In this unique ketubah, which was created in Mantua during the first half of the 17th century, the text is bordered by a frame made up of architectural motifs formed by micrography – the scribal practice of employing minuscule Hebrew scripts to create abstract shapes or figurative designs.
The gate motif that serves as the dominant frame of the text is well known in art history, mostly from Christian manuscripts from the 6th century C.E., onwards. In Hebrew manuscripts the gate motif took on a symbolic meaning beyond a decorative frame for a text. It became the gate through which the righteous pass through into the Kingdom of Heaven, as it says: "This is the gate of the Lord the righteous shall enter into it" (Psalms 118: 20).
In order to depict this motif, the artists used a pair of Solomonic pillars decorated with entwined greenery and winding cracks, which, in Renaissance culture, symbolized the pillars of the Temples of Solomon, Jachin and Boaz (I Kings 7:15). Pillars such as these stood over the tomb of Saint Peter in the Vatican.
Today we know that these pillars created in the eastern part of the Roman Empire in the 2nd century C.E., and that they were given to the Church in the 4th century by Constantine the Great. However, during the Middle Ages the common belief was that they came from Solomon's Temple.
In Renaissance and Baroque art, these pillars were often represented in pictures that depict events related to the Temple. A famous example of this is Raphael's sketch from 1515, depicting the healing of the cripple, which occurred, according to the New Testament, at the gates of the Temple (Acts 3: 8).
The Jews of Italy copied this motif in their own religious art. Solomonic pillars symbolizing the entrance to the messianic Temple and Heavenly Jerusalem appear on the cover pages of Hebrew books printed in Mantua as early as the 50's of the 16th century.
Ketubah decorators sought to connect this popular motif to the marriage ceremony itself. In many Italian Ketubbot "the Messianic Gate" is also a symbol of the bride and groom’s new house, or of marriage as a rite of passage – that is to say, a passage from regular life to a life of sanctity (the marriage ceremony is known in Judaism as "Kiddushin – sanctification") and the ideal family life.