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Medieval Allegory and the Building of the New Jerusalem

Medieval Allegory and the Building of the New Jerusalem

Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Medieval Allegory and the Building of the New Jerusalem
    Book Description:

    This book investigates the concept of the New Jerusalem, the City of God, as an architectural ideal during the middle ages, and the way in which it is represented allegorically in patristic writings, liturgy, building, and later literature. The author begins by examining its conceptual foundations in such sources as the Hebrew Bible, Bede's exegesis, the religious philosophy of Plotinus, and Augustine's theology. She then explores the influence and the expression of the New Jerusalem in liturgy and architecture, using the twelfth-century remodelling of the Abbey Church of St-Denis and its dedication liturgy to show how the building serves as an eschatological and apocalyptic landscape. The chantry movement in late medieval England is situated in this context, and leads to a demonstration of the movement's associations with the highly-wrought poem Pearl and its companion poems; the book analyses Pearl as medieval architecture, offering fresh perspectives on its elaborate construction and historical context. ANN R. MEYER teaches in the Department of Literature, Claremont McKenna College.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-116-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Editorial Note
    (pp. ix-ix)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    Architecture, allegory, and revelation: these three words communicate in a remarkably wide-ranging and complementary way the artistic, intellectual, and religious cultures of medieval Europe. If one wishes to understand medieval beliefs, fears, and aspirations, architecture offers the most commanding visual sources of discovery. It is also an art form that is unsurpassed in its collective powers of expression, including its function as a location for secular and sacred liturgies. Allegory in turn is one of the chief philosophical, religious, and literary modes of medieval expression. From Origen to the sculptors of Chartres Cathedral to Dante, medieval theologians and artists chose...

  8. I. Philosophical and Theological Foundations

    • 1 Foundations I: Plotinus’ Screen of Beauty
      (pp. 27-46)

      The influence of Platonism on the artistic culture of the medieval west remains a subject to which scholars return with renewed interest.² Studies by musicologists within the last decade, for example, examine relationships between medieval liturgy and architecture and have opened up new lines of inquiry on how Christian-Platonism was displayed aurally and visually.³ Nigel Hiscock’s recent scholarship intends to “re-open the enquiry and engage once more in the debate about the symbolic content of medieval geometry and its possible role in medieval plan design.”⁴ Hiscock’s study uncovers new evidence for how medieval architects used Platonic teachings in the planning...

    • 2 Foundations II: Augustine’s City of God
      (pp. 47-66)

      Augustine’s transformation of Platonism according to Christian to concepts of Church and salvation history is a necessary bridge between Plotinus’ screen of beauty and the medieval representations of the New Jerusalem in poetry, prayer, and stone. Augustine’s treatment of Platonism in general and his indebtedness to Plotinus in particular are, of course, highly complex subjects. A thorough treatment of them requires full discussion of early Christian responses to Greco-Roman philosophical traditions.² My intention here is to concentrate primarily on Augustine’s mature and most ambitious theological work,De civitate Dei(On the City of God), turning to key features of his...

  9. II. Liturgy and Architecture

    • 3 Liturgy at St.-Denis and the Apocalyptic Eschatology of High Gothic
      (pp. 69-97)

      Augustine is the bridge between Plotinus’ metaphysics and a properly t Christian foundation for the architecture of revelation in poetry, prayer and stone in the medieval west. As a transitional figure, Augustine drew upon the pagan Platonists of late antiquity, especially Plotinus’ sacramental philosophy of the cosmos, to formulate a theology that makes the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ the means by which the cosmos is sanctified. Augustine did not find in the pagan Platonists a formal theory of the relationship between religious philosophy and historical events. In response, Augustine provided what Thomas Merton has called a “monumental theology...

    • 4 The Chantry Movement: An Intimate Art of the Medieval New Jerusalem
      (pp. 98-134)

      The verses quoted are from one of the king’s speeches in Shakespeare’sHenry V .They are part of a prayer in which Henry asks God to “think not upon the fault” of his father, Henry of Lancaster, who had obtained the crown by murdering Richard II (IV. i. 293–302). Shakespeare is probably drawing on Holinshed who says that Henry V (r. 1413–22), after his coronation, had the body of Richard (r. 1377–99) moved “with all funerall dignitie convenient for his estate,” from King’s Langley to Westminster Abbey, where he was buried with his first queen, Anne...

  10. III. Poetry

    • 5 Taking Allegory Seriously: Ornament as Invitation in Pearl
      (pp. 137-154)

      The anonymous, fourteenth-century English poem,Pearl,is conventionally said to be a dream vision. The nearly literal incorporation of the dreamer’s vision of the New Jerusalem from the Apocalypse of John has been viewed by some scholars as one of its least interesting features.² My view is quite different. To say thatPearlis a dream vision, while true according to conventional categories of genre, helps to obscure the poet’s unusual emphasis on its presentation as an artifact: a local frame placed around a vision of the New Jerusalem in an attempt to give that vision renewed force and immediacy....

    • 6 “Þe nwe cyté o Jerusalem”: Pearl as Medieval Architecture
      (pp. 155-186)

      ThePearlpoet’s conception of the image as a location for spiritual movement and his use of ornament as the screen, or veil, of allegory is the foundation for his presentation of the poem as a literary edifice. As I have argued, the poet’s sophisticated allegorical techniques establish remarkable affinities betweenPearland the symbolic programs of the great churches of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. These affinities are established further with a recognition of these edifices as figures of the New Jerusalem. But the Gothic vision ofPearlis, in my view, one that embodies a specifically fourteenth-century religious,...

    • Epilogue
      (pp. 187-188)

      This book has explored how modern men and women are to understand the remarkable medieval effort to build Heaven on earth. Technical, sociological, and political motivations have entered into discussions in each of the chapters, but my main interest has been the religious motivations that stood behind the architecture of revelation in the medieval west. By studying some of the most important philosophical, theological, and liturgical traditions; by visiting some of the extant buildings themselves; and by becoming familiar with some of the great literature of the period, we come closer to understanding the spirituality that inspired these medieval achievements....

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-202)
  12. Index
    (pp. 203-214)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 215-215)