Visions of Jerusalem: Medieval Christendom Imagines the City on a Hill

Visions of Jerusalem: Medieval Christendom Imagines the City on a Hill explores the representation of the Holy City in the images and imaginations of the Latin West and the rich diversity of its representation in both word and picture.

Far from inspiring a consistent Christian conception of the Holy City, we show how Jerusalem prompted a vast range of depictions by Western authors and artists. In a time before cameras, images of Jerusalem were less concerned with veracity than with the power of their associations. The versatility of the Holy Land allowed it to act not only as the mise en scène for the Church’s rich biblical-mystical tradition, but also as a virtual destination for spiritual pilgrims and a touchstone in medieval apocalyptic traditions, among others. These varying visions of Jerusalem exemplify the fascinating complexity of the city.  In the medieval mind, Jerusalem was both heavenly and earthly.  It was a physical location and a mental construction that offered a link to the past and a harbinger of the future.

Highlights of the exhibition include a miniature depicting the Agony in the Garden from the Holy Land Choir Book, the long lost first volume of the Bible of Louis de Harcourt, Patriarch of Jerusalem and Bishop of Bayeux, a beautifully illustrated early gothic copy of Peter of Poitiers’ geneological scroll, and a deluxe book of hours with miniatures attributed to the Workshop of the Master François.