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“Holy to the Lord”: The Material Conversion of the Cammarata Finials

Department of Art History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusalem 9190500, Israel
Religions 2023, 14(12), 1502;
Submission received: 15 July 2023 / Revised: 12 November 2023 / Accepted: 26 November 2023 / Published: 4 December 2023


This article sets out to trace the trans-religious journey of two objects in the western Mediterranean at the end of the fifteenth century. The expulsion of Jews from all Spanish territories in 1492–1493 instigated the movement of objects from Jewish to Christian hands. Among these were a pair of Torah finials that belonged to the Jewish community of Cammarata, Sicily, where they were set on top of the rods around which the Torah scroll was rolled. These two finials were sold in Sicily and, through a chain of merchants and ecclesiastics, arrived at the Cathedral of Palma and were incorporated into the local Christian liturgy, a process that continued well into the twentieth century. This article analyzes the use and performance of the finials in their different liturgical settings and examines their conversion from Jewish ceremonial objects to ecclesiastical implements. It concludes with a discussion of temporality in studying converted objects, a factor that played a key role in the finials’ migration between socio-religious contexts and resulted in the creation of multifaceted objects.

1. Introduction

As the fifteenth century came to a close, the lands around the Mediterranean Sea experienced several momentous waves of immigration, which reached destinations throughout the Mediterranean basin. These were propelled by a single edict declaring the expulsion of the Jews from the lands of Castille and Aragon. Signed 31 March 1492, by Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile, king and queen of Spain, the edict resulted in the expulsion of some 200,000 Jews.1 The expelled Jews found refuge in various lands—the neighboring kingdom of Portugal and other Christian kingdoms and cities on the northern shores of the Mediterranean, as well as the Muslim territories in North Africa and the Near East.
The edict extended not only to the Iberian Peninsula but also to the kingdom’s insular dependencies, such as Sardinia and Sicily. The latter was home during the fifteenth century to a Jewish population of some 30,000, comprising over sixty communities.2 While the movement of Sicilian Jews seems to have followed a general course eastward and away from the violent forces, the Jews’ belongings did not necessarily move in the same direction. Due to the circumstances of the expulsion, Sicilian Jews had to leave behind their valuables, including synagogue furnishings. Myriad items, among them ceremonial objects, passed to new Christian owners or into the hands of ecclesiastical authorities, and sometimes even journeyed west, in the opposite direction to their former owners.
This article presents the story of a pair of liturgical objects, called rimmonim in Hebrew, that migrated from a synagogue in the small town of Cammarata, Sicily, to the grand Cathedral of Palma de Mallorca in the Balearic Islands. These objects were taken, sold, transferred, modified, and integrated into Christian liturgy, all the while displaying the Hebrew inscriptions that attested to their history. In the twentieth century, these inscriptions were deciphered, allowing the tale of the rimmonim’s trans-islandic journey finally to be told.

