Coming to terms with an exhibition on Jerusalem through the years 1000-1400 of its concentrated importance, my heart skipped a beat as I stepped in the world of medieval wonder. Praise the Met for creating a space that enabled me to partake in the nucleus of religious tension in the period where it peaked. As Senior Curator Barbara Boehm precisely words, “it’s every people you can imagine, from Scandinavian to Spain, from England to Ethiopia, all coming together in this space not much larger than midtown Manhattan”.
Jerusalem, 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven captivates over two hundred objects from the Crusades era, including maps, paintings, architectural residues, sculptures, ceramics, weapons, and some of the first printed books featuring over 12 interchangeable languages. A congregated contribution from worldwide donors, the Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism converge in an effort to rejuvenate the sacred land of spiritual contention. The gray and blue theme echoes a medieval tone that seeks less to attract than to emerge its spectators into the richness of religious passion. Embedded within history is a dreamy invitation to fathom the presence of God in further proximity to life on earth than ever before, given that the exhibition necessitates allusions without which the history of Jerusalem would be incomplete.
The show first allures with the sections “The Air of Holiness” and “The Promise of Eternity”, immediately elevating a celestial atmosphere to progress into the pilgrim age with “The Pulse of Trade and Tourism” and “The Drumbeat of Holy War”. In light of the “Jerusalem Syndrome” where upon entering the holy land foreign visitors hallucinate as messiahs, it also looks past heavenly factors to investigate the daily impact of Jerusalem on inhabitants and nomadic visitors during the late medieval era, where a series of Crusades was coupled with a deadly plague that practically eliminated a third of the population.
Placed at the center by mapmakers, Jerusalem resonates with the big bang theory in that a minuscule point of massive energy bursted into an universe of human civilization. But its ambition is not presented through a grandiose set up but rather, every object solicits internalization, pushing the spectator to rewind slowly amidst a Big Apple that seldom takes enough time to unearth the treasure beneath a roaring Time Square. Innovation peaks through a display of inventions intercepting every dimension of medieval life, in addition to the mingling of speech with a collection of calligraphic books translated back and forth emerging languages.
The beauty in Jerusalem, 1000-1400 lies in a seamless effort to conciliate the past and present conflict augmenting in the Middle East by showcasing cultural relics that manifest the hostile groups’ positive influence on one another. Be it a political agony yet to reach resolution or a heated matter of contemporary warfare, the Middle East as staged by the Met links our mental circuity between then and now in a way that yields differences to the commemoration of unintended co-breakthroughs amongst the three faiths.