Pulpit with Ecclesia and Synagoga

Church of San Moisè, Venice

On the left Ecclesia, the Church, holds a cross. Her crown is done in three rows, somewhat like a papal tiara, and she wears a cope. At her right hand is a laver, referenced by Ephesians 5:26, which has Christ "cleansing" his bride "in the laver of water of the word of life." The baptismal connotations in the laver are seconded by the descent of the dove from the center of the composition, referencing the dove that appeared at the baptism of Christ. Turning away from Synagoga, this symbol of the Holy Spirit sheds his light beams on Ecclesia alone.

The portrait of Synagoga is a study in contrasts. Whereas Ecclesia looks confidently toward the chancel where Mass is celebrated, Synagoga's eyes are downcast and nearly closed. She wears the breastplate and horn-shaped crown of Jewish high priests, whereas Ecclesia has a bishop's cope and a triple crown like the Pope's. Against Ecclesia's cross, Synagoga holds the tablets of the Law. Against the laver by which Ecclesia is cleansed, she holds a sword to sacrifice the ox below and "expiate the sanctuary from the uncleanness of the children of Israel…and all their sins" (Leviticus 16:16). The point of the contrast is that in the new dispensation Christ's sacrifice replaces and surpasses that kind of expiation:

"…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

Beneath the dove an eagle and lion hold a globe of the earth. One would think they represent the evangelists John and Mark, but that would raise the question of where the other two evangelists might be.

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Photographed at the church by Claire Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.