Gershon Hepner

Saffron-Stained Windows and Jewish Holy Books

The saffron used to stain

during pre-Renaissance middle ages’

many gorgeous windows

of cathedrals, Gothic, was

for God-gourmet goyim as savory


as sephorim, holy Jewish books, whose

closely studied inky incunabled pages

explained to Jewish savants

inscriptions of commandments on

two tablets carved with God’s and Moses’ engravery.


Exod. 32:16 states:

טז  וְהַלֻּחֹת–מַעֲשֵׂה אֱלֹהִים, הֵמָּה; וְהַמִּכְתָּב, מִכְתַּב אֱלֹהִים הוּא–חָרוּת, עַל-הַלֻּחֹת.   16 And the tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, graven upon the tablets.

In “A High-Maintenance Relationship for 637 Years, but Milan’s Duomo Is Still Adored: The care for Milan’s cathedral has been nonstop since 1386, but despite the constant need for refurbishment, the beloved landmark’s hold on the city is unbreakable,” Elisabetta Povoledo write in the NYT, 2/19/23:

Even in a city with La Scala, the glorious opera house, Milan’s cathedral unquestionably reigns as the most beloved landmark in Italy’s fashion and financial capital.

But the Duomo, as it’s known, has also been an extraordinarily high maintenance icon for six centuries, demanding constant care essentially since construction began in 1386.

The cathedral, along with the 3,400 or so statues and carvings adorning its countless nooks and crannies, and its buttresses and pinnacles and spires, is crafted from rare pink-hued marble mined from a single quarry on the slopes of the Alps, some 60 miles to the north.

The stone’s unique physical and chemical characteristics make it particularly beautiful. But the stunning coloration also comes with a flaw: The marble is particularly fragile.

As recently as a century ago, there was a cafe at the top of the Duomo where Milanese would meet to socialize and gossip. On the ground, the cathedral’s construction workers discovered that the saffron they used to color stained glass yellow had a savory side purpose when added to the vats of risotto cooked up for lunch, now known as risotto alla Milanese.

Anthony Grafton’s comment on 2/20/23:

Savory sephorim are a new one on me. I have enjoyed risotto alla Milanese but never found saffron—as opposed to hairs, bits of paper, forgotten notes, and a pair of John Selden’s spectacles (the last in a Hebrew book in the Bodleian)–between pages. Engravery is a great word.

About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at