The Imaginary Jerusalem of Nicholas of Lyra

Lesley Smith

in Imagining Jerusalem in the Medieval West

Published by British Academy

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780197265048
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754159 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

The Imaginary Jerusalem of Nicholas of Lyra

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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Manuscripts and early printed copies of Nicholas of Lyra's influential biblical commentary, the Postilla litteralis et moralis in totam bibliam, were made to include a series of around forty illustrations, mostly in the biblical books of Exodus and Ezekiel, to accompany the sections on the Tabernacle of Moses, Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, and Ezekiel's re-visioning of the Temple. Although they are not present in all copies of the work, it is known that they were planned by Nicholas himself, since he refers to them in the text. This chapter considers possible sources for Nicholas's drawings and diagrams, including Richard of St Victor, and the Jewish commentators, Rashi (whom Nicholas uses as a direct comparison with Christian scholars) and Maimonides. It argues that, far from being mere decoration, the illustrations are meant as an integral part of Nicholas's literal exegesis of the scriptural text.

Keywords: Nicholas of Lyra; Rashi; exegesis; St Victor; Temple of Jerusalem; diagrams; Book of Ezekiel; Jews; Tabernacle; Book of Exodus

Chapter.  5553 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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