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Jerusalem Syndrome at the Met

An exhibition on the diverse multiculturalism of medieval Jerusalem has been ecstatically received. There’s just one problem: the vision of history it promotes is a myth.

From an illustration in a Syriac Christian lectionary. 1220, tempera, ink, and gold on paper. Metropolitan Museum of Art/British Library.

From an illustration in a Syriac Christian lectionary. 1220, tempera, ink, and gold on paper. Metropolitan Museum of Art/British Library.

Essay
Feb. 6 2017
About the author

Edward Rothstein reviewed the Museum of the Bible for the Wall Street Journal, where he is Critic at Large. His previous essays in Mosaic include “The Unusual Relationship between Abraham Lincoln and the Jews,” “The Problem with Jewish Museums,” and “Jerusalem Syndrome at the Met.”


“Severe, Jerusalem-generated mental problems.” Such, as characterized by the British Journal of Psychiatry, is the pathological derangement known as Jerusalem Syndrome. The madness is generally attributed to the city’s intoxicating spiritual powers, recognized over the centuries to inspire wild prophecies, orotund pronouncements, and utopian fantasies sometimes accompanied by predictions of imminent apocalypse.

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More about: Arts & Culture, History & Ideas, Jerusalem