Guide The Sacred Heart of Jesus: The Visual Evolution of a Devotion

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This Heart itself is an emblem of love, and this love, which is the spiritual object of my veneration, is besides represented to one by the flames which surround the Heart. In fine, the person who shoes it to me is Jesus, to whom reverts all the homage which is exhibited. The flames which surround the Heart speak to me again of His infinite love, which the Eucharist [sic] reveals to me. The Cross, the crown of thorns, the gaping wound of the Heart — of what do they speak to me but of His cruel Passion and bitter sufferings? Follow me? Thus, for instance, a heart, or the picture of a heart, is the emblem of love.

A host of indulgences outlined by the Catechism offer good reason to do so.

The Boston print holds both visual features in balance — the corporeal organ and the direct gaze. Placing the corporeal heart on or in the chest, Fig. This portrait-type would remain much more popular and widespread as an image than Fig. Alacoque held sympathy in low esteem. Nature cannot bring itself to suffer humiliation, contempt, and abandonment by creatures without some support. The design simultaneously affirms the Eucharistic significance of the Cross and Passion, the Lordship of the Sacred Heart, and the universal embrace of the love celebrated by the devotion.

Christ gazes steadily at viewers, as if redirecting his look from the private vision of Alacoque to all of humankind. Photo: E. Commemorative Statuary in Twentieth-Century Netherlands A gradual symbolization of the Heart is discernible in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries which encodes it with remembered meanings rather than part of a portrait-icon, on the one hand, or a visceral floating organ of glistening tissue exuding flames, on the other. Some adorn gardens and meditative spaces for walks. Others remember local individuals fallen in the first or second world war.

Mayors and municipalities raise statues in honor of a parish or priest. The gestures vary, but fall into a few clear categories see figs. The unmistakably pastoral purpose of the statues is doubly underscored by the gestures and the inscriptions. Quite typically, Jesus presents himself to the viewer, welcoming response fig.

The image of the welcoming savior is one of intimate revelation grounded ultimately in the experience of Alacoque, but now presented for everyone in clearly pastoral terms of comforting acceptance and support. The mystical revelation, couched in suffering and extreme experience, has become a universal message of consolation. The choice of the Sacred Heart of Jesus suits the occasion of a community celebrating and remembering the contributions of its spiritual shepherd, a pastor.

About the figure of Jesus are sheep, suggesting that the image of the Sacred Heart has been merged with the Good Shepherd. He raises his other hand, the right one, in a gesture of benediction. The gesture toward his heart indicates that the truth of his mission is encapsulated there. Some statues proclaim that the Sacred Heart of Jesus reigns over the town that has erected the figure. I am king.

Brief History of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The source of life and sanctity. The source of all solace. Even the drops of blood appear as neatly ordered, shiny pearls rather than anything like gore. The image is framed within a decorative scheme that bears the floral motifs popular in chromolithography of the day.

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To the left are lilies signifying the Resurrection. Nijmegen KDC. The aim, which may be traced back to Alacoque, was to dedicate a religious or civic domain — community, diocese, municipality, county, or nation — to the Sacred Heart, thereby making public faith the better to effect reparations. The statue, like the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris, stands forth as a public testimony, a visual proclamation of the dedication. The text, summarized by Fr.

The cloaked figure in several Dutch sculptures fig. The occasion for the creation of the monument shown in Fig. Nicholas in Broekhuizen, where the sculpture stands. The gesture of Christ appears to welcome those who responded to the invitation to attend worship and the inscription underscores the invitation. The sacramental significance of the wounds is directed to the compassion of Christ as redeemer and shepherd or sustainer of the flock.

The figure type may be indebted to statuary from the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris see fig. The highly formulaic sculptures, always presenting a very subdued and solemn demeanor, turn the more intimate engagement of the paintings and prints of the nineteenth century into a conventionalized format that speaks the visual language of official commemoration, the sedate visual language of remembrance, ceremonial occasion, communal consecration, and formulated meaning.

Their purpose is to bestow solemnity upon those they remember and to engage the community in hallowed acts of official memory. To be sure, there are instances of individual variation and artistic interpretation, and we know the names of many of the designers. But even then they bear many of the essential features of the pervasive formula: foot-length robes, spread arms, solemn demeanor, standing format, rigid and conventional gestures. Finally, one of the most common of features among the statues is to arrange one or both of the hands of Christ to display their sacramental wounds.