2. The Objects in Question: Gothic, Mudejar, Oriental, or Jewish?

The rimmonim under discussion were designed as two delicate silver towers (Figure 1). Each has a rectangular, box-like center with round turrets fastened to its four corners. Two pyramids, which are attached to this box on its upper and lower parts, each topped with a sphere and a coral globe, rest upon a gilded ring supported by a large sphere at its base. This architectural construction is held by a thin staff, which bears a floral-diamond template that was added at a later date. The entire surface of the rimmonim is highly ornate, either chased or crafted with repoussé and filigree techniques, creating architectural or more abstract patterns such as mullioned blind horseshoe arches, spirals, and foliage. These ornaments are complemented by the addition of semi-precious stones, a few on each side of the rectangular body, turrets, and pyramids. Eight round bells are attached by chains to each of the corner towers and gently chime when stirred. While the objects are made entirely of silver, some parts are highlighted by gold gilt. These include the rings under the lower pyramids, as well as the architectural banister supported by the lower pyramid and an element “crowning” each side of the rectangular box, which responds visually to the lower banister. The rimmonim measure 10 cm in width and 31 cm in height, or 170 cm high, including the staff (Cantera and Millás 1956, p. 390).
Central to the Cammarata finials are also the Hebrew inscriptions, which appear on plaques attached to the central rectangular construction and on the rings supporting the lower pyramids (Figure 2a). Because of the finials’ polygonal shape, the inscriptions have no clear beginning or end, a situation which complicated the deciphering of their meanings. While the inscriptions on the rings constitute full sentences, each of the superimposed plaques—sixteen in number—displays only a single word. They can be joined to form the following phrases:3
תורת ייי; עדות ייי; פקודי ייי; מצות ייי; יראת ייי; משפטי ייי
אלו; הרמונים; קדש; לייי
בכנסת יהודי; קמרטא יצ אמן
The teaching (Torah) of the Lord; the decrees of the Lord; the precepts of the Lord; the instruction of the Lord; the fear of the Lord; the judgments of the Lord
These rimmonim are Holy to the Lord
In the synagogue4 of the Jews of Cammarata the Lord will safeguard it. Amen.
This reading is possible if one gathers all the inscription plaques and reassembles them in a new formation, together with the inscriptions on the rings. Evidently, the plaques were removed at a certain point and not returned to their original setting. This is evident by the present dislocation of the plaques, and by the use of different nails to fasten them to the main silver plates. Six plaques display the anagram of the Lord’s name (ייי), but it is likely that goldsmiths or cathedral officials did not recognize this feature and saw the plaques as entirely ornamental (Figure 2b). Five of these plaques were reinstalled on a single finial.
Most of the plaques display words taken from Ps. 19: 8–105:
The teaching (Torah) of the Lord is perfect,
renewing life;
the decrees of the Lord are enduring,
making the simple wise;
The precepts of the Lord are just,
rejoicing the heart;
the instruction of the Lord is lucid,
making the eyes light up.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
abiding forever;
the judgments of the Lord are true,
righteous altogether.
When compiled in a different order than currently displayed on the rimmonim, twelve of the plaques can create six phrases derived directly from Ps. 19 (marked in bold in the above biblical citation). Each of these two-word combinations forms a phrase equivalent to “the Lord’s law”—the Torah. One could envision that in their initial arrangement, six of the rimmonim’s faces would display one “synonym” plaque coupled with an anagram plaque, to create a phrase from Ps. 19 (Cantera and Millás 1956, p. 391). For Jewish worshipers, these brief phrases, recited as part of the Sabbath morning service, would have prompted an immediate association between Psalm 19 and the Torah scrolls.6
The inscriptions also provide valuable information about the finials’ function, their patrons, and their place and estimated date of production. In their monumental study, Cantera and Millás (1956, p. 392) noted that the inscriptions mention the Sicilian community of Cammarata, suggesting this island as a plausible place of manufacture. The attribution of the finials to Jewish owners living in Sicily also provides a terminus ad quem for dating the finials’ production. Since there was a Jewish presence in Sicily until 12 January 1493, when the Jews were expelled from the island (see below), the rimmonim are generally considered the product of fifteenth-century Sicilian goldsmiths.7
Fifteenth-century Sicily does appear to be a plausible provenance for the rimmonim. In this regard, scholars have offered various characterizations of the style of the finials. For example, when the renowned nineteenth-century Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí inspected the rimmonim, he described their style as “Byzantine […] typical of Southern Europe, and the Gothic style.”8 More recently, the rimmonim have been described by scholars as “clearly oriental, Arabic-Byzantine” (Cantera and Millás 1956, p. 391) and “exotic” (Domenge i Mesquida 1995, p. 260). An undocumented tradition in the cathedral of Palma holds that the finials were brought “from the Orient,” perhaps even from Jerusalem (Planas 1960, p. 7). Indeed, some elements, such as the double horseshoe arches enclosing vegetal ornaments, can be characterized as Mudejar in style (Mann 1996),9 while others, such as the extensive use of filigree, can be found, instead, in fifteenth-century Venice and the territories under its influence (Dalton 1911), including the Aegean islands.10 These elements, as the overall aesthetic of the objects’ surface as geometric compartments overflowing with different motifs, are not in keeping with other creations of Sicilian goldsmiths. The latter, while often presenting architectural designs, do not incorporate filigree and instead resemble to objects created in Barcelona, displaying mainly Gothic openwork created using embossing and chiseling.11 The rimmonim were crafted using various techniques and elements not usually combined in a single object, thus presenting multiple sources in both form and style. Because of this exceptional occurrence, the possibility of Jewish craftsmanship must be thoroughly considered.
According to fifteenth-century sources, a number of Jewish goldsmiths worked in Palermo, the center of Jewish life in Sicily. There are, in fact, references to seven different Jewish goldsmiths in the first half of the fifteenth century alone (Bresc-Bautier 1979, p. 115). Notably, while the family name “Orefice” was found among Sicilian Jewish goldsmiths before the expulsion, suggesting that the craft was transmitted from father to son (Eshtor 1979, p. 233), some fifteenth-century documents indicate that Jews learned the craft from Christian goldsmiths. Both Jewish and Christian goldsmiths commonly moved around the island and worked in various Sicilian towns, where they served different customers (Simonsohn 2004–2022, vol. 13, p. 8431). Among the surviving documents is a contract, signed in Palermo on 9 March 1479, between a Palermitan Jewish goldsmith and the sacristans of the synagogue of Palermo, regarding the manufacture of two silver finials for the Palermo synagogue. Unfortunately, the contract fails to detail the form of the finials, only that parts of them should be gilded “similarly to those in the synagogue in Giuliana” (Simonsohn 2004–2022, vol. 14, pp. 9066–67).12 This contract also shows that probably in the fifteenth century, the community of Giuliana—a town in the proximity of Cammarata—acquired precious rimmonim from a Palermitan Jewish goldsmith. It is possible that the community of Cammarata acted similarly when arranging to purchase their own pair of rimmonim.
The presence of goldsmiths among the Sicilian Jewish population is in line with the documentary evidence on Jewish professions in Sicily. During the Middle Ages, the Jewish communities were comprised of a majority of artisans (Abulafia 2008), and as in other formerly Muslim territories, they could practice metalworking, thanks to the relative weakness of the guild system (Bresc 2020). In addition, throughout its medieval history, the island was ruled by sovereigns of different cultures and religions, each bringing its own material culture and techniques of manufacture. As a result, Sicily’s Jewish residents were exposed to various methods and practices and were able to learn a wide range of skills. Furthermore, Sicilian Jewish communities were diverse in their own right, due to continual waves of immigration that brought together Jews from numerous regions comprising the present-day Iberian Peninsula, Tripoli, Tunisia, France, Greece, Italy, Mallorca, and more (Eshtor 1979).13 Knowledge and traditions of metalworking arrived in Sicily through Jewish immigrants (Bresc-Bautier 1979, p. 115), who could also learn new methods from local Christian and Jewish goldsmiths, thus creating novel, Sicilian artistic forms (Figure 3). These social and geographic factors, combined with Sicily’s role as a hub of trade in goods and artifacts, may have resulted in the creation of the Cammarata rimmonim.
The possibility of Sicilian Jewish craftsmanship of the finials is further attested in the two relatively large coral globes crowning the rimmonim. Sicily was a center for the fishing and processing of coral, whence it was distributed throughout the Mediterranean. While there were many Jewish-Christian fishing ventures,14 the working and trading of coral were frequently described as a Jewish monopoly, so much so that most coral craftsmen before 1492 were Jewish (Del Mare 2009; Sparti 2002). The centrality of Sicilian Jews in the coral business increased during the fifteenth century, when the city of Trapani became home to many Jewish “master corallers” (Del Mare 2009, p. 40; Simonsohn 2004–2022, vol. 18, p. 12172),15 who produced large numbers of rosaries and paternosters of coral beads for export (Di Natale 2009, p. 54). The coral globes incorporated in the rimmonim were similar to those used for the rosary beads, which could have been easily acquired by members of the Jewish community of Cammarata.
Although the Palermo contract does not reveal the exact forms of the finials to be produced by the Jewish goldsmith, contracts from outside Sicily for similar ceremonial objects offer information as to the general design. A contract signed in 1439 between the Jewish community of Arles and Robin Asrad, a Christian goldsmith from Avignon, details how the goldsmith should draw up a Torah crown (an atarah). The Torah crown, mounted on the Torah case or rods, is often similar to the finials in both form and function. The agreement specified that “Master Robin was engaged to make a silver crown of hexagonal form … [that] will have six towers with pillars at the angles, and a portal between the pillars, made like a masonry edifice” (Mann and Diamond 2000, p. 113). In addition to preparing the crown, the goldsmith, according to this contract, would “add five pillars like those described above to an antique crown of the synagogue.” Clearly, the centralized polygonal structure with attached towers at the angles was well regarded by at least some south European Jewish communities and popular enough to remodel existing pieces in order to match current trends.
The Cammarata rimmonim can be seen as belonging to these stylistic tendencies. Beginning in the fifteenth century, increasing numbers of Jewish ceremonial objects displayed designs similar to those of the Cammarata finials and the Arles Torah crowns. Further, even though Torah finials were traditionally designed in round shapes, the architectonic type became the most prevalent design in many communities, continuing into the present. In the case of the Cammarata finials, the sphere and the architectonic construction are joined together, one above the other, and are currently the oldest extant pair of finials that present what later became a leading design. The incorporation of architectonic forms into these precious ceremonial objects raises questions regarding the choice made by the Jewish communities and how these forms were integrated into the liturgy of the synagogue.

