Replacement Theology: Ecclesia & Synagoga

In chapter five1 of Dr. Michael J. Vlach’s book Has the Church Replaced Israel? A Theological Evaluation,  he explores the negative portrayals of the Jews and Judaism that can be seen in the medieval church’s art from that period.

9328203One striking example is seen on the south façade of a cathedral in France. The Strasbourg Cathedral was the highest structure (at 466 feet) during the Middle Ages.

An image of these two statues—known as Ecclesia and Synagoga—was used as the cover image for this book. They can also be found in in several twelfth- and thirteenth century Christian cathedrals.

Vlach describes the column figures of Strasbourg Cathedral:

[A]t the south entrance of the Strasbourg Cathedral in France stand two female statues. One represents Ecclesia (the church) while the other symbolizes Synagoga (the synagogue). Ecclesia stands triumphant with a crown on her head and a royal robe draped across her shoulders. Head up, her gaze is confident, and her posture is noble. The staff and chalice in her hands represent her divine authority. Synagoga, however, is looking down, and a veil covers her eyes. The staff she carries in her right hand is broken, and the Torah she holds in her left hand appears ready to slip. Synagoga stands defeated.

Again while I do not hold to any form of replacement theology (supersessionism), it is intriguing to learn that some medieval Christians held to this view of the church replacing Israel. Furthermore, many sadly went as far as to declare them as “dangerous infidels who had been rejected and punished by God.”

These artistic representations give visible testimony to how the medieval Christian church viewed itself in relation to Israel. The church is viewed as triumphant while Israel is represented as defeated and rejected.

Explore images of these two statues in greater detail here.


 Vlach, Michael J. Has the Church Replaced Israel? A Theological Evaluation (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2016). 51-52.