But by shifting to the public display of the wound, the statuary stresses the liturgical and pastoral significance of the Sacred Heart.


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The task seems to be to bring the devotion to the very heart of Christianity: the forgiveness of sin accomplished in the Passion and Crucifixion. Yet the emphasis on the symbolic nature of the Sacred Heart, as a symbol of divine love generally understood, seems to temper the private intensity of the devotion by steering it toward the public, liturgical practice of worship and community life. The imagery has not been without its modern critics for reasons varying from theology to aesthetics. The verse of a popular hymn to the Sacred Heart provided him with a lyrical instance: As thou art meek and lowly And ever pure of heart, So may my heart be wholly Of thine the counterpart.

Even the stigmatum has been removed from his other hand, which extends outward in welcome. The Sacred Heart means trust in God and how to live with suffering. The message is that Jesus suffers with you. Callisto Locheng, who is himself devoted to the Sacred Heart, told me that the devotion is promoted by parish priests more than by the Catholic hierarchy in Kenya.

The Visual Evolution of a Devotion

The sculpture was explicitly requested by Fr. John Marengoni.

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A Comboni missionary and co-founder of the Apostles of Jesus, Marengoni was the founder and designer of the shrine. He told the sculptor Vincenzo Gasparetti to create the figure without any heart since, according to Fr. Now devotees themselves have accepted the claim, resulting in the elimination of the heart. The French Jesuit priest and paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin provides an apt place to end this historical account.

His ideas gathered up the many oppositions noted in the history of the devotion and resolved many of them in a mystical vision of matter as a universal process of spiritual evolution. Teilhard recalled late in his life the childhood piety that his devout mother encouraged — the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Photo author. In effect, evolution was resolving the dualism that critics had considered inherent in the Sacred Heart of Jesus — the uneasy relation of flesh and Divine Word. It was not a gaze to suffer, but one to relish as an iconic disclosure of awesome mysteries to come.

Margaret Mary Alacoque, tr.

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Shaping the Devotion in: Holy Organ or Unholy Idol?

Clarence A. Herbst Rockford, Ill. For a reproduction of the diagram as it appeared as the seal of the Convent of the Visitation at Paray-le-Monial, see A. Richard Flower New York: P. Sisters of the Visitation Rockford, Ill. The history of Jansenist ideas, politics, and the many controversies among Jesuits and Jansenists across Europe from the seventeenth century even to its persistent memory in the nineteenth century, long after efforts at Jansenist reform had ended, have received consideration attention among historians.

Dale K. Alphonsus de Liguori, Novena to the Sacred Heart, tr. View cookies policy. Zoom Zoom. Availability Usually despatched within 2 weeks.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus The Visual Evolution of a Devotion 4

With Free Saver Delivery. Facebook Twitter Pinterest Share. Description Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been controversial from its beginning in the life of the French Visitationist nun Margaret Mary Alacoque , who established the devotion after a series of mystical visions of Christ. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the late s.

Sacred Heart

This scene was captured in some of the early art of the Church. One such image is found in the Rabula Gospels , which date to But even in the early Church the heart was shown as an independent organ, separate from the body, as in this image from African pottery in the mids. Examples of the heart itself can also be found in a late medieval prayer book and Renaissance engraving , from around and the late 16th century, respectively,—well before St.

In her mystical encounters with Jesus in the s, the definitive features of Sacred Heart as we know it were revealed to St. Margaret Mary—the cross set in the top, the encircling crown of thorns, and the open wound on one side. Early renditions of the Sacred Heart after that date emphasize its fleshly reality. In the frontpiece illustration for De Cultu Sacrosancti Cordis Dei ac Domini Nostri Jesu Christi , by Charles-Joseph Natoire , the Sacred Heart is shown in intensely realistic detail, almost like what one might expect from a medical textbook of the time, according to art historian Simonetta Marin see her article here.

In some instances, the Sacred Heart was displayed apart from the crucified body of Christ but with the figure of St. Margaret Mary, such as this oil painting of the saint, kneeling before a darkly knotted Sacred Heart in the foreground. That date also marks the year that the Vatican instituted the Feast of the Sacred Heart. But towards the end of the century, images of the Sacred Heart underwent a dramatic shift from focusing on the heart itself to displaying it with the figure of Jesus, according to scholar David Morgan.


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  8. In the painting, Jesus is wearing a red tunic with a blue cloak wrapped on his shoulders—traditional colors signifying His Passion, or humanity, and His royalty or divinity, respectively.