3. The Rimmonim in the Synagogue

First and foremost ceremonial objects, rimmonim aestheticize the performance of religious duties and glorify the liturgy (Gutmann 1964, p. 15). This practice is built upon exegeses to Ex. 15:2: “The Lord is my strength and might; He is become my deliverance. This is my God and I will enshrine Him; The God of my father, and I will exalt Him.” Jewish ceremonial objects are diverse in their use and design and serve both in the synagogue and at home, including on the Sabbath, festivals, or during various lifecycle rituals. As noted, the rimmonim belong to the synagogue group, which is centered almost exclusively on the Torah scroll (Sefer Torah), itself the focal object of synagogue worship. The value of Jewish ceremonial objects is expressed not only by the use of precious materials, but also through their donation to the synagogue, by either individuals or groups. Once they are gifted, they are considered the community’s property (Yaniv 1995, p. 220). In the case of the Cammarata finials, the inscription on the gilded rings is a statement of possession: “In the knesset of the Jews of Cammarata.” Additionally, from the moment that they are transferred to a synagogue, the rimmonim are assigned a holy status. In the words of the great, twelfth-century rabbi, Moses Maimonides16:
The decorative silver and gold rimmonim that are made for a Torah scroll are considered sacred articles and may not be used for mundane purposes, unless they were sold with the intention of purchasing a Torah scroll or Pentateuch with the proceeds.
(Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Sefer Torah, 10:4)
As is evident from the passage above, the rimmonim—like other ceremonial objects in direct contact with the Torah scroll—could not be used for other purposes, or sold, unless the money was used for the acquisition of a precious Torah scroll.17
The Torah finials were set atop the two rods around which the Torah scroll was wound, adorning the Torah covered by a mantle or a case (Figure 4). Their Hebrew designation of rimmonim, or less commonly, tappuḥim (Hebrew for “pomegranates” and “apples,” respectively), is probably due to their original round shape similar to that of a fruit, which prevented the rods from disappearing into the scroll.18 The small bells, which were hung from the rimmonim’s corner towers, were common in later finials (Landsberger 1952–1953, p. 138) and mimic those attached to the robe of the High Priest in the Jerusalem Temple (Gelfer-Jørgensen 2004). The biblical book of Exodus (Ex. 28:31–35) specifies:
You shall make the robe of the ephod of pure blue. (…) On its hem make pomegranates of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, all around the hem, with bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around the hem of the robe. Aaron shall wear it while officiating, so that the sound of it is heard when he comes into the sanctuary before the Lord and when he goes out—that he may not die.
These magnificent garments, however, would not be complete without the addition of one last detail, described in the following verse: “You shall make a frontlet of pure gold and engrave on it the seal inscription: ‘Holy to the Lord’” (Ex. 28:36). These two Hebrew words, קדש ליהוה, proclaim that the object is dedicated to the Lord and that the craftmanship was carried out in the Lord’s honor. This inscription appears on numerous Jewish ceremonial objects, as on the Cammarata rimmonim, where the Lord’s name is evoked through the anagram “ייי.”19 Signaling this particular name of God by the use of these three letters (and sometimes only two) was a common practice in various Jewish communities through the Middle Ages (Beit-Arié 2021, p. 399), whenever the Lord’s name was mentioned, for example, in manuscripts, and on objects or textiles.
The movement of the Torah scroll and its ornaments is conducted between the synagogue’s two main loci, the heikhal and the teivah, the former serving to secure the precious scrolls and the latter serving to facilitate their ceremonial reading and display. This ritual dynamic between the heikhal and teivah was found in every synagogue,20 including those of Sicily. The arrangement of the Palermo synagogue—which served the most influential Jewish community in Sicily—was described by Obadiah Bertinoro (c. 1450–c. 1516), a renowned rabbi who traveled through Sicily on his way to the Holy Land in the late fifteenth century.21 After describing the location of the synagogue and its structure, Bertinoro went on to discuss the arrangement of its space:
The synagogue is square, measuring forty ama in length and width. Toward the east is the heikhal (sanctuary), a pretty stone structure like a chapel, because they do not place the Sefer Torah (Torah scrolls) in an aron (ark). Instead, they place them in a heikhal, on a wooden platform, with their nartikim (cases) and their atarot (crowns) on their tops, and silver and crystal22 rimmonim fitting the heads of the rods [of the scroll]. […] and in the middle of the synagogue is a migdal etz,23 which is the teivah, where the cantors go up to pray.
The arrangement of the Palermo synagogue is recorded vividly in Bertinoro’s account, written in 1488 (Artom and Abraham 1997, p. 9), and situates the design of the synagogue in accordance with the late medieval Sephardi rite.24 Evidently, the eastern wall of the synagogue was designed as a side structure, possibly with an apse or a niche. There, in the heikhal, the sacred Torah scrolls, together with their ornaments, were positioned on a shelf or a kind of sideboard.25 Bertinoro specifically uses the term nartik, meaning that the scrolls were probably kept in wooden or metal cases with designated openings for the rods, on which the rimmonim were fitted (Figure 4).26 The center of the synagogue was reserved for the teivah, a raised wooden platform positioned at the center of the synagogue (or opposite to the heikhal), sometimes with a canopy (Wischnitzer 1964, pp. 36–39)27 from which the cantor (ḥazzan) led the prayer. Within this space of its two focal points, the ritual involving the Torah scroll, the most sacred entity in the synagogue,28 was conducted, moving between concealed and open, elevated display.
The Torah scroll is removed from the heikhal for the purpose of liturgical communal reading, which takes place on Mondays, Thursdays, and the Sabbath, as well as on festive days. For this purpose, a particular ceremony developed, comprising three parts: the Taking Out of the Torah, the Reading of the Torah, and the Returning of the Torah.29 Each is accompanied by the recitation of prayers, blessings, and select biblical or semi-biblical30 verses (mostly taken from the book of Psalms), which lends significance and majesty to the Torah scroll and its ornaments as objects. The ceremony begins by removing the Torah scroll from the heikhal and, through a procession along the synagogue, it is brought to the teivah. There, it is prepared for the reading, elevated, and shown to the congregation, which sings “And this is the Torah which Moses set before the children of Israel” (Deut. 4:44). Immediately thereafter, verses 8–11 from Ps. 19 are recited (Langer 1993, p. 106), including the phrases displayed on the rimmonim, which repeat the various terms for the Torah. The cantor then summons several of the worshipers to come forward and read, followed by additional prayers and blessings according to the congregation’s rite (Elbogen 1993, pp. 159–61). Then, the Torah scroll is rolled, and returned to the heikhal in a procession.
The ceremony revolving around the Torah reading was further developed during the Middle Ages. Additional weight was given to the participation of the community, whose members became active in its different parts—carrying and reading the Torah, blessing the congregation, reciting, and verbally responding to the cantor (Elbogen 1993, pp. 139, 159). The worshipers, seated on benches arranged along the synagogue walls, stood up to perform specific actions, or at prescribed points in the prayers. This active participation, combined with the double focal-point design of the synagogue, created a unique liturgical experience.31 During each procession of the Torah scroll, the bells attached to the rimmonim’s miniature silver towers would jingle, announcing the Torah’s coming, and recalling Aaron’s entrance into or exit from the sanctuary. Thus, the ceremony and the objects used within its framework echoed one another, through words—spoken and written—as well as through actions and choreography, all of which shared notable biblical events and the liturgy of the Temple in Jerusalem as their reference points. This liturgy in the synagogue, and the meaning it conveyed, were in sharp contrast to the liturgy into which the rimmonim would be integrated less than ten years after their seizure by the Christian monarchy.

