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Selling Jerusalem

Relics, Replicas, Theme Parks

Jerusalem currently stands at the center of a violent controversy that threatens the stability of both the Middle East and the world. This volatility, observes Annabel Jane Wharton, is only the most recent manifestation of a centuries-old obsession with the control of the Holy City—military occupation and pilgrimage being two familiar forms of “ownership.” Wharton makes the innovative argument here that the West has also sought to possess Jerusalem by acquiring its representations. 

From relics of the True Cross and Templar replicas of the Holy Sepulchre to Franciscan recreations of the Passion to nineteenth-century mass-produced prints and contemporary theme parks, Wharton describes the evolving forms by which the city has been possessed in the West. She also maps those changing embodiments of the Holy City against shifts in the western market. From the gift-and-barter economy of the early Middle Ages to contemporary globalization, both money and the representations of Jerusalem have become progressively incorporeal, abstract, illusionistic, and virtual. 

Selling Jerusalem offers a penetrating introduction to the explosive combination of piety and capital at work in religious objects and global politics. It is sure to interest students and scholars of art history, economic history, popular culture, religion, and architecture, as well as those who want to better understand Jerusalem’s problematic place in history.

296 pages | 78 halftones | 7 x 10 | © 2006

Architecture: Architecture--Criticism

Art: Art--General Studies

Culture Studies

Middle Eastern Studies


“Wharton provides a feast for anyone who has felt Jerusalem’s tug of fascination. . . . [The purpose] is to demonstrate the way our understanding of religious art and artefacts is changed by doctrinal development in religion, new political ideas, technology and economic change, and as a work of art history the book is illuminating and satisfying. . . . The author is a fastidious scholar and the precision with which she uses words makes Selling Jerusalem a real pleasure to read.”

Ed Stourton | Times Literary Supplement

“The holiness of Jerusalem has been disseminated across the world: sometimes by pilgrims, returning with their relics or souvenirs, or through its use as a model for church-builders, hymn-writers and film-directors who have never been there. In a short, sophisticated and highly readable book, Annabel Jane Wharton attempts a sort of taxonomy of the different ways in which Jerusalem’s holiness has been exported.”


"A fascinating analysis of place, objects, commodities and representations. In this account, Annabel Wharton explores Jerusalem from cultural, material and historical perspectives. . . . Power, violence, finance, buildings, paintings, souvenirs are . . . for her, all related to each other, creating the social, political, spiritual, and material world in which we live."

Hadas Yaron | The Art Book

Table of Contents

Introduction: Project, Keywords, Debts   
1.  Fragmented Jerusalem: City as Gift   
2.  Replicated Jerusalem: Temple, Templars, and Primitive Accumulation   
3.  Fabricated Jerusalem: Franciscans and Pious Mountains   
4.  Mechanically Reproduced Jerusalem: Entrepreneurs and Tourists   
5.  Spectacularized Jerusalem: Imperialism, Globalization, and the Holy Land as Theme Park   
Conclusion: Illusion and Immateriality    

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