Iconic church decoration in Germany traced back to local synagogue

Cnaan Liphshiz

(JTA) — German scholars believe that a large candelabrum in a cathedral in Erfurt was originally a Torah stand made for a local synagogue in the 13th century.

The team of researchers from the University of Erfurt, a city 150 miles southwest of Berlin, found that the Dom Cathedral candelabrum, in the form of a life-sized man with upraised arms, probably depicted Aaron. They also believe it was made in the same Erfurt foundry that produced the Sabbath lamp of the city’s synagogue, the news site jenapolis.de reported Friday.

The scholarly team is part of a state-funded research project that focuses on relations between Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages.

Sleuthing through medieval documents, they found a reference in a 13th-century manuscript to a donor who had the object made. The researchers suggest it was used to hold one of the huge, unique Erfurt Torah scrolls, which are currently housed in the Berlin State Library.

It was then removed from the synagogue during a pogrom in 1349 and ended up in the Mariendom Church sometime before 1425. At some point, it was inscribed with an evening “university prayer” and refitted as a candelabrum.

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