4. Migration and Conversion

The faith of the community of Cammarata—along with all other Jewish communities throughout the Spanish territories—was sorely tested in the late fifteenth century. On 18 June 1492, the edict of the Catholic monarchs was announced in Sicily, ordering the wholesale expulsion of the Jews from Spain and all its territories—the sole exceptions being those who agreed to convert to Christianity. In Sicily, the viceroy and local officials had been informed much earlier of the forthcoming edict and forbade the Jews to immigrate or sell their belongings (Beinart 2001, pp. 280–81)—enabling the authorities to document Jewish communal assets and possessions (Kamen 1992, p. 89). Numerous parties attempted to prevent the decree. A Jewish delegation was appointed to implore Ferdinand to abolish it; the Sicilian parliament councilors asked the king to postpone the date of the expulsion; the city of Palermo went even further, petitioning the king to recognize the belonging of the Jews to the island.32 Such efforts only succeeded in moving the time of the expulsion from September 18 (just four days before Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year) to 12 January, accompanied by a demand to pay the viceroy some 5000 florins, as a “token of gratitude” (Roth 1946, pp. 255–57).
Conditions of the expulsion also included payment of 100,000 florins to the crown as compensation for the loss of the annual direct income from their Jewish subjects. To ensure payment, Jewish communal and business property, including workshops and synagogues, was sequestered and recorded. After the inventories were completed, Jews were allowed to reenter their facilities, but the synagogue furnishings were kept by the authorities against payment of the immigration tax (Roth 1946, pp. 255–58). One might speculate that the Cammarata rimmonim were among the objects confiscated by the authorities and seized for months, as was the case for most synagogue furnishings. Support for this suggestion are the conditions according to which Sicilian Jews were to leave the island upon expulsion. Most were allowed to take only the clothes on their back, a blanket, a mattress and a pair of sheets, some supplies, and the minuscule sum of three tari.33 The wealthier Jews were permitted twice that amount. Petitions to take more money for the journey, or to carry with them the precious Torah scrolls and prayer shawls (tallitot) were all denied (Roth 1946, p. 258). Nothing of value was allowed to be taken away.34
The agony of the community of Cammarata during the months prior to the expulsion seems to have been especially grave. In September, while carrying out the royal command to list Jewish possessions, the local baron’s men subjected the small community to extreme force. The Jews were confined to their dwellings for six days, where they were harassed, tortured, and robbed (Simonsohn 2004–2022, vol. 8, pp. 4912–14, no. 5680). It is documented that six Jews from Cammarata chose to be baptized as Christians at this time (Zeldes 2003, p. 52). In a letter sent on 19 September, the viceroy ordered a royal commissar to accompany the Jews with their property to Messina, his official residence. He instructed to investigate the actions of the baron and his men, seeming especially concerned about the property of the Jews, property that should end up—according to the expulsion plan—in the hands of the crown. The rimmonim were probably not among the items pillaged by the baron’s men—who, if given the chance, would likely have kept them—but rather arrived at Messina, and possibly at Palermo, from where the Cammarata Jews embarked, and where their property would be finally handed over to the royal treasurer (Simonsohn 2004–2022, vol. 8, pp. 4935–36, no. 5708). In his September 19 letter, the viceroy noted that Jewish possessions not easily moved, but “appropriate for sale,” should be put up for sale in Cammarata, with the proceeds to be brought by the commissar to the royal treasurer (Simonsohn 2004–2022, vol. 8, pp. 4912–14, no. 5680). The rimmonim were not, most likely, among the items left to be “auctioned” in Cammarata. Instead, it is likely that they were taken to Palermo, one of Sicily’s main harbor cities with large numbers of merchants coming, going, and selling there.
At present, there is no evidence about the initial transaction involving the rimmonim. It is known, however, that less than a year after the events in Cammarata, they were already in the possession of the cathedral of Ciutat de Mallorca—today, Palma de Mallorca. According to the cathedral’s documents, the rimmonim were passed among at least three different persons before finally being brought to the monumental church.35 Joan Roix, the custodian of the sacristy of the cathedral, paid 22 gold ducats (equal to 35 livres and four sous) to a certain Antoni Serra, who, in turn, acquired them from Mr. Francesc Despuig. This transaction was made on 8 June 1493, in the presence of the Archdeacon of Palma, the Dean, and “many other canons.”36 The notable crowd suggests that the arrival of the rimmonim and their acceptance in the cathedral was a significant event. Part of this event’s gravity might have related to the rimmonim’s Jewish-Sicilian origin, which was well known to the ecclesiastics who received them. These ecclesiastics were aware of the circumstances of this momentous period of expulsion and conversion (which also reached the island of Mallorca and its Jewish community). A document written on 8 June declares that these finials “were bought in Sicily from the Jews who were fleeing or leaving.”37 These details, however, were soon forgotten in favor of other origin stories.
A few years after the transaction, the rimmonim—which in the Palma documents are called “bordons”—were handed over to a goldsmith named Solvi who fitted them with silver staffs,38 as can be seen today. The staffs created by Solvi show an entirely different style from the finials and correspond to the new sixteenth century stylistic trends in metalwork. Nonetheless, the floral-diamond template crafted on the bordons’ staffs is apparent in other types of ecclesiastical objects, such as crosiers. After this modification in 1496, the newly acquired bordons were ready to join the liturgy of the Palma cathedral.

