The Hortus Deliciarum, or "Garden of Delights," was made in the twelfth century for the Augustinian convent at Hohenbourg, just west of Strasbourg. Through an unusually elaborate cycle of images combined with excerpts from numerous texts, this manuscript of over 320 folios presented the history of the Catholic church as an exemplary model for individual salvation. This dissertation is a three-part interpretative analysis of the content and function of the Hortus Deliciarum in the context of twelfth-century monastic art. Focusing on the interplay of narrative and diagrammatic imagery, in the first section of my study I argue that this innovative program of illustration provides the structural framework and narrative content for a coherent history of salvation that addressed the needs of the Hohenbourg community. The illustrations also familiarized its female audience with the analytical tools and devotional methods necessary for them to comprehend their participatory role in this theologically-inspired history. Medieval conceptions of time--cosmological, soteriological, historical, calendrical and liturgical--are central to my interpretation of the structure and purpose of this manuscript. The second section of my dissertation argues that a multifaceted conception of time unifies the program in the Hortus and provides an immediate point of access for the Hohenbourg women into this expansive history.
In the final section, I trace two complimentary themes through the manuscript: the presence of evil in the world, and Abraham as a model for historical and personal salvation. Special attention is paid to the perfidious evils lurking beneath beautiful and alluring facades in a sequence of images that prepare the Hohenbourg women for ongoing combat against sin and temptation. In contrast to the wiles of Lucifer, the portraits of Abraham transcend visual modes and historical confines to define an exemplary path towards salvation.