Theoretical perspectives

JERUSALEM AS CODE: We apply the analytical term ‘code’, borrowed from semiotics, to grasp the structuring power, the pervasiveness and the complexity of the Jerusalem idea (Lotman & Eco 1990). 

In the Middle Ages, this idea was systematically codified in the epistemological model of the quadriga, the fourfold interpretation of Scripture (Lubac 1959/61/64). To medieval theologians, this functioned as a holistic and dynamic model of understanding. Within this model, Jerusalem was the paradigm (John Cassian (Cassian 1985)): On the historical level, Jerusalem denoted the physical city of the Jews, the place where Solomon erected his temple and Christ was crucified. This denotation, however, also contained other layers of meaning. Allegorically, Jerusalem signified the Christian Church, eschatologically it pointed to the heavenly city for which mankind is bound, and morally it represented the individual Christian soul. The quadriga thus facilitated an understanding that combined past, present, and future, time and eternity, the singular and the universal, the human and the divine into one single rhetorical figure – and onto one single spot. The idea of a multivalent Jerusalem came to permeate the medieval perception of reality. It implied a reinterpretation of the Jewish tradition from which it sprang, aiming to supersede and overwrite it. The hermeneutics of the quadriga thus legitimized the Christians’ claim to be the true heirs of Jerusalem and the new chosen people. This naturally had wide-ranging consequences for religious practices, historiography, artistic culture, architecture, and territorial politics.

In the early modern period ((i.e. ca 1500-1750/1800), the medieval symbolic interpretation of the perceptible world was questioned, and in Protestant tradition there was no such thing as a holy place. Hence the multi-significant model of Jerusalem was negotiated in new ways. Still, it lived on in literary, religious and political discourses, and has continued to do so to this day. As a rhetorical trope, Jerusalem has proved to possess a remarkable transformative power and an ability to adapt to political, religious, and existential experiences under different historical circumstances.

Concepts and Methodological perspectives
By ‘Jerusalem’ in ‘Jerusalem code’, we refer to the city in Palestine as well as its diverse significances (cf. Quadriga). To trace the Jerusalem code therefore entails investigating the diverse ways in which the application of Jerusalem and its significations have been in use and transformed in different contexts.

Due to the physical site of Jerusalem being expressed through visual, architectural, and literary rhetoric, research on the Jerusalem code necessitates an interdisciplinary approach. The studies draw on theories and methodologies from cultural history, the history of religion, the history of literature, art and architectural history, and intellectual history. We also want to emphasize a diachronic method. Several of the topics listed under the subprojects are suitable cases for diachronic investigation (specified by genres). For example, a diachronic study of the transmission of the Passion story in Scandinavian devotional literature from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century will, according to preliminary research, clarify how spiritual applications of Jerusalem were adapted to shifting historical and political contexts. Another case suitable for diachronic study is the visual representation of earthly Jerusalem, for instance through art, architecture, and maps.