5. Bordons in the Service of the Church

At the end of the fifteenth century, the cathedral of Palma de Mallorca owned—in addition to the Cammarata finials—four other types of finials called bordons. Documents from around 1500 mention bordons made of wood, of crystal, and a fourteenth more of silver, two of which were designed as pinnacles with knobs (Seguí i Trobat 2015, vol. I, p. 118). Although this kind of liturgical vessel was common in Spanish territories during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, not many have survived. Today, the cathedral’s treasury and collection hold but one pair of finials—the Cammarata rimmonim. Nonetheless, there is reason to believe that the other silver finials in Palma were not very different from the Cammarata ones, which may have been the main motive for their acquisition. The general features of the bordons were those of silver Gothic architectural micro-constructions, and probably had much in common with Spanish neo-Gothic verge heads, which follow the forms and design of their fifteenth-century predecessors (Figure 5).39 According to the ordinary of 1511 (Palma, Arxiu Capitular de Mallorca, ms. 3.400), which documents in detail the liturgical worship of the Palma cathedral, the bordons were used mainly during the canonical hours, and especially during Vespers. Performed towards the evening, Vespers is considered (along with Lauds) the most important office, celebrated with great solemnity (Fletcher 2022). The different bordons in possession of the cathedral served as part of the Vespers service for different feasts, within a certain hierarchy. The former rimmonim can be identified in the ordinary as the bordons de cascauells, meaning “bordons with rattles,” most likely alluding to their little dangling bells.
The bordons de cascauells appear only at specific feasts—significant for the Catholic Church in general, and for the ecclesia of Palma in particular. They are included in the liturgy of Easter’s Second Vespers (Vespers sagones de Pascho), where they are carried to the choir by the canons who are about to sing. The ordinary specifically states that they are two in number, and that they are accompanied by two other bordons—shaped like pinnacles (Seguí i Trobat 2015, vol. II, p. 113, no. 74). An Englishman who visited the Palma cathedral in the nineteenth century and witnessed the liturgy of Easter day recalled that “[canons] with long silver staves are perpetually passing and repassing from the choir to the sanctuary […] carrying out an exceptionally elaborate ceremonial” (Prendergast 2014, p. 79). His testimony underscores the liturgy’s perseverance centuries after its creation and the central role in which ceremonial objects were used by the ecclesiastics and perceived by the believers. The liturgy of the First Vespers of the Ascension (las primeras Vespres de l’Ascensió) includes six bordons of three different types, with the bordons de cascauells serving the canons reciting the responsory of the first psalm. The responsory followed, featuring a group of canons that entered the choir from the sacristy, carrying four censers for the recitation of the Magnificat (Seguí i Trobat 2015, vol. II, pp. 136–37, no. 95):
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
This canticle, based on the words of Mary to Elizabeth at the hour of the Visitation, as they appear in Luke 1:46–55, has been chanted during Vespers of the Western Church since the Early Middle Ages (Boxall 2022). On principal feast days, the antiphon at the Magnificat was repeated three times, or at least until all those present were entirely surrounded by incense.40 As a result of this prolongation, the audience became fully immersed in incense which was, according to medieval liturgists, “the odor of the perfume of the Blessed Virgin” and through the repetitive chanting of her canticle, “entering with her into the joy of our Lord.”41 One can picture these solemn moments, with Mary’s exulting words chanted by the canons holding the jingling finials while they—and the audience—are surrounded by the ascending clouds of the Virgin’s perfume.
The bordons de cascauells can also be detected at other feasts honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patron of Mallorca. On the feast day of Mary’s Assumption (l’Assumpció de la Mara de Déu, sic), they appear again during the first and second Vespers, carried by the canons who recite the responsory and Magnificat (Seguí i Trobat 2015, vol. II, pp. 328–31, no. 398). But more significantly, they were chosen to be used in a grander feast, constituted in the Palma cathedral later during the sixteenth century—the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God (la festa de la Immaculada Conceptió de la Mare de Déu).42 Perhaps because of the novelty of this feast, the description of the different offices was preceded by a more general introduction, specifying some of the customs performed, objects used, and texts recited during that day. The bordons de cascauells appear in this introductory text, again, as the ones to be carried by the canons reciting the responsory at Vespers. Although the description of the offices of the Immaculate Conception liturgy is relatively brief, it demands the first and second Vespers be celebrated “with all possible solemnity” (ab tota la solemnitat possible) (Seguí i Trobat 2015, vol. II, pp. 235–39, no. 240–48).
It is understandable that the bordons de cascauells were perceived by the creators of the cathedral liturgy as props contributing to the solemnity of the feast, adding visual gravitas but also, to no lesser degree, aural. Usually, and especially during feast days, the responsory is preceded by a lesson to which it responds.43 Then, we learn from William Durand (1230–1296), the cantors lower their staffs because, through preaching, the gospel is “laid down.”44 This “deposition” of the staffs may be interpreted as knocking them on the church floor, as if to emphasize certain points of the responsory. As noted above, the bells of the rimmonim-bordons would jingle with every small movement. With the right choreography, their ringing resonance could contribute to the harmonious chanting of the canons in the choir and enhance it. Especially when a great audience was crowded inside the cathedral—as is the case on important feasts such as Easter, the Ascension, the Assumption, and the Immaculate Conception—the sound of the solemn chanting accompanied by a rhythmic knocking and the delicate rattling would create a unique aural effect inside the 44-meter-high nave.45
The continuation of using the architectonic silver finials well into the nineteenth century is confirmed not only by the English observer mentioned above, but also by a painting from 1855 depicting the celebration of the Dogma of Mary the Immaculate (Figure 6). Regarded as a work of documentary value,46 the painting presents the eastern part of the cathedral, which is decorated and illuminated by numerous candelabra. A monumental figure of Mary is situated above the high altar, surrounded by priests and canons dressed in red, white, and golden vestments.47 Behind the first rows of ecclesiastics, a great crowd of laypeople kneels in awe. Participating in the magnificent ritual are at least six silver finials carried by the cantors, who are dressed in golden robes and form the second row of ecclesiastics (Figure 7). Considering that today the only pair of bordons preserved in the cathedral is the Cammarata rimmonim (or bordons de cascauells), it is very likely that they were among the silver finials used in this imposing ceremony, as represented in the painting. Thanks to its final confirmation during the nineteenth century,48 the dogma of the Immaculate Conception enjoyed a certain revitalization in Catholic Mediterranean centers. It was further enhanced by a series of revelations of Mary the Immaculate around Europe and beyond. Hence, it seems that at the time of the constitution of the feast in the sixteenth century, as in three centuries later, the feast of the Immaculate Conception was celebrated in Mallorca with the highest solemnity.
According to the inscription located at the painting’s lower part, the moment represented is that of a litany. Consisting of a series of petitions voiced by the cantors, to which the congregation answers with fixed responses (such as “Pray for us” and “Lord, have mercy”), the litany embodies one of the highlights of the liturgy, especially when considered—and depicted—from the laypeople’s perspective. The performance of the litany has likely included a specific use of the bordons, which regulated the rhythm of the chant and added to the overall magnificence of the liturgy (Pugin 1868, pp. 212–15). Thus, when integrated into the petitions and responses of the litany, the bordons de cascauells added another aural element to the sound echoing inside the cathedral.
Though it is not clear which part of the divine office is represented in the 1855 painting, the inclusion of the bordons de cascauells, the dark appearance of the cathedral and its stained-glass windows, and the multiple lights, implies that this might be the hour of Vespers. Durand specifically connects the lights that are lit at Vespers to the canticle of the Magnificat to represent the exultation of “those laboring, whose spirit rejoices in the Lord."49 The words of Mary, Magnificat anima mea Dominum, are chanted by the canons holding the finials as they celebrate her purity and sanctity. The finials’ past, as well as their engraved inscriptions, disappear within the clouds of incense and flickering candlelight in favor of a new role. Their sound, however, was still heard as they were moved through the church’s space and put down with their new staffs to create a rhythm in the chant.
Although they long functioned as an integral part of the liturgy of the Palma cathedral, the silver finials are no longer used during the divine hours. Instead, they are displayed in the Museu d’Art Sacre de Mallorca, located a few steps from the cathedral’s sanctuary. It is possible that the decision not to continue to include the finials in the liturgy was made after the discovery of their origin. The unfolding of this story was made possible thanks to the inquiries of several priests from Palma. Nevertheless, the discoveries concerning the finials’ past did not diminish their view of the finials as objects which are perfectly designed for ecclesiastical ceremonies.

