Monday, April 17, 2017

Easter Monday- How the Legend of the True Cross Travelled West, Part 1

There were Christian communities in the British Isles before Rome withdraw in AD 410.  How did they come to know the various legends of the True Cross and when did they hear the stories? Not much is known about the arrival of Christianity in Roman occupied Britain. The most obvious speculation is that the Christians arrived with Roman legions and ordinary Christians who settled there.  Tertullian, writing in Greek before AD 220 and translated, wrote about the spread of Christianity “into the diverse nations of the Gauls, and the haunts of the Britons-inaccessible to the Romans, but subjugated to Christ.”[i] Gildas wrote in the 6th century de Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae gives the names of three martyrs presumably killed during the Diocletian persecutions (303), Alban, Aaron and Julium:

sanctum albanum uerolamiensem, aaron et iulium legionum urbis ciues ceterosque utriusque sexus diuersis in locis summa magnanimitate in acie christi perstantes dico.[ii]

The Venerable Bede (d. 735) writing in his Martyrology for 22 June (ad X Kal. Jul) noted the death of Alban by beheading.[iii]  In his Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum or Ecclesiastical History of the English People, Book 1, Chapter 7, he recorded a fuller account of the martyrdom of Alban, who gave his life for a Christian priest whom he had sheltered and offered hospitality.[iv]

Page from Bede, The Ecclesiastical History. British Library Harley 4978, f.98. Made in central France (Flavigny? and Reims) 3rd quarter of the 9th century. http://www.bl.uk/IllImages/BLCD/mid/c137/c13740-93.jpg 

Though scholars may question the timing and veracity of the stories of martyrs, there is evidence for sufficient numbers of Christians living in Roman-Britain that bishops were needed to lead them. Three bishops attended the Concilio Arelatensi or Council of Arles in AD 314 convened by Emperor Constantine.  Adelfius, episcopus de civitate colonia Londinensium, was apparently the most senior because he traveled with Sacredos, presbyter, and Arminunius, deacon. The other two were Eborius, episcopus de civitate Eboracensi, provincia Britanniæ [Ivor, bishop of York] and Restitutus, episcopus de civitate Londinens [bishop of London]. Colonia Londinensium has been translated as Lincoln or Colchester or Caerleon-on-Usk .[v]

Christianity did not disappear from the British Isles when the Roman legions left. In the Chronicle of Prosper of Aquitaine entry for AD 431 reads “Palladius, having been ordained by Pope Celestine, was the first bishop sent to the Scots [Scoti or Irish] believing in Christ.” The religious community at Iona was founded by Columba in 564 more than 30 years before the mission lead by Augustine sent by Pope Gregory I to convert the king of Kent married to a Christian princess, daughter of the Merovingian king, Charibert I.  That there were Christian Britons can be inferred when Augustine wrote to Pope Gregory I asking about his authority over the bishops of the Britons in the Libellus Responsionum.  The Pope granted Augustine authority over these bishops.[vi] These Christians had lost contact with Rome.  Almost certainly these Britons knew about the cult of relics since it was part of the Church from the second century. Apparently, these Christian Britons did not know the legends of the True Cross.[vii]

It is hard to argue from the absence of information where the survival of written material is so dependent on the vagaries and misadventures of history.  There is no surviving evidence that the Cross had any special significance to these Christian Britons. What surviving archaeological evidence suggests is that the Constantinian chi-rho symbol flanked with alpha and omega or the simpler chi-cross were used.[viii]

As has been noted earlier, Eusebius (d.340) in his Church History does not mention the finding of the True Cross, though Rufinus of Aquileia (d. 410/11), Scorates Scholasticus (d.c. 440), Sozomen (d.c. 450), and Theodoret (d.c. 466) all described the finding of the Cross.  Since all these writers were writing in Greek, which was not the common language of the west of Europe, the spread of the story was dependent, at least in part, by the spread of the Latin versions of the texts.

Two candidates for the journey of the written texts are the church history, Ecclesiastica Historia with the added Books X and XI, of Rufinus of Aquileia (d. 410/11), and Historia Ecclesiastica Tripartita or Historia Tripartita composed a century after Rufinus’ works at the monastic community of Vivarium near Squillace, in Calabria, Italy.  The translation of Greek texts and perhaps the composition of the Latin Historia Tripartita was done by the monk Epiphanius Scholasticus under the direction of the monastery’s founder, Cassiodorus (Flavius Magnus Aurelius Cassiodorus Senator, b.c.485, d.c.580).  Cassiodorus may have authored the text for which he is often credited.

Rufinus became embroiled in a battle with Jerome over the text of Ecclesiastica Historia.[ix] The so-called Three Chapters controversy arose because Rufinus based his history in part on Theodoret who had been anathematized. This resulted in Jerome writing vitriolic letters against Rufinus, who declined to engage Jerome in a battle of letter writing over what Jerome considered heretical.  
As noted previously a number of manuscripts of Ecclesiastica Historia were known in medieval England. The Historia Tripartita spread widely in northern Europe and the British Isles in the Middle Ages as well.  But it is not clear how it was transmitted since there are no manuscripts extant for 200 years after the history was written.[x]

Two examples of intercourse between the British Islands and the Mediterranean word can be proposed with some certainty from two very different examples, a bible and a history book. 

Jerome began his translation of the Gospels under a commission from Pope Damasus I (d.384).  The following year, Jerome fled Rome for Antioch, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Galilee, Egypt, before settling in Bethlehem.  Financially supported by the wealthy widow Paula, Jerome went on to translate the Old Testament from Hebrew sources apart from the Greek Septuagint. Jerome also completed several translations of the Psalms. One of the oldest preserved versions of the Vulgate Bible is the Codex Amiatinus. This edition  copied an earlier, presumably Late Antiquity manuscript since the two illuminations are not in the usual Hiberno-Saxon illuminations but are Byzantine in style. This Vulgate includes the prefatory letter of Jerome to Pope Damasus I as well as Jerome’s prefaces to the Gospels. The Bible was copied out in Northumbria in the early 690s and early 700s after the monasteries of Wearmouth-Jarrow were granted land to grow the large number of cattle needed for the vellum. It is not certain if the Bible ever made it to Pope Gregory II for whom it was intended as a gift.  Abbott Coelfrith who accompanied the massive volume died in 716 on route to Rome in Langres, now in the Haut-Marne department of France. The codex is now in the Laurentian Library of Florence.
Christ in majesty flanked by angels with four Evangelists and their symbols at the beginning of the Gospels. Codex Amiatinus (fol. 796v), Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e9/Amiatinus_Maiestas_Domini.jpg/230px-Amiatinus_Maiestas_Domini.jpg


