The "heavenly Jerusalem" as an eschatological symbol in St. Hildegard of Bingen's "Scivias"

Renate C Craine, Fordham University


This dissertation investigates the heavenly Jerusalem theme in the symbolic theology of Hildegard of Bingen's Scivias. Situating the theme in tradition, the monastic context, and investigating it from a contemporary analysis of symbols, the dissertation proposes that in Scivias the heavenly Jerusalem functions as a polysemic, eschatological symbol which informs and organizes Hildegard's theology of history. What is symbolized as the progressive building of the heavenly Jerusalem throughout history points more to the depth dimension of the finite than to an otherworldly reality. After an introduction, chapter 1 investigates Hildegard's life, social and ecclesial context, the nature of her visions, and the prophetic call which resulted in her contemplative, symbolic theology. The second chapter looks at the foundation of the heavenly Jerusalem theme in Scripture and tradition. How the theme functions as a symbol of faith and of hope is investigated in the next two chapters respectively. The fifth chapter examines the heavenly Jerusalem as an eschatological symbol from medieval and contemporary perspectives. It claims that the symbol can ground the faith and hope of Christians in a common cosmos of meaning and the lived experience of Christic viriditas. The method of the dissertation is thematic, interdisciplinary, and interpretative, looking at one specific symbol within an ever-widening context. It attempts to bring to light the theme's unifying function as a polysemic symbol. It argues that Hildegard's specific use of the heavenly Jerusalem symbol invites a trinitarian focus for our identity. The study claims that Hildegard's visions and her response to them were experienced as a profound affirmation of being a woman, as well as a challenge to be a prophet. This "gendered" experience shaped her symbolic theology of history in a specific way. It enabled her to see redemption as the birthing of interrelatedness in history and cosmos, as the ultimate, sacramental manifestation of the trinitarian reality which is always valid, but not always fully realized. Her "gendered" experience enabled her to forge an original theological term, viriditas and to see the up-building of the heavenly Jerusalem in history informed and transformed by its paschal meaning.

Subject Area

Theology|Womens studies|Germanic literature

Recommended Citation

Craine, Renate C, "The "heavenly Jerusalem" as an eschatological symbol in St. Hildegard of Bingen's "Scivias"" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9223809.