This introductory chapter discusses the cultural exchange between Jews and Christians in the High and Late Middle Ages. Members of each group contributed to the other's culture, even to their religious practices. Jews would often have in their possession artistic objects from the surrounding society. Even if held for a limited time, these objects were most likely influential in shaping the possessors' own art. The idea of looking at the Christian environment when studying Jewish ritual objects was raised in 1960 by Mordechai Narkiss, then the director of the Bezalel Art Museum in Jerusalem. In studying the shape of a Jewish ritual box known in Hebrew as a besamim box, Narkiss observed that originally these boxes were similar in shape to Christian reliquaries labeled in German as Monstranz. To support this hypothesis he provided a dozen references showing how medieval Jews accepted Christian liturgical articles as securities.
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