SENKU-seminar med Kristin Bliksrud Aavitsland
I Jórsalaborg þar er miðr heimr: Images of Jerusalem in Medieval Scandinavia
This paper presents some of the results of the collaborative research project Tracing the Jerusalem Code: Christian Cultures in Scandinavia, which recently concluded.
The ancient capital of Judea has been invested with thicker layers of meaning than any other place. Within the Christian tradition evolving from the Biblical events taking place there, Jerusalem became a site of accumulated sanctity. Jerusalem offers, in the words of Stephen Greenblatt, “a sense of semiological thickness, of opacity, of holiness solidified” –accessible to everyone who visits or dreams about it. Jerusalem’s semiological thickness was the point of departure of our project. One ambitious aim was to rewrite the history of Christianity in Scandinavia with Jerusalem as a lens, to investigate the image – or rather the imagination – of Jerusalem in Scandinavia, as it appeared in fields as diverse as liturgy, legislation, political treatises, literature, art, and architecture. We then suggested the term code to capture the fundamental structure and complecity of the religious language about Jerusalem. This term is borrowed from semiotics, where it has come to be understood as a framework of conventions within which singular signs make sense in a certain way. The Jerusalem Code has certainly been a useful concept in the sense that it has triggered stimulating and hopefully constructive conversations about how meaning is produced and mediated across shifting religious and cultural paradigms. It has also allowed us to circumscribe the multiple references to Jerusalem and the Holy Land and consider them in relation to each other, across historical periods and academic disciplines. The first part of the paper presents some of the general objectives of the project, whereas the second part dives into the conceptual understanding of Jerusalem in some Old Norse manuscripts from the early fourteenth century.
Kristin B. Aavitsland is an art historian and Professsor of Medieval Studies at MF Norwegian Scool of Theology, Religion and Society, Oslo. She was the head of the project Tracing the Jerusalem Code.