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A Mahzor from Worms

A Mahzor from Worms

Art and Religion in a Medieval Jewish Community

Katrin Kogman-Appel

ISBN 9780674064546

Publication date: 04/17/2012

The Leipzig Mahzor is one of the most lavish Hebrew illuminated manuscripts of all time. A prayer book used during Jewish holidays, it was produced in the Middle Ages for the Jewish community of Worms in the German Rhineland. Though Worms was a vibrant center of Judaism in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and drew celebrated rabbis, little is known about the city’s Jews in the later Middle Ages. In the pages of its famous book, Katrin Kogman-Appel discovers a portal into the life of this fourteenth-century community.

Medieval mahzorim were used only for special services in the synagogue and “belonged” to the whole congregation, so their visual imagery reflected the local cultural associations and beliefs. The Leipzig Mahzor pays homage to one of Worms’s most illustrious scholars, Eleazar ben Judah. Its imagery reveals how his Ashkenazi Pietist worldview and involvement in mysticism shaped the community’s religious practice. Kogman-Appel draws attention to the Mahzor’s innovations, including its strategy for avoiding visual representation of God and its depiction of customs such as the washing of dishes before Passover, something less common in other mahzorim. In addition to decoding its iconography, Kogman-Appel approaches the manuscript as a ritual object that preserved a sense of identity and cohesion within a community facing a wide range of threats to its stability and security.

This book was published with the support of the Israel Science Foundation.

Praise

  • Katrin Kogman-Appel has established herself as perhaps the foremost expositor of medieval illuminated Hebrew manuscripts today. Her treatment of the Leipzig Mahzor demonstrates once again that she is a scholar of formidable erudition who peels away the layers of these magnificent manuscripts to reveal the rich complexity of medieval society and the important role that visual culture plays in it.

    —Adam S. Cohen, University of Toronto

Author

  • Katrin Kogman-Appel is Evelyn Metz Memorial Research Chair in Art, Department of the Arts, at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Book Details

  • 308 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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