6. An act of Material Conversion

The history of the Cammarata rimmonim, including their acquisition, migration, transformation, and assimilation, is closely connected to the processes of expulsion and conversion experienced by the Jewish communities under Spanish rule in the years 1492 and 1493. The conversion of the rimmonim, termed here “material conversion”—as opposed to the conversion of people—began with the application of power and violence, continued with a simple business transaction, and resulted in modification and adaptation. The rimmonim bear, of course, marks of this material conversion. Their plaques presenting selected words from Ps. 19 and dedication inscriptions were removed and misplaced, and they were fitted on top of two long, newly made staffs. These external material markers constitute what Eyal Poleg has labelled a “conversion layer,” which “contains evidence of the change of hands and the transformation of religious authority” (Poleg 2018). In the case of the Cammarata rimmonim, this layer consists of the re-modulation of the objects and their integration within old and new liturgies of an entirely different religious space. Moreover, this conversion layer includes the sources in the Palma Capitular Archive, which document the conversion’s materialization, detailing the dates, costs, and actors involved.
Whereas the expulsion (and conversion) of Spanish Jews could be understood as an attempt to erase a religion out of a certain geographical space, the material conversion of the two rimmonim may not have had the same end. In contrast to the choice forced on the Jews between expulsion and conversion, the different possibilities to handle their objects—sacred and profane—were manifold. They could be reused as part of a “casual pragmatism” or recycled in a “more purposeful, goal-oriented practice” (Flood 2022) as a whole or in parts, with different motivations behind each option, ranging between cultural acceptance, adoption, or rejection (Shalem 1998; Flood 2009). While other reused and recycled objects could fit into one of these categories, the process of material conversion is more complex and involves, at some level, all of them. Let us remember that the rimmonim were not created in or associated with a distant past (at least at the moment of conversion); they were products of a society that may have confessed to a different God yet shared much in common with the general Christian culture, all the more in the case of art and architecture (Dodds et al. 2008; Robinson 2009). Furthermore, their entirety was not damaged, and their role as liturgical objects continued almost without interruption.
Therefore, the result of a material conversion of an object is not, as has been formerly argued, a “religious syncretism” (Poleg 2018, p. 497), but rather a multifaceted object. Although the finials can be perceived simultaneously as both rimmonim and bordons, their two qualities are not united in the eyes of the worshipper. No effort was made to erase the history of the finials, quite the opposite. The Hebrew inscriptions were left in place, and the documents recording their previous owners and acquisition are still conserved in the archive. Today, displayed in the first hall of the museum, the objects are clearly labeled “rimmonims,”50 emphasizing their Jewish origin. Indeed, as Poleg rightly remarks, the “base layer”—the initial artifact created in a specific context—is the one that usually stands as the focus of studies,51 and perhaps also the focus of the general audience’s attention.52 This could be one reason why no significant efforts were made to study the performance of the rimmonim in the Palma cathedral.
According to Philippe Buc, it is essential that a converted object’s “earlier identity still be recognizable, and that the transformation itself be memorialized” (Buc 1997, p. 100). In such a manner, the object presents—quite literally—the journey it underwent while also underlining specific meanings and disregarding others. Of course, Jewish audiences in a synagogue would have experienced the finials differently than Christian audiences in the Palma cathedral. In controlling and molding material forms and liturgical performances, religious authorities could determine and orchestrate projected meanings, a practice that continued well into the twentieth century. Francisco Planas Muntaner, who served as the bishop of Ibiza from 1960 to 1976, was born in Palma and, therefore, knew the finials well. In an essay he wrote shortly after their inscriptions were deciphered, yet before their exact origin was discovered, he offered a brief commentary on Ps. 19 and 119 and their place in the Christian liturgy (Planas 1960). Regarded already in antiquity as the “voice of the church” (vox ecclesiae),53 the psalms continue to form key components of Christian liturgy. Verses from Ps. 19 and 119, specifically, are recited frequently as part of the divine office, their verses stressing the weight of the divine Word in the Christian faith. Learning the divine Word, wrote Planas, brings the believer closer to the Lord (Planas 1960, p. 13). Viewed through the bishop’s lens, the biblical Hebrew inscriptions do not undermine the Catholic narrative created for the finials in Palma; on the contrary—they confirm it. Even though the cathedral chapter was probably unaware of the inscriptions’ specific contents at the time of their acquisition, the act of using objects with Hebrew inscriptions in the Christian liturgy could entail a comparable “Christianizing” implication. Similar processes can be observed in the conversion of synagogues into churches throughout the Spanish Kingdom following the expulsion, which materialized—among others—in the El Tránsito synagogue in Toledo. There, the psalms inscribed on the structure’s internal walls were also kept in situ.54 In this example, too, the two layers of the monument prevail together under Christian theology and liturgy. Yet as opposed to architecture, the history of the relatively small finials was forgotten over time, and diverse “traditions” concerning their origin were invented.
Examining the finials as objects that underwent a material conversion allows historians to give equal attention to various meanings of a single object, while acknowledging a historical progression. This examination stresses the “temporal” nature of objects, which allows their different identities—historical and aesthetic—to shine through. “When approaching an artifact”, claims Christopher S. Wood, “fifteenth-century observers looked for its referential target, not for an origin point within its production history” (Wood 2008, p. 18). The finials, in their present state, serve as a material testimony to the multiple cultures and societies that inhabited the medieval Mediterranean (specifically the Spanish territories). They were likely produced by Jewish goldsmiths using mixed techniques and designs from various Mediterranean traditions, beautified the synagogue of the small community of Cammarata, and were transported through a trans-islandic journey to the grand cathedral of Palma, where they were assimilated into a greater liturgical performance. Considering their migration from synagogue to cathedral, they encompass the concepts of change and continuity (Funari 1999). Approaching their study by way of concepts of material conversion and temporality enables us to expand the story to contribute its own layer of meaning.


This research was supported by the Rose Rabinowicz Memorial Endowment for the Arts and Misgav Yerushalayim: The Center for Research and Study of Sephardi and Oriental Jewish Heritage.

Data Availability Statement

Data sharing is not applicable to this article.


I would like to express my gratitude to my advisor, Sarit Shalev-Eyni, for introducing me to the case of the Cammarata rimmonim and for her advice and guidance along the way. I wish to thank Hannah Teddy Schachter and Mor Hajbi for reading drafts of the essay and the anonymous readers for their valuable comments. Many thanks to the Cathedral of Mallorca for providing me access to the sources and permission to use the images. I would also like to thank the Mandel School at the Hebrew University for being my academic home throughout my Ph.D., and the Rose Rabinowicz Memorial Endowment for the Arts and Misgav Yerushalayim: The Center for Research and Study of Sephardi and Oriental Jewish Heritage for supporting this project. Lastly, I wish to dedicate this essay to my father, Yuval, in memoriam.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest. The funding sponsors had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, and in the decision to publish the results.


