A Mahzor from Worms: Art and Religion in a Medieval Jewish Community

© Harvard University

A luxurious Jewish manuscript appears at the core of a new publication authored by Prof. Dr. Katrin Kogman‐Appel, professor of Jewish Studies at the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics”. She discusses the decoration of a prayer book, commonly known as the Leipzig Mahzor, and attributes it to the famous Worms rite. “The imagery of medieval prayer books communicates with its viewers in manifold ways,” explains Professor Kogman‐Appel, whose field of expertise is the book culture of medieval Jews. At the core of her study are questions about the entangled relationship between Jews and Christians during the late Middle Ages, the complex connections between text and image in medieval book art and Jewish approaches to the image as a medium. The monograph “A Mahzor from Worms. Art and Religion in a Medieval Jewish Community” was published by the Harvard University Press in 2012 . Medieval mahzorim were used only for special services in the synagogue and “belonged” to the whole congregation, so their visual imagery reflected the local cultural associations and beliefs. The Leipzig Mahzor pays homage to one of Worms’s most illustrious scholars, Eleazar ben Judah. Its imagery reveals how his Ashkenazi Pietist worldview and involvement in mysticism shaped the community’s religious practice.

The Prayer Book as Ritual Object

The author discusses the visual language of the Leipzig Mahzor from various methodological angles. In addition to decoding its iconography, Kogman‐Appel approaches the manuscript as a ritual object that preserved a sense of identity and cohesion within a community facing a wide range of threats to
its stability and security. Prof. Dr. Katrin Kogman‐Appel heads project B2‐24 of the Cluster of Excellence: “From Manuscript to the Printing Press: The Illustrated Book in Jewish Culture (Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries)”. She is a member of the interconnecting platform F “Transcultural Entanglements” and of the coordinated project group “Figurations of the Religious and the Political”.

Literature: Kogman‐Appel, Katrin, A Mahzor from Worms: Art and Religion in a Medieval Jewish Community, Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press 2012.