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Mysterious Hanukkah Lamp

Italy, 17th century (?)
  brass, 23X20.6 CM

Gift of Carla Vivanti

A mysterious Hanukkah lamp

Italy, 17th century (?)

Cast brass, 23x20.6 cm

A gift from Carla and Yonti

Let us start with a mystery. This Hanukkah  menorah  is one of the greatest mysteries in our collection since very little is known about it. After comparing it to other menorahs in the collection, it is safe to say it is Italian, and from the 17th century. What makes this menorah so very interesting is the fact that it is decorated with none other then the symbol of ... The Pope.


Above the two angles that sit at the top of the menorah, we can see the keys given to Peter by Jesus, and the Papal Triple Crown.   

Why and how this catholic symbol ended up on a Hanukkah menorah is unclear. No doubt this lamp was made of a pre-existing object that was converted into a menorah by adding the oil basins. We may only imagine what message was conveyed by the pairing of the pope's symbol with the symbolic light of Hanukkah. 

Let's start with the mystery. This is one of the biggest mysteries in the museum's collection as very little is known to us about this menorah. Seemingly, this is a fairly simple menorah, and comparisons to other similar menorahs indicate that it is probably from the 17th century, certainly from Italy.  However, what makes it a unique and intriguing varnish is the fact that apart from the adorning angels  The same, at the top of the menorah can be found the symbol of ... the Pope!  

Above the pair of angels at the top of the menorah are the keys given by the Christian Jesus to Peter - the father of the popes, and above them the triangular crown of the pope.  

How and why the pope's symbol came to the Hanukkah lamp is very difficult to determine. There is no doubt that this is a secondary use of an object that was already in existence and that was converted into a menorah by connecting a row of beakers to the back panel. We can only guess what a unique message is associated between the Pope's symbol and the meaning of Hanukkah candles.  

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