The exact number of expelled Jews varies according to different reports. Don Isaac Abravanel (1437–1508), a financier and royal servant to Ferdinand and Isabella for eight years, reported that 300,000 were expelled. Christian sources state that around 100,000 moved to the Kingdom of Portugal alone, while Jewish sources attest to ca. 120,000. For an in-depth discussion, see Beinart (2001, pp. 284–90).
Estimations of the Jewish population’s size vary; 20,000 is the minimum and 30,000 the number commonly agreed upon. See Roth (1946, pp. 229–30) and Zeldes (2003, p. 5).
The inscriptions were decoded by Cantera and Millás (1956, pp. 389–93, no. 275).
The Hebrew word כנסת (Knesset, Hebrew for “assembly”) can be interpreted as a community, but also as a synagogue. It originated at the time of the Second Temple, denoting an assembly of prophets, sages, and scribes, which influenced the canonization of the Hebrew Bible, the introduction of Jewish festivals and rituals, and the institution of prayers. See Mantel (1983). Parallel meanings are retained by analogous words in ancient Greek (ἐκκλησία) and Latin (ecclesia), signifying an assembly, a congregation, as well as the building used for the congregation’s gatherings.
This reference, and all the following, are in accordance with the Hebrew Bible. These verses correspond to Ps. 18:8–10 in the Vulgate and Ps. 19:7–9 in the King James Bible. All citations from the Hebrew Bible translated into English in this article follow the Jewish Publication Society 1985 edition.
The recitation of Ps. 19 during the Sabbath morning service, as well as on festivals, harks back to the eighth century and forms an integral part of this service in all rites. See Elbogen (1993, p. 95).
There is an agreement among the various catalogues, books, and articles on this matter. For selected examples, see Pascual (1995), Mann (1996), Birk et al. (2004), and Sabar (2019).
Brought in Planas (1960, p. 7).
The double horseshoe arches appear in Islamic architecture from Spain, for example, in the Great Mosque of Cordoba (tenth century), which displays an almost identical monumental representation of this form.
An impressive collection of objects from Chalcis (Greece) in the collection of the British Museum, London, shows similar use of filigree applied in spherical objects. Dalton (1911, 1912) characterized their style as “Veneto-Greek.” Recent chemical analyses confirm the variety of Aegean workshops involved in the production of the Chalcis objects (Kontogiannis and Orfanou 2019).
See the objects preserved in the Palermo Cathedral Treasury (Di Natale and Vitella 2010).
In the document, the finials are called “apples” (poma), meaning rimmonim, commonly used in Sephardi communities.
Evidence of Jewish immigration and movement around the Mediterranean (including to and from Sicily) is attested by multiple sources. See Goitein (1967–1993, 1971) and Bresc (1971, 1986).
See the numerous documents in Sparti (1986).
No fewer than 21 Jewish coral workers, not including apprentices, were active in Trapani between 1440 and 1456 alone (Bresc-Bautier 1979, p. 116).
Maimonides, or Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon (1135–1204), was one of the leading rabbinic authorities in Jewish history, with immeasurable influence on Jewish life, law, and philosophy. His prominent work, Mishneh Torah, brought an unprecedented summary of Mishnaic and Talmudic rulings, and became the foundation of all Jewish communities. See Halbertal (2014).
This ruling is based on tractate Megilah (26b) in the Babylonian Talmud, which considers all articles accompanying and decorating the Torah scroll as “articles of sanctity” (tashmish kedushah).
The earliest reference to Torah finials is found in a document from the Cairo Genizah dated to 1159 and citing the use of silver rimmonim decorated with bells. As mentioned above, rimmonim are also described in Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah, also dating from the twelfth century. It is possible that due to Maimonides’ authority, the term “rimmonim” eventually prevailed among the Sephardi rite practitioners, even when the form of the finials was no longer round. See also Roth (1971).
The anagram is used due to respect for this divine name and is also considered to be the form in which the inscription appeared on the high priest’s robe. Some rabbinical exegeses even argue that the two Hebrew words did not appear one after the other in a linear line on the High Priest’s robe, but rather were positioned one above the other, as may have originally been the case with the inscription plaques on the Cammarata rimmonim. See Joseph Bekhor Shor’s Commentary on the Torah, vol. I (Gad 1956, pp. 110–11).
These two loci may be called by different names according to the rite of the community. The relationship and the practice performed, however, remain the same, and are based on legal codes accepted throughout the Jewish world. See Wischnitzer (1974) and Narkiss (1992).
On R. Bertinoro and his letters recounting his journey to Jerusalem, see Artom and Abraham (1997).
Bertinoro uses the Hebrew word bedolaḥ to indicate the additional material incorporated in the rimmonim. While in Biblical and Talmudic times bedolaḥ was used to indicate a precious stone or a pearl; medieval Jews could understand it also as crystal. In medieval Hebrew sources, bedolaḥ is mentioned as a clear crystal, sometimes a glass, used for creating cups, crowns, and eyeglasses (Ben Yehuda 1908, vol. I, pp. 466–67).
The migdal etz (“wooden tower” in Hebrew) is the teivah in the synagogue. The term evokes the pulpit of Ezra, set up in the Temple court upon the return from Babylon: “Ezra the scribe stood upon a wooden tower made for the purpose […]. Ezra opened the scroll in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people; as he opened it, all the people stood up” (Nehemiah 8:4–5). See also Wischnitzer (1964, p. 34).
The exact rite practiced in the synagogue of Cammarata is unknown, but it was likely close to the Sephardi rite practiced in Spain (Sepharad) and in many communities around the Mediterranean, in both Christian and Muslim territories (Assis 1992, pp. 7–8). As Simonsohn has observed, the lack of preserved documentation prevents a distinct definition of the traditions and minhagim (socio-religious customs) practiced in the different Jewish communities on the island. Sicily attracted Jewish immigrants from various Mediterranean lands. Moreover, no notable traces of Sicilian religious traditions are found elsewhere after the expulsion of 1493, perhaps because of their assimilation into the rites of the new environments (Simonsohn 2004–2022, vol. 18, p. 12126–27). See also Espinosa Villegas (2010).
This type of heikhal described by Bertinoro might have taken the form of those still extant in Italy and France, a small room furnished with one or more shelves, upon which the Torah scrolls are displayed. Archaeological excavations of the surviving medieval synagogues of Spain also reveal that the heikhal was often designed as a small room. At times, the room is large enough to house a few persons (Cantera Burgos 1984; Narkiss 1992).
Such medieval cases from Sephardi (or other) areas did not survive. One of the earliest known Torah cases, dated to 1568, is preserved in the Jewish Museum, New York (S 21). However, it was made for the Samaritan community in Damascus, Syria, and is heavily influenced by Mameluke techniques and ornamentation.
In the few extant medieval Sephardi synagogues, the teivah did not survive, thus making knowledge of its exact location in the synagogue (whether in its middle, or at the opposite wall to the heikhal) uncertain (Narkiss 1992).
For the hierarchy of holiness in the synagogue, see Isaacs (2002).
Already in the time of the Sages (eighth century), there existed a distinct and elaborate ceremony, as can be seen in Seder Rav Amram (Frumkin 1912) and tractate Soferim, 14:4–8, whose form and progression are shared by all Jewish communities and rites. See Elbogen (1993, pp. 159–61) and Langer (1993).
Langer (1993, p. 102) applies this term to biblical-style phrases which are not included in the Bible.
On the liturgical experience in medieval synagogues related to their design and arrangement, see Shalev-Eyni (2015).
The Sacred Royal Council of Sicily drafted a report on the disadvantages of the expulsion for Sicilian society as a whole, notably stressing the variety and number of Jewish craftsmen vital to the island (Del Mare 2009, p. 44; Abulafia 2008, p. 58). The Sicilian nobility had its own motivation to prevent the expulsion: the Jews served as a significant source of manpower in numerous services, including cleaning, building, and securing the cities (Zeldes 2003, p. 9; Roth 1946, pp. 256–57).
Five tari are equal to one ducat.
A small number of Jews remained in Sicily and were able to keep their belongings, albeit only on the condition of baptism and acceptance of Christianity. See Zeldes (2009).
Although the cathedral’s documents clearly state that the bordons were bought in Sicily and had previously belonged to the Jews that “King Ferdinand banished,” there is no mention of the name of the first buyer. Arxiu Capitular de Mallorca (ACL), de sacristia 1493, fol. 33v.
ACL, de sacristia 1493, fol. 54r. See also Llompart (1970). I am grateful to Daniel Duran i Duelt and Ilil Baum for their help with the translation of these archival documents.
ACL, de sacristia 1493, fol. 33v. See also Llompart (1970).
ACL, de sacristia 1496, fol. 40v. See also Llompart (1970).
Examples of which can be found in Museo Lázaro Galdiano, Madrid (Inv. n. 1.466, 1.467, 1.714, 2.861, 2.862, 2.896, and 2.897), and in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London (M.256-1956). The pair of verge heads in London was long dated to the period around 1500 (Oman 1968, p. 6, no. 18). Its features, however, may indicate a nineteenth-century manufacture, a time when many Gothic-inspired pieces were produced (Cruz Valdovinos 2000). I am grateful to Kirstin Kennedy from the Victoria and Albert Museum for sharing her insights concerning the verge heads and raising the question of their dating.
As described by William Durand in his Rationale divinorum officiorum (Rationale), IV, 9, 5. See Thibodeau (2015, p. 195).
Rationale, IV, 9, 9. See Thibodeau (2015, p. 197).
The folios in the manuscript recounting its liturgy were added at a later date, after the constitution of the feast on 22 September 1575. See the analysis of Seguí i Trobat (2011, p. 43).
Rationale, IV, 9, 4. See Thibodeau (2015, p. 193).
Rationale, II, 2, 6. See Davril and Thibodeau (1995, p. 147).
For the complete dimensions of the cathedral interior, see Fuentes and Wunderwald (2019).
The cathedral interior went through extensive changes in the early twenteith century as part of the renovation led by Antoni Gaudí, in which the entire design was altered and caused the removal and destruction of several Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque alterpieces and furnishings. Thus, the 1855 painting serves as a testimony that allows for the reconstruction of the cathedral interior prior to the extensive renovation. See Cram (1932).
Feasts relating to Mary were usually marked by white and red vestements, whereas gold vestments were a sign of general dignity and festivity (Atchley 1904).
For the development of this dogma, its meanings, and related controversies, see O’Connor (1958).
Rationale, IV, 9, 4. See Thibodeau (2015, p. 197).
Sic. The authors of the label were probably unaware that the Hebrew term already incorporates the plural form.
Mainly because of its potential to provide insights concerning production, iconography, and historical context. See Poleg (2018, p. 488).
The significance of an object’s moment of manufacture is considered by Christopher S. Wood as a condition of the modern (post-Renaissance) culture, focusing on the primary (and, by consequence, singular) performance of an object, in contrast to perceiving it as a link to a certain reference point that may change over time. See Wood (2008, pp. 15–9).
Ambrose of Milan, Explanatio psalmorum XII, Ps. 1, 9. See Petschenig (1919, p. 7).
The literature on Sephardi synagogues is vast. See most notably Cantera Burgos (1984).