The second example is yet another history book, this one written by Orosius entitled the Adversus pagandos historiarum libri septem (Seven Books of History against the Pagans).  Written about 417, it was one of the texts the Alfred, King of Wessex (d. 899) ordered translated. A freely translated version of the history is found in the British Library as manuscript Additional 47967, made in south England, perhaps Winchester between 892 and 925.  Notes in the margin suggest that it was written out during the reign of King Alfred.[xi]
Orosius, Historum adversum paganos. Ch1, page 1. British Library Additional 47967, Part 1, f.5v   Zoomorphic initial. Made in southern England, perhaps Winchester, between c. 892 and c. 925
http://www.bl.uk/IllImages/NOF/mid/011ADD000047967U00005V00.jpg

I have struggled with the lack of written evidence for the westward spread of the legends of the True Cross in church history sources.  The evidence from these sources came to the west long after monuments and literature would suggest that the story(ies) were known.  The runes on the Ruthwell cross (perhaps about 700) are older than the Homily for the Invention of the Cross (May 3rd) written by Aelfric when he was Abbott of the Abbey at Cerne, Dorset before he was Abbott of Eynsham. 

A text page from Aelfric’s Homilies.  This manuscript was made at the Abbey of Cerne, Dorset, The corrections may well be in Aelfric’s own hand. Royal 7 C XII, Part 1, f.64. Made in southern England,,probably at Cerne during the period c. 990- c. 995 http://www.bl.uk/IllImages/BLCD/mid/c135/c13598-45.jpg

Aelfric wrote his homilies in Old English in the early 990s or so when he had access to monastic libraries that were considered large for the time period.  These homilies were dedicated to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sigeric.  Sigeric made a pilgrimage to Rome using the Via Francigena in 990 to receive his pallium from the Pope. This bit of information is probably the answer to my questions as to how the legends reached the British Isles.  It seems most likely that oral versions of the finding of the True Cross travelled along with monks, clergy, missionaries, pilgrims and ordinary travelers long before codices made it to monastic libraries.

When Augustine of Canterbury was sent as a missionary to King Æthelbert of Kent in 595 (arriving in 597) by Pope Gregory I, he was accompanied by monks and members of the Frankish clergy, and presumably relics. Venerable Bede recorded a letter from Pope Gregory I to Abbott Mellitus with specific instructions about relics. Relics were to be placed in altars erected on the sites of former pagan temples and relics were the focus for the worship of God, instead of the sacrifice of animals.[xii]  In addition, Venerable Bede wrote that Augustine requested that Pope Gregory I send him relics from martyred Pope Sixtus II to replace some apparently dubious relics of a saint named Sixtus already venerated in south-east Britain.[xiii]

Perhaps one of the best known of the Anglo-Saxon travelers, even pilgrim, was Benedict Biscop (c. 627-689) the abbott of Wearmouth monastery (Wearmouth-Jarrow).  He travelled to Rome  five times according to Bede and returned “enriched, bringing countless items useful for the service of the church.” [xiv]  He and his companions returned with books, icons, cloth, relics of apostles and martyrs, music, liturgical chanting, and undoubtedly lots of stories.[xv]

Not all the Anglo-Saxon pilgrims to Rome, the source of most relics in western Europe until sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, were clerics and monks. Abbess Bugga or Edburga of Minster-in-Thanet, Kent, wrote to Boniface about a planned pilgrimage in about 725 but was advised against it because of Saracen threat to Rome.[xvi]  Since there were no direct Arab attacks against Rome for another century. perhaps the disquiet in Rome was caused by the Arab raids on Sicily.  Even so. Abbess Edburga went to Rome.

Examination of the graffiti in the tombs and catacombs of Rome has revealed that names of apparently ordinary men and a woman or two scratched into the walls. At least 26 Saxon names written in uncial and runes were etched between the 7th and 9th centuries.[xvii] The author (saracharles) writes:

In the catacombs of Commodilla, twelve Anglo-Saxon inscriptions have been found grouped together on the fresco of St Luke, suggesting a band of English pilgrims travelling en masse. In the tombs of SS Marcellinus and Peter, the female name Fagihild was found written in runic letters among ten Anglo-Saxon names.

Though the spread of the legends of the True Cross seem to have been transferred through invisible air by speech, the dispersion of fragments of the True Cross was not.  That is where I will pick up with Part 2.




