Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations

Sculpting a New Tradition
From Adversaries to Two Peoples in Covenant to Study Partners
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In Medieval Europe, the feminine figures of victorious Church (Ecclesia) and vanquished Synagogue (Synagoga) adorned dozens of cathedrals and churches. A famous depiction at the Cathedral of Strasbourg (ca. 1230) shows regal Church wearing a crown and bearing a cross-topped staff of authority and the chalice of the Eucharist. To the right, Synagogue is slumped and blindfolded, her crown has fallen to her feet, her staff is broken, and a tattered scroll of the Torah seems about to fall from her hand. Strasbourg
The figures also were regularly portrayed on either side of the crucified Jesus. Here in an early 15th century German Bible history book, Ecclesia collects the precious blood of Jesus into her chalice. Synagoga's vision is blocked by a demon on her head, who also casts off her crown. Zittau
When Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned King of Italy at the Cathedral of Milan on May 26, 1805, he ordered that work to complete its façade should begin at once. Seven years later, the traditional images of Synagogue and Church were transformed into somewhat secularized figures to show the legal equality of all religions in the Napoleonic state. Church is the Lady of Liberty of Enlightenment-era political thought, while Synagogue displays the universal philosophy of the Ten Commandments. Milan
In the first decades of the 20th century, the American artist John Singer Sargent reprised the medieval images of Synagogue and Church in paintings for the Boston Public Library. As in the older portrayals, Synagoga has lost her crown, her staff is broken, and her eyes are blindfolded. Although she retained some dignity in many medieval depictions, here she is thoroughly desolate. Such demeaning images contradict Catholic teaching since the Second Vatican Council's 1965 declaration Nostra Aetate. John Singer Sargent, Synagogue
For her book, Has God Only One Blessing? Judaism as a Source of Christian Self-Understanding  (Paulist Press, 2000), Mary C. Boys commissioned Paula Mary Turnbull, a member of her religious community, to prepare small brass statues of Synagoga and Ecclesia as both in covenant with God. This idea of reimagining the negative medieval motif to reflect Catholic teaching since Nostra Aetate inspired the SJU sculpture to mark the declaration's 50th anniversary: "Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time." Paula Turnbull statuettes
With this basic premise, several artists were invited to submit concept sketches. One of Joshua Koffman's earliest clay drafts appealingly showed Ecclesia and Synagoga as comfortable being with and interacting with each other. version 1
This interactive dynamic recalled the words of Pope Benedict XVI in 2011: "After centuries of antagonism, we now see it as our task to bring these two ways of rereading the biblical texts—the Christian way and the Jewish way—into dialogue with one another, if we are to understand God's will and his word aright." This led to the concept of portraying Synagogue and Church as sharing their respective sacred texts with each other, crudely suggested by inserting clip art texts to show them learning together. version 2
Joshua Koffman took this basic concept and significantly developed it in another rough clay sketch. Besides having them holding their sacred texts, he added simple crowns to both figures, using that medieval symbol to indicate that both Synagogue and Church experience covenantal life with God. version 3
In the final clay sketch before doing drapery studies for the Artist's Model, Joshua Koffman refined the Torah scroll and Christian Bible and how they are grasped. The image of Synagogue and Church reading together evokes the traditional Jewish chavruta method of studying the Talmud in pairs. Koffman-5
After doing drapery studies with live models, the larger Artist's Model is completed. The Torah scroll and Christian Bible are more substantial and are held in complementary ways. As Pope Francis has written: "God continues to work among the people of the Old Covenant and to bring forth treasures of wisdom which flow from their encounter with his word. For this reason ... there exists as well a rich complementarity [between us] which allows us to read the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures together and to help one another to mine the riches of God’s word" [Evangelii Gaudium, 249]. Koffman-6
Work on "Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time" begins with a basic wire skeleton. Koffman-7
Clay is applied to begin to fashion the figure of Synagogue. Note the Artist's Model to the left. Koffman-8
The full-size clay version takes on more and more details. Plastic wrap is used to keep clay moist to prevent it from quickly drying out. April 26-2015
Sculptor Joshua Koffman with the clay version nearing completion.  Jonathan Koffman
By the end of June 2015, the clay version is complete. Detail looking past Ecclesia to Synagoga. Clay final facial detail
Detail looking past Synagoga to Ecclesia. Detail past Synagoga to Ecclesia
Front view of the final, full-size clay version.  Final clay front view
Miniature bronze replicas of "Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time" were presented by Institute directors Drs. Philip Cunningham and Adam Gregerman to Pope Francis and Rabbi Abraham Skorka in the Vatican during an audience with the International Council of Christians and Jews on June 30, 2015. Click HERE for more information. The photo is of the clay model used for the miniatures.  clay miniature
Pope Francis receives the bronze miniature of "Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time." For further details, click HERE. IJCR Director Cunningham present miniature of sculpture to Pope Francis
Early August 2015: the foundation for the granite plinth and "Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time" is constructed in the plaza outside the Chapel of Saint Joseph - Michael J. Smith, S.J. Memorial. The sculpture will face the main entrance. Foundation in place outside SJU Chapel
September 3, 2015: Drs. Cunningham and Gregerman visit the Independent Casting foundry in Philadelphia to see the bronze being cast into the sculpture molds. Here the bronze is heated to over 2000 degrees to bring it to a molten state.  Bronze being heated
By means of a winch the heavy molten bronze is lifted over to the molds. transporting the molten bronze
The liquified bronze is poured into the feeder tube into the mold. The sculpture is cast in several sections that will eventually be welded together into a single unit. pouring the bronze
Sculptor Joshua Koffman shows a cooled section of the cast bronze. The back view of Ecclesia is in the foreground. Koffman shows cooled section
A close-up of the Synagoga facial section. The white excess material will be sanded away and the bronze polished. Synagoga close up
A close-up of the Ecclesia facial section. Ecclesia facial section
Joshua shows the patina that is integrated into the surface of the finished sculpture. Since "Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time" will be outdoors, a dark patina is used because it weathers attractively. Patina tiles
September 16, 2015: the granite plinth is lowered into place on the plaza outside the Chapel of Saint Joseph. Plinth is lowered into place
September 22, 2015: "Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time" arrives on the university campus. It is prepared to be lifted off the truck onto the plinth. The sculpture was formally dedicated on September 25, 2015 and blessed by Pope Francis on September 27. Sculpture readied to be lifted from truck