The eschatology of Bernard of Clairvaux

James George Kroemer, Marquette University


Studies of Bernard of Clairvaux have long ignored his eschatology, deeming it irrelevant to his overall thought. This, however, is a grievous mistake because Bernard's eschatology is crucial to the understanding of his spiritual theology. Bernard taught that the greatest blessing imaginable was union with God. This dissertation demonstrates that he also realized that union with God could not totally be experienced in this life, even through contemplation. Bernard's anthropological principles compelled him to believe that the death of a Christian, though joyful and something to be desired, would also not bring about union with God. Bernard held that the soul had to wait with a patient anticipation until the Last Day when it would be reunited with the body at the general resurrection of the dead and finally be united with God. Bernard's eschatological theory fell out of favor with the Roman Catholic Church in the fourteenth century and was subsequently forgotten or labeled as "strange." However, this dissertation argues that it is the culmination of his spiritual thought. Bernard's longing for the general resurrection on the Last Day may also provide the answer to why he so vigorously promoted the Second Crusade. Although very active in the affairs of the church and free with advice to the political leaders of his day, involvement in the Second Crusade was seemingly out of character for Bernard. However, the dissertation shows that Bernard was keenly interested in twelfth century apocalyptic speculation and, utilizing the Last Emperor theory, may have understood the Second Crusade as a vehicle to usher in the Last Day and his desired union with God.

Recommended Citation

Kroemer, James George, "The eschatology of Bernard of Clairvaux" (2000). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9977735.