Constantinople and the Heavenly Jerusalem?: through the imperial palace

Constantinople and the Heavenly Jerusalem?: through the imperial palace

By Maria Christina Carile

Paper given at the 21st International Congress of Byzantine Studies(2006)

Introduction: Jerusalem, the Christian religious centre holding major monuments of the Christian faith, demonstrations of Christ’s death and resurrection, and holy sanctuaries, received great attention from Christian emperors from the age of Constantine onwards. However in 446, when the passage to Jerusalem was dangerous, St. Daniel was sent to Constantinople instead. In the life of St. Daniel, St. Symeon the Elder himself, dressed as an old man, spoke the words quoted above, defining Constantinople as the second Jerusalem. The sixth-century text clearly expresses the value of Constantinople as a second Jerusalem, a new Jerusalem.

The aim of this paper is to analyse two lines of thought that develop in a parallel way and merge together in the definition of the meaning of Constantinople during Late Antiquity: the image of Constantinople as a second or new Jerusalem and that of Constantinople as a heavenly Jerusalem. The urban development of the city created a symbolic topography that affected the meaning of the city itself, making it, as we shall see, a new Jerusalem. The meaning of Jerusalem in Christianity involves different connotations that need to be considered before we attempt to clarify their relationship to the image of Constantinople. The difference between the historical Jerusalem, the new Jerusalem, and the heavenly Jerusalem is an extremely important distinction that, as we shall see, will be critical for the comprehension of Constantinople. Constantinople’s relationship with the meaning of Jerusalem revolves around the symbolic identification of the imperial palace as a heavenly Jerusalem, a crucial point that was long ignored and will be addressed here.

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