[i]Tertullianus - Adversus Iudæos or Answer to the Jews, Ch. VII.  http://www.documenta-catholica.eu/a_3-Index.html. http://www.tertullian.org/anf/anf03/anf03-19.htm#P2141_725966.
[ii] The Text of Gildas: de Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae. (Parts 1 and 2, chapters 1-37). http://www.vortigernstudies.org.uk/arthist/vortigernquotesgil.htm. Needless to say, the dates of the martyrdom of Alban have been questioned by historians, as well as the historicity of the person and martyrdom of Alban.  Bishop Germanus of Auxerre visited the tomb of St. Alban while in Britain about 429/439. Thus, there was well establish belief in St.Alban before the Gregorian mission in 597. The fact that Pelagius, branded a heretic for his denial of original sin, was a native of Britain is not doubted. Jerome wrote of him “habet progeniem Scoticae gentis de Britannorum vicinia,” Pref. lib. 3 in Hieron. The Life of St. Germanus, written by Constantius of Lyon, is supported by other independent sources.
[iii] Head, Thomas. Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology. Routledge, 2001, Ch. 8- Bede, Martyrology, pp.169-198. There is scholarly discussion as to the reliability of the modern published texts with the original, now lost, text.
[iv]Judith McClure and Roger Collins. The Ecclesiastical History of the English People; The Greater Chronicle. Oxford University Press, 2009.
[v] Miller, SN. The British Bishops at the Council of Aries (314), Engl Hist Rev (1927) XLII (CLXV): 79-80. <https://doi.org/10.1093/ehr/XLII.CLXV.79>. See also Eusebius, Church History Book X, Ch.5, Sec.23.
[vi] J. Johnson. A collection of all the ecclesiastical laws, canons, answers, or rescripts, with other memorials concerning the government, discipline and worship of the Church of England, that have been publish'd in Latin, with explanatory notes. https://books.google.com/books/content/images/frontcover/pdQGAAAAQAAJ?fife=w300-rw. Venerable Bede wrote in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People about the unfortunate and unsuccessful meeting with the seven bishops because Augustine did not rise to greet the men as fellow bishops but remained seated so the bishops would have to do homage to him.  Book II, Chapter 2.
[vii] The cult of relics can be dated to AD 150-160 with the Martyrdom of Polycarp, Sec, 18.2-3, “we afterwards took up his bones which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place; where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy, and to celebrate the birth-day of his martyrdom for the commemoration of those that have already fought in the contest, and for the training and preparation of those that shall do so hereafter…” http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/martyrdompolycarp.html.
[viii]David Petts, “Christianity in Roman Britain,” in Millett, Martin, Louise Revell, and Alison J. Moore. The Oxford Handbook of Roman Britain. 2016, pp.660-80.
[ix] Jerome (347-420) was a prolific writer of letters, hagiography, theology as well as the translator of the New and Old Testaments into “vulgar” or everyday Latin, hence the Vulgate.
[x] For an interesting discussion of the dispersal of the Historia Tripartita see: Désirée Scholten. The History of a Historia-Manuscript transmission of the Historia Ecclesiastica Tripartita by Epiphanius-Cassiodorus. https://dspace.library.uu.nl/handle/1874/179575. 
[xi]https://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/record.asp?MSID=8372&CollID=27&NStart=47967. Another version also in the British Library is Cotton MS Tiberius B I, ff 3r–111v from the early 11th century. Digitized version online. http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts/Viewer.aspx?ref=cotton_ms_tiberius_b_i_f003r. A manuscript commonly referred to as the Bobbio Orosius is an illuminated copy of Orosius (Book I and the beginning of Book II), usually thought to have been produced in the 7th century at the Irish foundation of Bobbio, Italy. Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, MS D 23 sup. http://www.vanhamel.nl/codecs/Milan,_Biblioteca_Ambrosiana,_MS_D_23_sup.  
[xii]Bede's Ecclesiastical History of England, Chapter XXX.  https://www.ccel.org/ccel/bede/history.v.i.xxix.html.
[xiii]Bertram Colgrave and R.A.B. Mynors, eds., Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), I.29–30, pp. 104 –7. and for the reference to the relics of
St. Sixtus which Gregory also sent. Richard Sharpe, “Martyr and Local Saints in Late Antique Britain,” in Alan Thacker (Editor), Richard Sharpe (Editor). Local Saints and Local Churches in the Early Medieval West. Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 75-154, at 123-7.
[xiv]Historia Abbatum,” in Christopher Grocock & Ian N. Wood. The Abbotts of Wearmouth and Jarrow (Oxford Medieval Texts). 2013, Oxford University Press, pp.29-49.
[xv] Two icons are described including one with Isaac carrying the wood for his sacrifice and Jesus carrying the cross.  The second icon juxtaposed the crucifixion of Jesus with Moses elevation of the bronze serpent.  This typological design remained popular in manuscripts, printed books, and stained glass for many centuries.
[xvi] The Medieval Sourcebook. The Correspondence of St. Boniface, #15. https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/basis/boniface-letters.asp.
[xvii]Symbolic Scratchings or Belligerent Literacy: Graffiti and its Interpretations. http://blog.history.ac.uk/2016/03/symbolic-scratchings-or-belligerent-literacy-graffiti-and-its-interpretations/. See also: More Anglo-Saxon Runic Graffiti in Roman Catacombs in Old English Newsletter http://www.oenewsletter.org/OEN/print.php/essays/schwab37_1/Array.  Also, Luisa Izzi. “Anglo-Saxons Underground: Early Medieval graffiti in the Catacombs of Rome” in England and Rome in the Early Middle Ages: Pilgrimage, Art, and Politics. Brepols Publishers, 2014, pp.144-77. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Wood of the Cross - Good Friday, April 14, 2017


As I write about the lopped or rough-hewn cross, I will try to not repeat what has been said already in the Tree of Jesse blogs, especially those from August 2015, but some repetition is probably inevitable.  So, the writer asks for the readers’ indulgence.

The medieval mind was preoccupied with the interplay of words and images (typological thinking) Examples shown in three biblical texts are: 1) Isaiah speaks of a stem from the tree stump of Jesse, 2) Jeremiah prophecies a righteous Branch from David, 3) Daniel interprets King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a tree that grew from the center of the earth to a great height, but was then cut down as predicting the life that the King was to lead.  The tree was hewed down so it can regrow as a Messianic kingdom.  The medieval mind saw these symbols of growth and destruction of trees as the destruction of Israel and subsequent redemption through Jesus Christ.  The reference is not just to the events of the gospels but also the hoped for second coming as expressed in Revelation 5.5.

            et unus de senioribus dicit mihi ne fleveris ecce vicit leo de tribu 
            Iuda radix David aperire librum et septem signacula eius.
            (Vulgate: Apocalypsis 5:5)
            And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe
            of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose
            the seven seals thereof. (Revelation 5.5 KJV)

Multiple layers of means were sought and found.  Pictorial representations showing topological reasoning reinforced the need to hear or read the words and consider the many possible layers of meaning.


Typological window of the Redemption from Cathedral of St. Stephen, Chalons-en-Champagne, France. Glass dates 1138-1147. Center-the body of Christ is on a green cross, flanked by St. Mary and St. John. The round figures on the left and right above the cross are the sun and the moon. The half-round windows clockwise from the top are: Church Triumphant, Moses raising the brazen serpent, Synagogue, and the sacrifice of Isaac. http://www.therosewindow.com/pilot/Chalons-cath/images/ws-C12-IMG_0289a.jpg The Crucifixion of Jesus was often linked with the near sacrifice of Isaac and the substitution of a ram for Isaac, the sacrifice of Jesus by his death, and the lifting up of the bronze snake of Moses to save the Israelites were all closely linked in medieval thinking.  The Church (Ecclesia) triumphing over Synagogue appeared from about 850-early 1300s when the images almost disappear.

