Virtual Pilgrimage through the Jerusalem Cityscape
By Kathryn Rudy
Visual Constructs of Jerusalem, ed. by Bianca Kühnel, Galit Noga-Banai and Hanna Vorholt (Brepols, 2014)
Introduction: Numerous late medieval images functions as guides to virtual pilgrimages, but those that depict Jerusalem as a populated cityscape introduce a novel method for creating empathy in a viewer, itself the primary intention of late medieval Passion narratives. These images do not recreate a literal map of Jerusalem but are, like almost all medieval Passion narratives, constructed to allow the viewer to empathize with Christ.
This is despite the fact that these works look nothing like other strategies for empathy, which were either distillations or epic (and episodic) narrations. On the one hand, techniques for presenting the raw brutality of the narrative included the most distilled version of events, the arma Christi. On the other hand, and at the other extreme, one thinks of such panels as the Roermond Passion, now in Amsterdam, which give blow-by-blow, frame-by-frame account in a grand scale. In every case, the goal was to engage the viewer’s empathy.
This essay considers a group of images depicting the Passion that are, at one level, quite disparate: they are executed in different media, in vastly different sizes, and with different target audiences. They have in common, however, an innovative portrayal of the Passion of Christ as a series of simultaneously occurring events set in a condensed panorama. This article contrasts representations of the Jerusalem cityscape with two other common techniques for promoting the viewer’s empathy: the dramatic close-up and the serial narrative.