The Temple in Jerusalem as God’s dwelling on earth was a potent image for medieval Jews. Solomon’s original Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians around 586 BCE. A second Temple was razed by the Romans in 70 CE. Yet Jews held out hope for the ultimate restoration of the Temple in the messianic age.
Jewish scholars such as Rashi (Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac, d. 1105) in northern France, and Maimonides (Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, d. 1204) in Spain and Egypt, supplemented their written descriptions of the Temple, based on rabbinic sources, with drawings to make things clearer for their readers.
From the twelfth century onwards, some Christian scholars – such as Richard of St Victor (d. 1173) and Nicholas of Lyra (d. 1349) – became increasingly interested in the way Jewish scholars read their texts. They, too, used illustration as a part of their commentary.
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