The link between the stump of Jesse, the rod of Moses, the wood of the (true) Cross, and the Tree of Life was made well before the 11th or 12th century.  For example, Bishop Quodvultdeus of Carthage (active c. 437-c.453), a younger contemporary of and correspondent with Augustine of Hippo, wrote a sermon that identified the wood of the cross with the shoot from the stock of Jesse, and the rod of Moses.[i]

 O agne occise, o Christe sancte pro nobis crucifixe, qui ut lapsa reparares in cruce pependisti: ipsa est illa virga regni tui, crux ipsa, in quam, qua virtus in infirmitate perficitur; ipsa illa virga crux, ipsa illa virga quae floruit ex radice Jesse; ipsa illa virga quam portabat Moyses, quae conversa in serpentem glutiit magorum serpentes: doctrina Christi diffusa per omnes gentes, haereticos superans dementes.[ii]

Oh lamb had been slain, who was crucified for us, O holy Christ, who hung upon the cross that [our] Fall may be repaired: scepter of thy kingdom is that the very cross, into which…any virtue is made perfect in weakness: none other than that the rod of the cross, this very same rod which flowered from the root Jesse, that she was carrying a rod as Moses, which was turned into a snake swallow[ing] magicians’ snakes: the doctrine of Christ spread throughout the nation, surpassing the demented heretics.

Quodvultdeus’ sermon was attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo.  And under that name the sermon was known in England by the early 12th century.  Quite a number, perhaps nine, of his sermons were known in England.  Two manuscript copies of the sermons are preserved in cathedral libraries.  One early 12th century manuscript is in the Salisbury Cathedral library.[iii]  The second 12th century copy is among a collection of sermons in a manuscript at Worcester Cathedral library.[iv]

References to the wood of the Cross in the Legenda Aurea (The Golden Legend), Vita Adae et Evae (Life of Adam and Eve), the Holy Rood legend, and the Pantheon of Godfrey of Viterbo have been mentioned in previous blogs.

Looking over my notes, I may have left out one more version of the wood of the Cross.  The Gospel of Nicodemus or The Acts of Pilate was written perhaps as early as the 4th century.[v]   An apparently later addition to the text was a description of Jesus’ descent into and Harrowing of Hell.  There is scholarly debate as to the original language of composition and the date of the Descensus part of the tale.  It was probably not added until after the 6th century since Gregory of Tours (540-594) references the Gospel of Nicodemus without mentioning the Descent in Hell part of the story.[vi]   In any case, Anglo-Saxon England knew the Latin story.  The text includes another version of Adam’s son, Seth, begging before the gates of Paradise for the oil of mercy for his father Adam.  Seth recalled that as he begged for the oil of mercy, the angel Michael came to him and said that he could not have the oil of mercy but that a Savior, the Son of God, would come in 5,500 years and raise up the body of Adam and the bodies of the dead.  Jesus will “lead our father Adam into paradise to the tree of mercy.”  In the second Latin version of the text, the writer has the prophet Jeremias(h) say, “When I was upon earth, I prophesied of the Son of God, that He was seen upon earth, and dwelt with men.”[vii]

The legends of the finding of the True Cross were written down first and Greek.  Depictions of the Crucifixion in late Latin art appear just before or about the same time as the Church History of Rufinus of Aquileia.  Rufinus wrote his books in Italy around 400. They were copied frequently given the number of extant versions.  Rufinus wrote a Latin transliteration of earlier Greek Church Histories to which he added his version of the finding of the True Cross. 
A couple of the earlier crucifixion scenes are found in the British Museum.


4th century Late Roman carnelian intaglio Crucifixion.  British Museum 1895,1113.1 http://www.britishmuseum.org/collectionimages/AN00186/AN00186312_001_l.jpg?width=304

One of four Maskell ivories that formed the sides of a casket. British Museum 1856,0623.5 c.420-430 Made in Rome. http://www.britishmuseum.org/collectionimages/AN01249/AN01249815_001_l.jpg?width=304

Parenthetically, it is Rufinus’ version of Church History that reached Anglo-Saxon England.  For details, see Gneuss and Lapidge. Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts: A Bibliographical Handlist of Manuscripts and Manuscript Fragments Written or Owned in England up to 1100.  Manuscripts are located at Wormsley Library (7th cen. Northumbria or Ireland, then England), Pembroke College Cambridge from Bury St. Edmunds from mid-9th century, Worchester Cathedral MS Q 28 (10th cen.) and Corpus Christi College Cambridge dated to mid-10th and 11th centuries.

Though there are lots of legends as to the wood of the cross, whether the cross was made of one species of wood or three (cedar, pine, cypress), there is no mention of the color of the cross except for the color that one would associate with one species or another. The legends of the finding of the True Cross by Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, record what she did with the cross.  The wood was divided between Jerusalem and Constantinople.

Helena supposedly encased the fragments of the True Cross in a silver reliquary that was left in the care of Bishop of Jerusalem, presumably for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre finished about AD 335, at least that is the version of Theodoret (d. 457)[viii]

There is even earlier evidence for the display of the Cross in silver gilt case from Egeria, a pilgrim to Jerusalem in the 380s.  She is thought to be a nun or a wealthy widow because her Letter or Itinerary to her circle of female friends that describes in some detail the veneration of the Holy Cross on Good Friday (Chapter 37)

Then a chair is placed for the bishop in Golgotha [part of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem] behind the Cross, which is now standing; the bishop duly takes his seat in the chair, and a table covered with a linen cloth is placed before him; the deacons stand round the table, and a silver-gilt casket is brought in which is the holy wood of the Cross. The casket is opened and (the wood) is taken out, and both the wood of the Cross and the title are placed upon the table.
Now, when it has been put upon the table, the bishop, as he sits, holds the extremities of the sacred wood firmly in his hands, while the deacons who stand around guard it…
And as all the people pass by one by one, all bowing themselves, they touch the Cross and the title, first with their foreheads and then with their eyes; then they kiss the Cross and pass through, but none lays his hand upon it to touch it...[ix]

Another version of the finding of the Cross by Helen with its accompanying nails was recounted by Bishop Ambrose of Milan in his funeral orations for Emperor Theodosius in February 395.[x]  Again there is no special mention of the wood.  Ambrose seemed especially concerned about the use of the nails in a crown made by Helena for her son Emperor Constantine.

