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Ecclesia

figure chalice crown art

Ecclesia , the Latin term for *church, is personified in medieval art by a female figure who represents Christianity. She first appears in ninth-century art, holding a chalice to collect *Christ’s blood in *Crucifixion images. Ecclesia is frequently also found as an independent figure in non-narrative contexts through the Middle Ages. Apart from the chalice, her other attributes include a crown, *cross staff, and triumphal banner. Most often, Ecclesia is paired with *Synagogue (Synagoga), the personification of the old covenant and Hebrew tradition. Frequently, the pairing is confrontational; Ecclesia is shown demanding or removing the attributes of power (crown, lance, globe) from Synagogue, who is perceived and presented as a negative figure (as per writings of Church *Fathers such as Saint *Augustine and as reflective of increasing anti-Jewish attitudes during the medieval period). The personified figure of Ecclesia also appears as the Sponsa Christi embracing Christ or piercing him with a lance (symbolizing love) in Crucifixion scenes especially from the thirteenth century following.

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