Daily Draw, The Golden Tarot: The Visconti-Sforza Deck, The World
Two putti hold up a globe, a symbolic representation of heaven. Within the globe is a shining castle - a metaphor for the new Jerusalem. The putti on the right points to his heart - perhaps indicating that is where the kingdom of heaven is made.
Writing in the twelth century Hildegard of Bingen depicted the return of the soul to heaven using architectural imagery. Humans construct their repentance and restoration as they participate in building the heavenly city.
Hildegard was supervising the construction of Rupertsberg around 1150 and on her preaching tours she witnessed the passion for building in the Rhineland. It seems her personal life may also have influenced her interest in the imagery. In her autobiography Vita Hildegardis she writes that she dug a moat and constructed a wall around her sisters with the words of the scriptures, discipline and good habits in order to fortify them against evil.
Throughout her Expositiones and other works and letters Hildegard repeatedly presents human efforts to achieve salvation using the construction metaphor.
In a letter to Conrad, Bishop of Worms, Hildegard advises that one who follows God's commandments in doing good builds the heavenly Jerusalem whereas one who performs carnal deeds will fall from this edifice. She also says that one who renounces self-will decorates heavenly buildings with pearls, precious stones and the finest gold.
Hildegard also conceives of heaven as constructed from living stones (people). She prays that Guibert of Gembloux continue in service so that he may become deserving of being a living stone in the Kingdom of Jerusalem. In a letter to Bishop Gunther of Speyer she teaches that the foundations of the city consist of repentant sinners who have pressed down their sins through penance and form a kind of gravel bed for the city walls.
By contrast the gem image is used to describe the radiant saints dwelling in the heavenly city.
Hildegard never interiorizes the city as other contemporaries do. Constructing heaven does require the labour of the inner self but the imagery is not directed inward. Rather it is seen as an outward process reflecting the virtues' transport of stones up the ladder of salvation.
Source for today's post: Mayne Keinzle, B. (2007) 'Constructing Heaven in Hildegard of Bingen's Expositiones Euangeliorum' In Muessig, C. and Putter, A. (eds.) Envisaging Heaven in the Middle Ages, Oxon: Routledge, pp.34-43