THE THEME OF SYNAGOGUE, ECCLESIA, AND THE WHORE OF BABYLON IN THE VISUAL ARTS AND IN THE POETRY OF DANTE AND CHAUCER: A BACKGROUND STUDY FOR CHAUCER'S WIFE OF BATH
CHMAITELLI, NANCY ADELYNE
Doctor of Philosophy
The purpose of this dissertation is to discuss the theme of Synagogue, Ecclesia, and the Whore of Babylon in order to provide iconographic background for Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale. The first chapter traces the iconographical development of this theme from its beginning through ivory carvings and manuscript illuminations. Special attention is also given to the scriptural and patristic basis of this theme. The second chapter discusses Dante's use of this theme in the final cantos of the Purgatorio in which Dante the pilgrim sees a Pageant of the Church which is transformed into a vision of the Whore of Babylon. In this chapter, Dante's poetry is compared to the iconography of the north porch of Chartres Cathedral which also deals with the themes of the Old and New Covenants and the Active and Contemplative Lives. Chapter three discusses the figure of Chaucer's Wife of Bath in relation to this iconography, and a special comparison is made to the imagery of the typological windows which once decorated Canterbury Cathedral. The Wife of Bath, who is described in imagery which recalls Synagogue and the Whore of Babylon, tells the story of a loathly hag who is transformed into a beautiful queen. Thus, a Synagogue-Whore of Babylon figure tells the tale of a Synagogue figure who is revealed as Ecclesia. The dissertation concludes with a brief discussion of Spenser since, by the time of the Reformation, artists and poets were no longer interested in the contrast between Synagogue and Ecclesia, but between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.