The fact that pieces of the True Cross taken to Constantinople was being distributed to places outside of Jerusalem and Constantinople is described by the Bishop of Jerusalem, Cyril, in his Catechetical Lecture X, Section 19:

The holy wood of the Cross bears witness, seen among us to this day, and from this place now almost filling the whole world, by means of those who in faith take portions from it.[xi]

The encasement of the True Cross and fragments thereof in precious metal adorned with gems is exemplified in the beautiful crux gemmata found in apse mosaics and processional crosses that have survived the centuries. The encasement of sacred fragments in gold adorned with enamels were even made in Anglo-Saxon England.

Anglo-Saxon Reliquary Cross, made perhaps at Winchester, 10th century. Victoria & Albert Museum, 7943-1862.  The core of this cross is oak. http://media.vam.ac.uk/media/thira/collection_images/2006BC/2006BC6621_jpg_ds.jpg






[i] Quodvultdeus, Sermo De cataclysmo ad catechumenos quoted in Nicole Fallon.  The Cross as Tree: The Wood-of-the–Cross Legends in Middle English and Latin Texts in Medieval England.  Ph.D. Thesis. U. of Toronto. <https://tspace.library.utoronto.ca/bitstream/1807/19188/1/Fallon_Nicole_A_200911_PhD_thesis.pdf:> 
See also, Quodvultdeus:  <http://www.bede.net/saslc/samples/q/quodvultdeus.pdf>
[ii] De Cataclysmo: Sermo ad Catechumenos, Caput V-6. Migne, J. P. Patrologia Latina Vol. 40, p.696. Text online at: <http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/02m/0354-0430,_Augustinus,_Sermones_Dubii._De_Cataclysmo_Sermo_Ad_Catechumenos,_MLT.pdf>
[iii] Salisbury Cathedral Library Manuscript No. 35 f.82r-.97v.
[iv] Part of sermons 1-3 appears in Worcester Cathedral Library F. 92 Sermones ab Adventu ad Pascha. f.89v-90v.
[v]Izydorczyk, Zbigniew, ed. The Medieval Gospel of Nicodemus. (1997) Tempe, AZ: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies.  <http://openlibrary.org/books/OL1001489M/The_Medieval_Gospel_of_Nicodemus> See also: <http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/lbob/lbob10.htm> <http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/lbob/lbob10.htm>
[vi] Izydorczyk, Zbigniew, ed. The Medieval Gospel of Nicodemus. (1997) Tempe, AZ: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies.  <http://openlibrary.org/books/OL1001489M/The_Medieval_Gospel_of_Nicodemus> See also: <http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/lbob/lbob10.htm> < http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/lbob/lbob10.htm>
[vii]   Roberts, Alexander, and James Donaldson. The Gospel of Nicodemus. The Acts of Pilate.  Edinburgh, T. T. Clark, 1867. <http://mb-soft.com/believe/txua/nicodemu.htm> Christ's Descent into Hell. Latin. Second Version. Chapter 6. < http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/lbob/lbob10.htm>
[viii] Theodoret, Ecclesiastical History, Book I Chapter 17. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/27021.htm>
[ix] Egeria and The Fourth Century Liturgy of Jerusalem, Veneration of the Cross. <http://users.ox.ac.uk/~mikef/durham/egetra.html>
[x] https://archive.org/stream/fathersofthechur012812mbp/fathersofthechur012812mbp_djvu.txt
[xi] http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310110.htm

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Rough-Hewn Green Wooden Crosses


Detail of Crucifixion at top of Jesse Tree window at Wells Cathedral.
This splendid window dating to about 1340 was restored 2011-2014.
http://vidimus.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/issue_85_2014_news07-e1416778224658.jpg


Detail of the south chancel window over the altar of Chapel of the Cross, Chapel Hill, NC.  The stained glass windows are not signed but receipts in the church archives indicate that the windows were made in London by the Percy Bacon Brothers in 1925.

I find it hard to believe that it has taken me so long to get back to my blog.  There is still so much more to the written about the Jesse Tree in stained glass and manuscripts with occasional comments about Trees of Jesse that were sewn, carved and fabricated in other materials.

Before I pick up my writing about Jesse Trees, I found that I was waylaid three or more years ago when I came across the roughly lopped green cross behind the corpus of Jesus in the Jesse Tree window at the east end of Wells Cathedral in Great Britain.  Before that I started to wonder about a green wooden roughly cut tree-cross behind the body of Jesus in the Percy Bacon Brother’s rood window at Chapel of the Cross from 1925.  

I started to examine the meaning behind the green cross.  The cross of Jesus depicted as the source of life is clearly much older than Ubertino da Casale's Arbor vitae crucifixae Jesu (1305) by perhaps 500 years.


Thus, I plan a further digression from writing about the Tree of Jesse per se and writing some posts about the depiction of usually rough-hewn green wooden Cross. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Considering wood, cross, and crucifixion iconography in the world of Anglo-Saxon England, part 7 deferred

Anglo-Saxon bed burial with gold cross
Artifacts from a 7th century grave of a teenage Anglo-Saxon girl found near Cambridge, England in 2012.
<http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/mystery-of-anglo-saxon-teen-buried-in-bed-with-gold-cross>

 Before I continue with part 7 of the current blog, I find I need to step back and do some more research on the iconography of trees and wood for the Anglo-Saxons since it spans pagan and Christians periods.  

Also I needed to go back to read Elene by Cynewulf (in translation since I cannot read Old English). Somehow I missed it in English literature classes.  But I suspect that is because the poem by Cynewulf was deemed "too Christian."  Instead we had a read Beowulf  in a not very good translation.  I never grasped the structure of the original nor its use of alliteration. More modern translations come closer to giving a sense of the original poem. 

 I wanted to back to reread Barbara  C. Raw's seminal book Anglo-Saxon Crucifixion Iconography and the Art of the Monastic Revival.  There have been quite a number of newer works that have expanded her work that I needed to read.  Since the Jesse Tree design falls so  much into the Anglo-Saxon tradition of iconography and not narrative design, I wanted to explore more before I added anything more to a world already too crowded with words that lack any thought.

