Pegasus Motor Oils suggests some of the significant differences between medieval and modern relics. Pegasus Motor Oils never healed the blind. The Pegasus of even the most authentic Mobilgas sign never came to life during a hurricane to spread its wings protectively over its hometown. Modern relics might, like medieval relics, evoke a nostalgically idealized past, but they perpetuate it less powerfully. Pegasus Motor Oils is a sign of the modern, secularized diminution of the term relic. For me to identify it initially as a "relic" was a customary use of the English language. But the value of Pegasus Motor Oils is more familiarly expressed in dollars. Now a "relic" can be bought and sold. In contrast, the medieval relic scorned money. Its value had no monetary equivalent. It was possible to steal relics, but it was illicit to sell them. Jerusalem, in the form of relics, was possessed in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages not as an economic good but as a gift.
The greatest of Christian relics was the True Cross. The relic was found in many forms-immured in altars, displayed in reliquaries, worn in pendants and rings. An altar table found near Kherbet-oum-el-Ahdam, Algeria, claims possession of a fragment of the True Cross in an inscription of around 360.8 Saint Macrina the Younger (d. 397) wore around her neck an iron crucifix and an iron ring that contained a particle of the True Cross. In a sermon given in Antioch in 387, John Chrysostom comments that many women in his congregation sought fragments of the cross to wear as jewelry. Any of these manifestations of the cross might be remarkably efficacious. Even a robe in which the True Cross was wrapped might perform miracles, as the sixth-century bishop and historian Gregory of Tours relates:
The nature of the power of this wood became apparent to me in this way. A man arrived who showed me a small robe that was made entirely of silk and that was very old. He claimed that the Lord's cross had been wrapped in this robe at Jerusalem. Because of my ignorance this claim seemed outrageous.... [In response to Gregory's skepticism, the man explained:] "As I was leaving Jerusalem, I met the abbot Futes, who had great favor with the empress Sophia [wife of Justin II]; for they had entrusted the entire East to this man as if it were his prefecture. I attached myself to this man, and when I was returning from the East I received from him both these relics of saints and this robe in which the holy cross was then always wrapped." After this man told me this story ... I dared to wash the robe and allow people with fevers to drink [the water]. But soon, as the divine power brought aid, they were healed. Then I even cut off some pieces and gave them to monks as a blessing. I gave one piece to an abbot who returned two years later and claimed under oath that it had healed twelve possessed people, three blind people, and two paralytics. He had placed [his piece of] the robe in the mouth of a mute man, and as soon as it touched his teeth and tongue, it restored his voice and speech.
The True Cross raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, healed the sick, protected its possessor from evil, and presented a transcendent vision that attracted pilgrims.
The True Cross absorbed its power through its intense contact with the physical body of the Divine. It was the vehicle of Jesus's sacrifice and, consequently, the instrument of the pious Christian's salvation. Few parts of Jesus remained behind after his Ascension. The wood of the cross acted as a substitute for the absent body of Christ. The True Cross also had material attributes that contributed to its efficacy. It was readily divisible; its particles were as effective as the whole. It could not be mistaken for worldly wealth. Its substance-small pieces of common wood-had virtually no monetary value. Its particles had only spiritual worth; they resisted vending. The True Cross was made in Jerusalem. Those who venerated its pieces were aware of their origins, if not of their history. The Holy City itself was circulated in the distribution of its fragments.
Jerusalem was the sacred center of a Jewish state in the first century CE. Herod the Great (r. 37-4 BCE) had made the city into a showplace (figs. 3, 4). Pliny the Elder identified this Jerusalem as "by far the most brilliant city of the East, not just of Judea alone." Herod's greatest work was a massive new temple, begun in 19 BCE and finished sometime between 62 and 64 CE. The Temple, controlled by the Jewish religious elite, was the spectacular center of Jerusalem. The Temple's spatial and social antithesis was the place of execution, at the periphery of the city, just outside its walls. At that site, imagined as Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, criminals of the lowest sort were crucified. According to tradition, Jesus was executed on the hill of Golgotha in 29 CE, then buried nearby in a cave-tomb.
Judea's later history as a discontented part of the Roman Empire had disastrous consequences for Jerusalem. Herod's recently completed Temple was destroyed in Titus's suppression of the First Jewish Revolt of 66-73 CE. The Second Revolt of 132-35 CE ended with Hadrian's elimination of Jerusalem itself. The Roman emperor replaced Herod's magnificent metropolis with a provincial outpost set to the west of the old city (fig. 5A). Jews were banished from the city; it was repopulated with gentiles. This new town was dedicated to its imperial begetters, the emperor himself (Publius Aelias Hadrianus) and his god, Jupiter Capitolanus, and named Colonia Aelia Capitolina. A military camp was installed on the most elevated area on the site of the new settlement. The new forum was located outside the walls of the old city, on the adjacent hill. It determined the intersection of Aelia's principal avenues, the new cardo maximus and the decumanus, and acquired the traditional Roman trappings of a community center, including a marketplace, a temple precinct, and a monumental arched entrance. Hadrian radically recentered the city, as well as renaming it. The old core became the desolate periphery: the ruins of the Jerusalem Temple were retained as the material witness of Roman military and political supremacy.
