Sacred Heart Books of Special Note

Marguerite-Marie Alacoque (1986) describes the revelations she received from the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1673–1675. Available in reprint editions. See also Alacoque (1997) for her letters.

Croiset (1725 and 1948), written at the urging of Alacoque, is the first book to recount her visions. Available in reprint editions. See also Galliffet (1726 and 1890); Bainvel (1924); and Arnoudt (1974), the latter in-print.

Bougaud (1920) is the standard biography of this nun whose visions inspired devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Available in reprint editions.

David Morgan, Professor of Theology, Duke University, and Henrik von Achen, Curator of Church Art, Religious Art, Medals, University Museum of Bergen, are forging new ground into scholarship on the Sacred Heart. Morgan (2008) shows how the visual evolution of this symbol from Margurite-Marie Alacoque’s rendering of her vision to the present parallels the changing nature of the religious devotion to the Sacred Heart. In-print.

Achen (1980) traces the theological currents during the Reformation and Counterreformation that gave rise to devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as it is known today. The book is out-of-print and obscure enough to be hard to find even in the used book market. This seminal article is, however, available on-line at

See also O’Donnell (1992) for a lively and erudite history of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus from its biblical antecedents to its modern practice. Also Petrovits (1917 and 1918) which traces the theological history of the devotion. All three available in reprint editions.

Zoccatelli (2003), in Italian and hard to find, to say the least, traces the history of the symbol of Jesus’ heart from the 3rd century to the present with many illustrations.

See Stierli (1958) and Ciappi (1985) for edited chapters on the biblical basis for devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Reprint editions available.

Jonas (2000) is a richly layered and beautifully illustrated narrative of the Sacred Heart in France, beginning with the apparition of the Sacred Heart to Marguerite-Marie Alacoque in the 17th century, through the French Revolution and its aftermath, to the construction of the monumental Sacré Cœur church that has loomed over Paris since the end of the 19th century. In-print.

The five volume Hamon (1923–1939) remains the definitive account of the devotion to the Sacred Heart in France. In French and unfortunately out-of-print. See also Alet (1889) which covers the same ground in one oversized volume with many well-produced illustrations. Also in French and out-of-print.

For the history of the Sacred Heart in German see Richstätter (1924) in German Old Script and out-of-print, but with many remarkable illustrations. Though a bit expensive, copies are available in the used book market.

Pressy (1795) is one of the earliest accounts written originally in English on the origins of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Rare and expensive, but facsimile copies available at several on-line websites.

Schiller (1971–1972) is the classic history of Christian iconography with a brief but informative section on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Out-of-print, hard to find, and used copies are very expensive, but major university and research libraries will have a copy.

Before Marguerite-Marie Alacoque’s visions, Lutgard of Trond, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Gertrud the Great, Julian of Norwich, Catherine of Siena, and Rose of Lima reported encounters in which Jesus revealed his heart. For accounts of their revelations, see for Lutgard, Cantimpré (1991); Mechthild (1922, 1953, and 1998); Gertrud (1921); Julian (1966); Catherine (1925), and for Rose, Alphonsus (1982), Hansen (2009), and Graziano (2004), the latter for an alternative interpretation of Rose of Lima and the mystical experience in general. Available in original or reprint editions.

The Middle Ages saw proliferation of the devotion to the Five Wounds, in which the wound in the Jesus’ Heart figured most prominently, found in the Vitis Mystica and the writings of Joannes Lanspergius, John of Avila, Louis De Blois, and Antoni Kasper Drużbicki. For the Vitis Mystica see Bernard (1873), though now ascribed to Saint Bonaventure. For the other mystics see Lanspergius (1926), Avila (1904 and 2006), Blois (1900 and 2009), and Drużbicki (2009). All these books are available in reprint editions.

The writings of two 17th-century French theologians, François de Sales and Jean Eudes, set the stage for Alacoque’s revelations and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. See Sales (1925) and Eudes (1946). Both available in reprint editions.

Three nuns were instrumental in establishing Sacred Heart communities. For Madeleine-Sophie Barat, founder of the Society of the Sacred Heart, see Kilroy (2000). For Rose Philippine Duchesne, founder of the Society in America, see Callan (1957). For Frances Xavier Cabrini, founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the first American citizen to be canonized, see Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart (2007). These books are available in reprint editions.

Kowalska (2008) is the English-language translation of the diary of Mary Faustina Kowalska whose visions starting in 1931 became inspiration for Divine Mercy devotion, for which, like devotion to the Sacred Heart, Jesus’ heart us a central element.

There a number of exceptional books featuring Sacred Heart imagery.

Most unusual, Ginter (1706) is one of the few, if not the only, illustrated Emblem books devoted exclusively to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Incredibly rare and impossibly expensive, in this country the University of Indiana has a copy.

Spamer (1930) while in German, and hard to find, even in major research libraries, is worth a look as the book has many beautifully reproduced copies of Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary holy cards and other art.

Strauss (1987 and 1992) includes an unsurpassed collection of Medieval German woodcuts of the Five Wounds of Christ, all of which focus on Jesus’ pierced heart. These volumes are found in major research libraries.

Debroise (1991) has many beautifully reproduced images Sacred Heart of Jesus. Out-of-print though copies are available in the used book market.

Andergassen (1996) is a richly illustrated catalog of an exhibit of Sacred Heart art from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. The Diözesanmuseum in Brixen, Italy, where the exhibit was held, may have copies.

See Diaz (2005 and 2007) for imaginative contemporary interpretations of the Sacred Heart. In-print.

Calamari (2004, 2007, and 2007) and her co-author DiPasqua have produced a series of books reproducing classic holy cards, a number of which feature the Sacred Hearts of Jesus. In-print.

And finally the quirky Boyadjian (1985). Written by a heart surgeon, the book traces the history, symbolism, iconography of the Sacred Heart plus a chapter on cardio-vascular diseases with reproductions of an amazing array of Sacred Heart ephemera and fine art, mostly from the author’s own collection, and quite a collection it is. Out-of-print, but reasonably priced copies are available in the used book market.

Christian mysticism has figured large in the history of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Underhill (1911), while only mentioning Margurite-Marie Alacoque and the Sacred Heart in passing, remains the classic study of mysticism within Christianity and other traditions. James (1902) is the only book on this list that makes no allusion whatsoever to either Alacoque or the Sacred Heart. It is included for its provocative deconstruction of mysticism through the lens of Pragmatism, America’s gift to modern philosophy. Both are available in reprint editions.