Crucifixion from Holy Rood Church, Daglingworth, Gloucestershire. Though Christ in on the cross, he is not a figure of suffering but one nimbed in majesty. 10th century.
<http://www.britainexpress.com/images/attractions/editor/Daglingworth-2534.jpg>





Monday, October 5, 2015

Jesse Tree Wood: Trunk, Vine, Leaves, Flowers, and Fruit-Part 3 Addendum

          I was looking back to see if I was putting together the foundation stones for the elaborate legends of the Holy Cross as they develop in the 13th century onward. There were several items that needed either emphasis or additional material.

         Earlier I mentioned Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem who writing about 350 mentioned that wood from the Cross was in Jerusalem.

       It was Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, who composed an oration De Obitu Theodosii in 395 who seems to make the first mention of Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine, as the finder of the cross. It is Helena who goes to Jerusalem, to Golgotha, to look for the lignum crucis.(http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/02m/0339-0397,  Ambrosius,_De_Obitu_Theodosii_Oratio,_MLT.pdf) It was Helen that gave the nails of the crucifixion to her son to be used to make a bit, and another to be added to a diadem.
       
         Now, it is hard to know if Rufinus writing about 6 or so years later knew about Ambrose's funeral oration when he added the story of Helen and the Cross to Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History, or if both men were using the same unknown source for this addition to the story of finding the True Cross. In any case, I realized that I had given Rufinus only a passing mention, and there is little doubt that his works were known in Anglo-Saxon England.

          Rufinus of Aquileia, also called Tyrannius Rufinus, was born about 344 in the city of Julia Concordia at the head of the Adriatic Sea.   In his mid-20s, he traveled to Alexandria and the eastern Mediterranean to study.  During this time he acquired a patroness, Melania, a wealthy Christian widow from Rome.  She eventually moved to Palestine, and with Rufinus, founded a monastery on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.  Rufinus moved between Jerusalem, Rome, Aquileia, and Sicily. He studied Christian theology in Greek.  He was a contemporary of Jerome.  He is not as well known as Jerome, lacking Jerome's writing style.  Both of them introduced to the western Latin speaking Church, the great trove of Greek learning, that was otherwise unknown in an area where Greek was virtually unknown.  Rufinus left Rome because of the incursions of the Goths and died in Sicily in 411. In England, at least, translations by Rufinus were attributed to Jerome.  (See Aelfric’s homily for the Exaltation of the Cross, for example.  More on this later.)

       Rufinus did very little original writing.  He was primarily a translator, who thought nothing of editing and revising the material he was translating.  Rufinus began translating Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History in 401 at the request of Bishop Chromatius of Aquileia. The translation was often quite free, more a paraphrase of Eusebius' work.  He shortened the original text quite freely. (Rufinus of Aquilea (Author), Philip R. Amidon, tr. and ed. The Church History of Rufinus of Aquileia: Books 10 and 11(1997) Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp.vii-xiii, 16-8),

       Rufinus wrote  a simple version of Helena's finding of the crosses.Sec. 10.7.  Helena, the emperor Constantine's mother, is described as "matchless in faith, devotion, and singular generosity." (p.16)  She is instructed by a vision to travel to Jerusalem to the site of the Crucifixion, now covered by a temple to Venus.  She orders the removal of all that is "profane and defiled."  When all the rubble is removed, three crosses are discovered "jumbled together."  Not being able to identify the true cross even after the inscription was found, it is Bishop Macarius who suggests that God will show them the true cross by healing a woman of high station who was near death.  Sec 10.8 continues with the prayer of Bishop Macarius.  He then touches the woman with the first two pieces of wood and she remains very ill.  When he touches her with the three cross, she was immediately healed.  She opened he eyes, got up, and ran about the house glorifying the Lord. (p.17)  Helena then presented some of the wood to her son.  The rest she put into silver reliquaries and left in Jerusalem.  The nails of the crucifixion Helena also gave to her son.  Some went into a bridle and the remainder were placed in a battle helmet. The helmet/diadem part of the story is repeated in Cassiodorus' Historia Ecclesiastica Tripartita.

   Copies of the Rufinus' translation of Eusebius' Ecclesiatica Historia in England before 1100 (From Gneuss and Lapidge, Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts)
  1. Cambridge, Corpus Christi College Library 187.  11th or 12th century, prob. made at Christ Church, Canterbury.  
  2. Cambridge, Corpus Christi College Library 192.  mid 10th century, Landevannec (Brittainy). In England at Canterbury by mid 10th century at Christ Church or St. Augustine's.(excerpt only of Historia)
  3. Cambridge, Pembroke College 108.  Excerpts from Book 10, sec. 1-14 (that includes the finding of the Cross) mid 9th century France.  In England at Bury St. Edmunds.
  4. Worcester Cathedral Library, Q.28. mid 9th century France.  In England by mid 10th or 11th century at Canterbury. Provenance Worcester.
  5. Fragment now at Vienna Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, series nova 3644.  Made probably in north England in 8th century.
  6. Almost certainly other copies were known in Anglo-Saxon England.  


     

       

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Jesse Tree Wood: Trunk, Vine, Leaves, Flowers, and Fruit-Part 6

Altar cross with gems or crux gemmata, made in Belgium, about 1250. From the workshop of Hugo de Oignies.  In Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Museum number 244-1874.
          http://media.vam.ac.uk/media/thira/collection_images/2008BU/2008BU7208_jpg_ds.jpg 
  
