21 February 2017
The depiction of Titus’ Sack of Jerusalem includes a menorah being taken in the Arch of Titus in Rome. (photo: Creative Commons/Damian Entwistle)
The Vatican and Rome’s Jewish Museum are launching a unique exhibition later this year that is making history — and headlines.
From The New York Times:
This much is known: In 70 AD the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, looted the temple of its treasure — including a seven-branched solid gold menorah — and brought at least some of the artifacts back to Rome in a triumphant procession. Depictions of the victorious Roman army and its booty are carved on the Arch of Titus, near the Colosseum, built about a decade later to commemorate that military triumph.
What later happened to the menorah has been the object of intense speculation for centuries, giving rise to various, sometimes colorful, legends and scholarly hypotheses over its whereabouts.
Now, Rome’s Jewish community and the Vatican have teamed up to produce an exhaustive exhibition on the menorah, which in time became an enduring symbol of Jewish culture and religion, in a collaboration that leaders of the two communities described as a further step in solidifying their ties.
“This is a historic event,” Ruth Dureghello, the president of Rome’s Jewish community, said at a news conference on Monday. The menorah has connections to Rome, she added, “so such an important exhibit could only start here.”
Jews and Catholics have a long history of mutual suspicion and conflict, but relations between the two religions have been increasingly positive. In 1965, the Vatican issued “Nostra Aetate,” a landmark document that condemned anti-Semitism. Pope John Paul II, the first modern pope to pray in a synagogue, made an effort to improve the relationship, as have his successors, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.
The exhibit, “Menorah: Worship, History, Legend,” which includes about 130 artifacts, will open in May and will be presented at the Vatican Museums and at Rome’s Jewish Museum. The collaboration between the two institutions will finally transform longstanding dialogue into something “concrete,” Ms. Dureghello said.