National Museum of Catholic Art and Library - The Sacred Heart of Jesus

An Illustrated book on the History of Christianity’s Most Mystical Symbol

Through 100 illustrations acquired from libraries, universities, museums, and private collections in Europe, North and South America, and Africa, ranging the Late Roman to the 21st century, The Sacred Heart of Jesus will trace the visual evolution of this symbol.

A preview of this book can be seen at What follows is a small sampling of the art that will be featured in The Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Scriptural authority to devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is found in several verses in the New Testament, including John 19:34: “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.” About this verse, Pius XII was to write in his 1956 Encyclical Haurietus aquas,

What is here written of the side of Christ, opened by the wound from the soldier, should also be said of the Heart which was certainly reached by the stab of the lance, since the soldier pierced it precisely to make certain that Jesus Christ crucified was really dead.

Evangiles dits de François II (folio 12v), ca. 850

One of the earliest pictorial renderings of Jesus’ heart appears on Late Roman pottery.

African red slip ware, Carthage, ca. 450

During the Middle Ages, devotion to the Sacred Heart was expressed in the Five Wounds of Jesus.

Prayer Book of Maaseik, unknown Netherlandish Master, ca. 1500

The Renaissance saw art become more personal, exploring new themes.

“Ultro cordis portam pultat Iesus” (Beyond this door beats Jesus’ heart) Antonius Wierix, copper engraving, 1558–1586

The 1676 visions of Saint Marguerite-Maria Alacoque mark the beginning of the modern devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque Contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus Corrado Giaquinto, oil on canvas, 1725

All along, running like a subterranean current, some of the most powerful and imaginative renderings of the Sacred Heart is found popular and folk art forms.

Corazón Sagrado de Jesús, anonymous Mexican retablo, oil on tin, late 19th century

A section will be devoted to the Sacred Heart of Mary.

Mater Dolorosa, 19th century holy card

Today visionary and outsider artists have use the symbol of the Sacred Heart to explore their own spirituality.

Dark Mystery Geno Rodriguez, collage, 2006


The Sacred Heart of Jesus will feature three introductory essays:

“A Brief History of a Devotion” by Helen Rosenthal, RSCJ, Coordinator of Spirituality Studies, St. Thomas University

“The Archetypal Heart” by Liliana Leopardi, Professor of Art History, Chapman University

“The Visual Evolution of a Devotion” by David Morgan, Professor of Religion, Duke University


The book will also include:

A list of every Sacred Heart church in the United States and Canada

A list of every Sacred Heart school in the United States and Canada

A chronology of the Sacred Heart

A bibliography of every book on the Sacred Heart


The Sacred Heart of Jesus is schedule for publication Fall 2010.

For further information contact peter@sacredheartofjesus book. com.