          Though I keep mentioning the Dream of the Rood, I seriously doubt that many people, with the exception of those few who might read this blog, have even heard of the poem, let alone know how to read it in Old English.  (I may be able to figure out a few words.  I am not facile with language and so learning Old English is really hard for me.)  Given its Christian theme, it is not taught in school anymore.  Without a special interest in things Insular-Saxon and early medieval, it is mostly unknown now.  
         The only complete version is found in second half of the 10th or early 11th century manuscript that was found in the cathedral library of Vercelli Cathedral in Piedmont, northern Italy.  How the rather large manuscript, made in England, came to be lodged in Italy where it was found in the 19th century is still not known.  None of the proposed theories including one that somehow the manuscript came into the possession of Bishop Jacopo Guala Bicchieri (d. 1227) who had been papal legate in England 1216–1218 explains the journey the manuscript made from England to Italy.  Bishop Bicchieri founded a rest place or hostel for English pilgrims in Vercelli.  The manuscript is rather heavy for a pilgrim to carry for personal use.  The writing of the Vercelli book is in square miniscule and was copied from earlier texts.  The composition date is before the 10th century and probably much earlier, perhaps in the 8th century.  The runic text on the Ruthwell cross quotes lines that are very similar, but not quite identical, to the version of Dream of the Rood found in the Vercelli manuscript.  In addition, the inscription on the Brussels Cross made during the 11th century in northern England but now housed in Belgium also bears great similarity to lines from the Dream of the Rood.  The inscription in translation reads, “Rood is my name.  Trembling once, I bore a powerful king, made wet with blood.”[1] The Dream of the Rood may have had several oral versions before it was written down.
The opening lines of the Dream of the Rood as they appear in the Vercilli manuscript.
http://www.english.ox.ac.uk/oecoursepack/rood/images/ver104b.jpg


          A digital version of the text is found at: http://vbd.humnet.unipi.it/beta/#104v

          Numerous online translations include:  http://www.dreamofrood.co.uk/frame_start.htm
http://www.english.ox.ac.uk/oecoursepack/rood/translations/hamer.html
http://lightspill.com/poetry/oe/rood.html
http://www.apocalyptic-theories.com/literature/dor/medora1.html
http://www.dmoz.org/Arts/Literature/World_Literature/British/Old_English/Individual_Poems/Dream_of_the_Rood/
http://www.english.ox.ac.uk/oecoursepack/rood/index.html
            
         The poem is set in the frame work of a dream that the poet had at night when all is quiet.  In the first part of the poem, the poet dreams of a beautiful gem-covered cross of gold applied over wood.  Beneath the gold and jewels, a crux gemmata, is the real blood stained cross on which Jesus was crucified.  The Saxons did not practice crucifixion as a form of punishment, and so the cross was unknown to pagan Saxons, though the gallows was used for capital punishment.  The dreamer at first compares the cross to the gallows that has become a victory-beam.  The dreamer is “stained with sins, wounded with wickedness.”  The dreamer saw “the tree of glory adorned with drapery, shining with joys, decked with gold; gems had worthily wrapped the All-Wielder's tree.” [Note: I am borrowing freely from the translation of Eleanor Parker, PhD as it appears on her blog, A Clerk of Oxford, http://aclerkofoxford.blogspot.co.uk/.  I am no linguist but I relish her neologisms that attempt to give one a sense of the constructed words of the original Old English.]  Beneath the fairness of the crux gemmata, the dreamer sees the cross bleeding from its right side.  This recalls the piercing of Jesus’ side by a Roman soldier as told in John 19.34.  Frequently it is Jesus’ right side that is shown as pierced in Christian iconography, but crucifixes and drawings of the Crucifixion in manuscripts of northern Europe date from a couple of centuries later than the composition of Dream of the Rood. (The earliest crucifix in northern Europe is the Gero Crucifix in Cologne Cathedral made about 965-70.[2])  The dreamer’s vision shifts between the bejeweled cross and the bloody gore when the cross speaks.

Crucifixion of Jesus with St. Mary and St. John. British Library Harley 2904 f. 3v. Ramsey Psalter. Made 980-1000 in Winchester, south England probably for use in the Benedictine monastery of Ramsey. This appears to be the oldest manuscript crucifixion scene made in England.  It has many features the recall the Utrecht Psalter made in the 9th century in Europe.  The drapery style referred to as "agitated" is typical of  Winchester. http://molcat1.bl.uk/IllImages/NOF/big/033HRL000002904U00003V00.jpg
           
        The cross speaks as an old man recalling the memory of being cut down and carried on men’s shoulders until it was affixed to a hill.  The Cross sees Jesus, the Savior of the world as a young hero who embraces his crucifixion with resolve as a ransom for mankind.  Unlike the cross of Venantius Fortunatus’ poem that is asked to relax its sinews, the Cross of the Dream is firm and steadfast.  The cross could have “felled all those enemies” that crucified the “young lord” “but stood fast.”  Christ is the young triumphant warrior even when humiliated with death upon a cross.  “I trembled when that man [Christ] embraced me, yet I dared not bow to the earth, fall to earth's fields; I had to stand fast.” (quotations again Dr. Parker’s translation)  The cross raised up the Lord, the noble king.  The Cross then spoke of the unhealing wounds of malice created by the nails used for the Crucifixion .  The Cross was drenched in the blood of Jesus before he died.  The Cross watched as “All creation wept, lamented the king’s fall. Christ was on the cross.”  The steadfast cross is forsaken by the soldiers, left alone, wounded and wet, while the body of the dead (limb-weary) Jesus awaited burial.

         In the poem there is the tension between the beauty of the gold and jeweled cross and the  rough, grim, bloody wooden cross.  There is also the tension between the solidity of the dead wooden cross, the instrument of death, and the weakness, fear, and trembling that the living cross experiences as a sentient being, aware of the pain, suffering and sacrifice of Jesus.  Father G. Ronald Murphy, SJ, refers to this as a "double identity."  Father Murphy refers to this as an especially Germanic feature where the cross as gallows is contrasted with the "compassionate and so-suffering tree of rescue."  It is the trembling and suffering wood that recalled the long-suffering world tree Yggdrasil of Nordic myth. (G. Ronald Murphy, SJ.  Tree of Salvation: Yggdrasil and the Cross of the North. (2013) Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, pp. 125-153.)

            The Cross watched the sepulcher being dug and the body placed there before the Resurrection.  Then the poet reveals that he knows the story of the discovery of the cross by Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine.  The Cross is cut down and thrown in a deep pit where it was buried.  Later the cross was found by friends and servants of the Lord who dug up the cross and adorned the remnants with gold and silver.  The Cross went on to say that once an instrument of cruel torture and death, the Cross is now an instrument of healing.  The Cross orders the dreamer to reveal the dream:


     that you tell men about this vision:
     reveal with words that it is the tree of glory
     on which almighty God suffered
     for mankind's many sins
     and Adam's ancient deeds.
     Death he tasted there; nevertheless, the Lord rose again
     with his great might to help mankind.
     He ascended into heaven. He will come again
     to this earth to seek mankind.           
     on doomsday, the Lord himself,
     almighty God, and his angels with him,
     so that he will then judge, he who has the power of judgement,
     each one of them, for what they themselves have
     earned here earlier in this transitory life.  (Elaine Treharne translation)

            The third section returns to the poet’s prayers and hopes for a place in Paradise.

