About the project
As emphasized by a wide range of scholars, the quest for Jerusalem, earthly and celestial, has had a formative impact on the entire history of Christianity.
As the site of the Jewish temple and the scene of Christ’s redemptive death and resurrection, Jerusalem’s significance far exceeded its value as a lieu de mémoire. The city was construed as the axis mundi, the locus of divine presence on earth and a signpost to the goal of history. In numerous ways, and in conflict with Jewish and Muslim traditions, Christendom has claimed to be the legitimate heir to, and interpreter of, Jerusalem. Because this thought has been so pervasive, Jerusalem could be designated as a code to the Christian culture that shaped the Western world. Traces of the ‘Jerusalem code’ are still seen today, in material culture, religious traditions and secular politics.
Recently, there has been an increasing interest in Jerusalem interpretations on the international scholarly scene. Our special competence and unique contribution lie in the Scandinavian material, which scarcely has been explored in this perspective. Through this project, we intend to fill a gap in current international scholarship. Furthermore, we aim at a new contextualization of Scandinavian religious history.
The project develops one main idea; but is subdivided according to three formative periods:
- Jerusalem in Medieval Scandinavia (1000-1300)
- Jerusalem in the Lutheran kingdoms of Denmark-Norway and Sweden (1500-1800)
- Jerusalem in the eyes of Scandinavian revivalists and travellers (1800-1900)
The subprojects explore three hypotheses:
1) The multivalent interpretation of Jerusalem constitutes a code to Scandinavian Christian culture. Tracing this code and its changing application through different historical periods provides a new perspective on Scandinavian religious history.
2) Throughout Scandinavian history, the identification with Israel, God’s chosen people, has legitimated physical and spiritual claims of holy history and topography (Jerusalem). These claims have generated a continuous denunciation of ‘others’ (i.e., Jews, Muslims, Catholics and political and religious dissidents) whose claims are considered illegitimate.
3) The specific Christian concept of Jerusalem has a transformed afterlife in secular Scandinavia, in political discourse and engagements in international politics of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Horizon and relevance: How the past became the present
The investigation of the last hypothesis (3) is meant to offer a horizon of understanding that can frame contemporary challenges in society, more than provide precise conclusions. In the last two centuries, the history of Jerusalem, particularly as a religious narrative connected to national narratives, has incited people to renew an emotional and political involvement in Jerusalem and the Middle East (Shamir 2003). The project’s special relevance is that it deals with the historical roots of the constant challenges in our modern society regarding conflicting religious and historical identities. By tracing the role of Jerusalem in the Christian cultures of Scandinavia, we aim to develop historical understanding as an important resource, both in a national and international context.