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Jews during La Convivencia (Tolerance among Christian, Jewish, and Islamic Cultures)

Hosted By: The City Congregation For Humanistic Judaism

This program will be preceded by a short Shabbat service.

Teruel, in Aragon, Spain is the home of the 13th century church, Santa Maria de Mediavilla. Painted on the ceiling are colorful Romanesque-Gothic human portraits entwined with Islamic abstract motifs that illustrate the mudejar aesthetic. Illuminating the hybrid relationships that informed Aragon’s frontier culture in the wake of the Christian conquest of Moorish-held lands, these images feature an array of individuals, half of them women, from different occupations, social classes, cultural traditions, even sexual orientations; they represent an ‘ordinary’ medieval community perceived from ‘below’. This was a time of unusual harmony and tolerance among Christian, Islamic and Jewish cultures, referred to as La Convivencia (coexistence).

Santa Maria’s depictions constitute an art-historical mystery. We don’t know the identity of the artists or the intended message, nor do we understand the astonishing inclusiveness and lack of stratification of this medieval community, its vibrant secularity and abundant women figures. In what ways does this artwork enrich our knowledge of Iberian social history? What is its significance to our global 21st century society?

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