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Figure 1. Rimmonim (Torah finials) with staffs, Sicily, fifteenth century with additions from 1496. Silver, semi-precious stones, and coral. 170 × 10 cm. Palma, Museu d’Art Sacre de Mallorca (photo: the documentary collection of the Cathedral of Mallorca).
Figure 1. Rimmonim (Torah finials) with staffs, Sicily, fifteenth century with additions from 1496. Silver, semi-precious stones, and coral. 170 × 10 cm. Palma, Museu d’Art Sacre de Mallorca (photo: the documentary collection of the Cathedral of Mallorca).
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Figure 2. One of the finials: (a) the architectonic construction; (b) detail of the two inscription plaques with the Lord’s anagram (ייי) and “the rimmonim” (הרמנים) (photos: Hila Manor).
Figure 2. One of the finials: (a) the architectonic construction; (b) detail of the two inscription plaques with the Lord’s anagram (ייי) and “the rimmonim” (הרמנים) (photos: Hila Manor).
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Figure 3. Map of the European territories of the Spanish Empire c. 1500 © Hila Manor.
Figure 3. Map of the European territories of the Spanish Empire c. 1500 © Hila Manor.
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Figure 4. Torah case with a Torah scroll and finials, Egypt (?). The case displays verses from Ps. 19: “the precepts of the Lord are just, rejoicing the heart; the decrees of the Lord are enduring, making the simple wise” (photo: courtesy of the Center for Jewish Art, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem).
Figure 4. Torah case with a Torah scroll and finials, Egypt (?). The case displays verses from Ps. 19: “the precepts of the Lord are just, rejoicing the heart; the decrees of the Lord are enduring, making the simple wise” (photo: courtesy of the Center for Jewish Art, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem).
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Figure 5. Verge Head, Valencia, c. 1500 or nineteenth century. Silver; pierced and cast. 42.2 × 11.5 cm. London, Victoria and Albert Museum, M.256-1956 (photo: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London).
Figure 5. Verge Head, Valencia, c. 1500 or nineteenth century. Silver; pierced and cast. 42.2 × 11.5 cm. London, Victoria and Albert Museum, M.256-1956 (photo: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London).
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Figure 6. J. Master F., Proclamació del Dogma de la Immaculada a la Seu, Mallorca, 1855. Oil on canvas. Museu d’Art Sacre de Mallorca (photo: Hila Manor).
Figure 6. J. Master F., Proclamació del Dogma de la Immaculada a la Seu, Mallorca, 1855. Oil on canvas. Museu d’Art Sacre de Mallorca (photo: Hila Manor).
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Figure 7. Canons with bordons. Detail of Figure 6 (photo: Hila Manor).
Figure 7. Canons with bordons. Detail of Figure 6 (photo: Hila Manor).
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Manor, H. “Holy to the Lord”: The Material Conversion of the Cammarata Finials. Religions 2023, 14, 1502.

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Manor H. “Holy to the Lord”: The Material Conversion of the Cammarata Finials. Religions. 2023; 14(12):1502.

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Manor, Hila. 2023. "“Holy to the Lord”: The Material Conversion of the Cammarata Finials" Religions 14, no. 12: 1502.

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