(B2-10) The Heavenly Jerusalem as Space of Religious-Political Imagination

From the early Middle Ages to the 19th century and up to the research controversies of the 20th century, the project investigates selected examples of religious and political spheres, sacred objects (reliquaries, candelabra etc.), but also heraldic spatial markings that were connected with the topos of the heavenly Jerusalem. The guiding question will be as to which medial intrinsic logics are brought to the discourse about the relationship of religion and politics, of regnum and sacerdotium by the pictorial and architectural representations of the heavenly Jerusalem. In the process, it will first be shown how spatial visualisation outlined in Holy Writ was given concrete shape and how it was able to describe medially – through image and architecture – very different, complex correlations of the relationship of religion and politics at different times. While research has hitherto primarily dealt with the heavenly Jerusalem in an iconographic manner and on the level of meaning, the project will focus more on issues of visual language, the possibilities of reception and of functional contexts. Particularly those works that were made in a stately environment will reveal that the medium itself provided a multitude of levels of interpretation and definitions of relations. These elude a simple either/or in the stately valuation of religious visual language or religious subordination of rule in the way that religious visual language and religious subordination of rule form the basis of disambiguating research in the modern conflict of interpretation.

The Project is part of coordinated project groups Secularisation and sacralisation of media and Figurations of the religious and the political.


The project head (Prof. Dr. Reinhard Hoeps) focuses on the Gothic cathedral, its interpretation by Suger of St-Denis, the reception of the Middle Ages on completion of the Cologne Cathedral in the 19th century, and the political dimension of this reception as well as the conflict of interpretation in 20th-century history of art. From a theological perspective, the primary aims here will be the relationship of religio-theological semantisation and the aesthetic-medial language of form, and of the conditions of possibility of such a correlation.

On the basis of selected examples, the project member (Dr. Thomas Lentes), in the first monograph of its kind, systematically describes the different medial possibilities of the heavenly Jerusalem from the early Middle Ages to the Protestant Reformation. Various medial accomplishments ranging from differentiation to the creation of or departure from tradition will be illustrated with the help of various examples such as Aachen Cathedral with the shrine of Charlemagne and the candelabrum of Frederick I Barbarossa; the so-called “Barbarossakopf”, a portrait bust of Frederick I Barbarossa; the decoration of Karlštejn Castle by Charles IV; or valuating urban space with signs of the heavenly Jerusalem in the Anabaptist kingdom of Münster.

Both subprojects have questions in common that deal with the medial implementation of the heavenly Jerusalem’s biblical image and with the internal medial logic of its representation between the poles of religion and politics. While R. Hoeps focuses on the Gothic cathedral and its reception up to the present, Th. Lentes looks into the various forms of representation from the early to the late Middle Ages.