Ecclesia and Synagoga


First half of 13th century
Stained glass
Elisabethkirche, Marburg/Lahn, Germany

The portraits are side-by-side in a window in the ambulatory and speak to the contrast between Ecclesia and Synagoga. Ecclesia on the left wears a crown and looks forward; Synagoga on the right is bareheaded and blindfolded. Ecclesia's left hand holds a staff with a cruciform fitting at the top, while Synagoga holds a broken spear. This contrast refers to Genesis 49:10, "The sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda, nor a ruler from his thigh, till he come that is to be sent, and he shall be the expectation of nations." Christians interpreted the one "that is to be sent" as Christ (e.g. Glossa Ordinaria, I, 452.)

In Ecclesia's right hand is a laver; in Synagoga's, the bleeding head of a goat. The laver refers to Ephesians 5:25-26: "Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it: That he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life." Set against the laver that cleanses the Church is the blood of the sacrificial goat in Leviticus:

And when he [the high priest] hath killed the buck goat for the sin of the people, he shall carry in the blood…that he may sprinkle it over against the oracle, And may expiate the sanctuary from the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and from their transgressions, and all their sins.
— Leviticus 9:13-14

The Letter to the Hebrews explains how Christ's sacrifice replaces and surpasses the one ordained in Leviticus:

For if the blood of goats and of oxen, and the ashes of an heifer being sprinkled, sanctify such as are defiled, to the cleansing of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who by the Holy Ghost offered himself unspotted unto God, cleanse our conscience from dead works, to serve the living God?
Hebrews 9:13-14

More of Ecclesia and Synagoga

Source: Bernhard Dietrich