Despite its conversion from the Jewish capital to a Roman garrison town, Jerusalem retained its sacred aura for both Jews and Christians. By the fourth century, Christians venerated the city, not only as the principal site of Jesus's earthly existence, but also as the setting of the Hebrew Bible, transformed into the Old Testament and reread as a prophecy of the new order. Nearly two centuries after Hadrian's establishment of Aelia, the emperor Constantine stimulated Christianity's craving for Jerusalem. Constantine, who reigned between 312-32 CE, was the first openly Christian emperor. Under the protection of a cross (the [??] chi rho, the first two letters of Christ in Greek) that he had seen in a vision, Constantine famously defeated Maxentius, his rival in the West, at the Milvian Bridge in 312 and consequently occupied Rome. After he defeated Licinius, his rival in the East, in 324, Constantine was the sole ruler of the Roman Empire. The emperor reasserted the imperial presence in Aelia Capitolina/Jerusalem and monumentalized the Christian cult in the city. Christian triumph over Greco-Roman cults was celebrated with a new cathedral that displaced Hadrian's temples in the great forum at Aelia's core (fig. 5B). Foundations for the new church complex required considerable excavation. In book 3 of his Life of Constantine, Eusebius (d. 339), bishop of nearby Caesarea at the time, describes the dramatic results:
At a word of command those contrivances of fraud [pagan temples] were demolished from top to bottom, and the houses of error were dismantled and destroyed along with their idols and demons. His efforts however did not stop there, but the Emperor gave further orders that all the rubble of stones and timbers from the demolitions should be taken and dumped a long way from the site. This command also was soon effected. But not even this progress was by itself enough, but under divine inspiration once more the Emperor gave instructions that the site should be excavated to a great depth and the pavement should be carried away with the rubble a long distance outside, because it was stained with demonic bloodshed [of animal sacrifices]. This also was completed straightaway. As stage by stage the underground site was exposed, at last against all expectation the revered and all-hallowed Testimony [martyrion] of the Savior's resurrection was itself revealed, and the cave, the holy of holies, took on the appearance of a representation of the Savior's return to life. Thus after its descent into darkness it came forth again to the light, and it enabled those who came as visitors to see plainly the story of wonders wrought there, testifying by facts louder than any voice to the resurrection of the Savior.
Thus, according to Eusebius, our most detailed contemporary source, the site of Jesus's burial was miraculously revealed during construction of the new cathedral.
Constantine's patronage was centered in Hadrian's Aelia; his city continued to be called either Aelia or the new Jerusalem. The cult center of the old Herodian city was not reincorporated into the new Christian metropolis; the ruins of the desecrated Temple remained untouched, a reminder of Jewish defeat. The commemorative force of the site lay in its desolation. Jesus had predicted of the Temple that "not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down" (Matt. 24:2; also see Luke 19:42-44). Its destruction was preserved as proof both of Jesus's prophecy and of Christian dominance. The ancient opposition between the Jerusalem Temple as the privileged center of sacrificial ritual and Golgotha as a peripheral and polluted site of torture and death was curiously inverted. Under Constantine, the locus of Golgotha and the tomb became the privileged center of ritual sacrifice standing in opposition to the Temple as the place of death and shame.
Constantine's cathedral in Jerusalem was, like many of the other churches that he patronized, a Roman civil basilica modified for liturgical use: a large structure, internally divided by rows of columns which processed from the entrance in the east toward the altar, framed by a grand apse, in the west (fig. 6, D). The basilica was commonly referred to in contemporary texts as the Martyrium (testimony). The tomb of Jesus (A) was apparently discovered when the high ground behind the cathedral was leveled to accommodate the bishop's palace (G) and the grand baptistery (F). Constantine's engineers left the burial cave as an isolated, cone-shaped stone outcrop. The rock-cut tomb, provided with a marble veneer, became the focus of a great rotunda, identified as the Anastasis (Resurrection). Soon, too, an outcrop behind the south nave of the basilica was identified as Golgotha, and marked with a cross (B). The two sites intimately associated with Jesus's body at its most human (death) and its most divine (resurrection) made the space numinous. A single complex, known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, incorporated them both. For Christians, this was the most privileged of all pilgrimage destinations.
Excerpted from Selling Jerusalem by ANNABEL JANE WHARTON Copyright © 2006 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
Annabel Jane Wharton is the William B. Hamilton Professor and Director of Graduate Studies for Art History at Duke University. She edits the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies and has written several books, among them Building the Cold War: Hilton International Hotels and Modern Architecture, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
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