Grandeur For A New Age
Posted by foryourfaith on September 6, 2011
The life’s work of a mystic from Calabria, Italy, influenced the building of one of the masterpieces of Gothic architecture, the church of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. Completed in 1248, the chapel was built by Louis IX of France (1214-1270) to house relics said to include the crown of thorns of Jesus and pieces of the Holy Cross. The king, who was to be canonized by Pope Boniface VIII in 1297, had been deeply influenced by the writings of the twelfth-century Italian monk Joachim of Fiore in planning the shrine.
Three separate moments of mystic illumination had inspired Joachim to interpret history as a product of the Divine Trinity, and he theorized that time was divided into three distinct ages, each lasting for 42 generations. The Bible’s Old Testament corresponded to the Age of the Father, ruled by law and fear. The New Testament was the Age of the Son, ruled by grace and faith. The third age would be that of the Holy Spirit, ruled by love.
By mysterious mathematical calculations, the year 1260 could be seen as the beginning of the final age. Joachim predicted violent conflicts and the appearance of Antichrists, followed by an era of peace led by a spiritual elite of monks. His views were immensely popular long after his death, even though part of his work was condemned by the Church hierarchy in 1215.
The number 126 is symbolically represented throughout Sainte-Chapelle, in keeping with the key number of 1260 in Joachim’s interpretation of history. The Book of Revelation, chapter 12, verse 6, says that a woman associated with the Apocalypse spends 1260 days in the wilderness, so the rose window of Sainte-Chapelle showing the Apocalypse was composed of 126 segments, as was the facing window of the Passion of Christ. The chapel’s windows also gave particular importance to the relatively obscure Old Testament books of Esther, Job, Judith and Tobias, which Joachim had considered to be crucial astrological indicators of the Age of the Holy Spirit.
The year 1260 did bring revolutionary agitations in Italy and Germany, but the uprisings failed to overthrow the established order. King Louis IX declared two years of penance throughout France, and flagellants roamed the countryside, lashing themselves and calling on others to atone for their sins. The flagellants were eventually declared heretics and crushed, along with a radical order of the Franciscans known as the Fraticelli, who had taken up Joachim’s theories. Despite this, Joachim’s prophecies of a new spiritual age continued to flourish and they influenced the works of great Italian writers, such as Dante, as well as a number of other scholars until well into the seventeenth century.
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