With his astonishing talent for storytelling, Jacob was able to draw wealthy burghers, churchmen and ordinary pilgrims into the biblical narrative. He produced work of a religious nature for all these groups. These ranged from paintings and prints to magnificent ceiling paintings in churches, as in Alkmaar. As the complex visual idiom which he employed in some works shows, Jacob’s knowledge of the Bible was extensive; he was an intellectual in a Christian city.
Amsterdam was known as the Miracle City in Jacob’s day. It was here in 1345 that a wonder had occurred which turned the city into a hive of religious activity. Catholic Christianity was part and parcel of daily life. Every day pilgrims would shuffle past Jacob’s workshop on their way to the Holy City chapel.