                             and I for myself expect
     each of my days the time when the Lord’s rood,
     which I here on earth formerly saw,
     from this loaned life will fetch me away
     and bring me then where is much bliss,
     joy in the heavens, where the Lord’s folk
     is seated at feast, where is bliss everlasting;
     and set me then where I after may
     dwell in glory, well with those saints
     delights to enjoy. May he be friend to me
     who here on earth earlier died
     on that gallows-tree for mankind’s sins.
     He loosed us and life gave,
     a heavenly home…(Glenn translation)

            The splendor of a Saxon hall is recalled in Dream of the Rood, far different from a first century cooking fire of one-roomed house in dusty Palestine.  The cross became a powerful and deeply influential image in Saxon art and poetry.  The cross was the promise of salvation at death and the messenger that:

     will fetch me    from this feeble life
     and bring me    to where there is great bliss,
     joy in heaven,    to join the Lord's people
     always sitting    in unceasing bliss.  (Leech translation)

            The vines and trunks of Jesse Trees of the 12th century onward are luxuriant with their leaves, flowers, fruit, in various combinations.  They are not the solid shaft of high crosses.  They are not the tree cross of the hero young warrior.  But they do draw upon the ancient idea of the cross as tree of life.

            In the British Library is a manuscript psalter made in Winchester, England after 1073 or so but before 1099 with a drawing of the Crucifixion with Sts. Mary and John that has a rough-hewn green wooden cross.  I do not intend to follow that path just yet.  This was just a reminder that the cross of death is also the tree of life.

British Library. Arundel Psalter f. 12v.  Made about 1060 at Winchester, England.
http://molcat1.bl.uk/IllImages/NOF/big/011ARU000000060U00012V00.jpg

            The Vita Adae et Evae (Life of Adam and Eve) in Latin dates from the 10th century.[3]  It was originally a Jewish legend the extended the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall.  It continued the story until Adam’s and Eve’s deaths and the writing of their lives by Seth on stellae.  The parts of the story include:
a.      Adam and Eve after the expulsion from the Garden of Eden,
b.     Penitence of Adam in the Jordan River and Eve in the Tigris river,
c.      Adam blames Eve for the Fall and the birth of Cain,
d.     The death of Abel,
e.      Adam’s version of the expulsion with the vision of archangel Michael from the Garden of Eden as told to Seth,
f.      Adam at age 930 years as he is ill and death approaches,
g.     Adam’s short version of the Fall as told to his children,
h.     Adam in pain commands Eve and Seth to get him the oil of mercy from the Tree of Life,
i.       Eve and Seth encounter the serpent and Seth is bitten,
j.       Arrival at Paradise where Eve and Seth beg Archangel Michael of the Oil of Mercy, and Michael’s refusal,
k.     Return to Adam with spices nard, crocus, calaminth, and cinnamon.  Depending of the version they also may have branches as well.
l.       The death of Adam.  God gives his soul to Michael until Judgement Day.
m.   The burial of Adam and Abel,
n.     Death of Eve and her funeral,
o.     The recording of the life of Adam and Eve,
p.     A final potpourri of stories about the nature of Adam, the formation of Adam from soil brought by the archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel from the four corners of the earth to Bethlehem, and the naming of Adam.[4]  These are not in all versions.

            One part of the legend gets carried over in the Legend of the (Holy) Rood or De ligno sancte crucis, and therefore of particular interest when tracing the origins of the wood of the Jesse Tree.  I am skipping ahead with the rood legends and then I will come back to the finding of the Cross in the homilies of Aelfric and poem  Elene, even though both are older that the Legend of the Rood.

            Usually the first part of the story of the multipart story is about Seth, the son of Adam, seeking the oil of Mercy for his dying father.  When Adam was old and in pain at aged 930 years, he sent Eve and his son Seth back to the gates of Paradise to beg for oil from the Tree of Mercy to anoint himself and ease the pain.  Adam commands Eve, “Rise, go with my son, Seth, near to the gates of paradise and cast dust on your heads, and prostrate yourself on the ground,lamenting in the sight of God.  Perhaps he will take pity and send his angel over to the tree of his mercy from which flows the oil of life, and will give you a little of it with which to anoint me so that I may have rest from these pains with which I am consumed.”[5]

            The angel Michael met them and did not give them the requested oil.  Instead, they were given a branch and sweet smelling spices.  Adam died and his children mourned him.  Then Seth saw the hand of God give the body of Adam to the angel Michael.  The angels Michael and Uriel buried Adam and his son Abel in Paradise.  Six days later Eve died.  Seth and his brothers and sisters mourned her for only six days because of the instruction from the angel Michael.  Another version of this tale has Seth looking into Paradise and seeing in a large tree at the center of the garden the Virgin and infant Jesus.  Upon Seth’s reporting this sight to his dying father, Adam exclaims, “Blessed are you, O Lord, for now I know truly that a virgin will conceive a son who will die on the cross, whence we shall all be saved.”[6]
        
          One such story is in the Holy Rood legend(s) dating perhaps from the 11th century and found in a 12th century vernacular Old English manuscript at the Bodleian Library (Bodley 343), Oxford.[7] The story starts with Moses finding three rods/trees in the desert after the Red Sea crossing.  He was asleep and three rods sprung up during the night.  One was at his head and one was at his right and left.  The trees are cypress, pine, and cedar.  At first, Moses is afraid of the wood.  Another version has Moses recognizing the three wands as a symbol of the Trinity.  After Moses discovers that the rods have to power to sweeten bitter water, he takes the three rods with him.  David carried the trees to Jerusalem where they were placed in a pool of bitter water.  The three become one mighty tree that grew in David’s garden, and, on which, David hung 30 silver hoops.  Solomon cut down the tree to use in building the Temple but the wood was always the wrong length.  The wood would get longer or shorter than what was needed.  So the tree was put in the Temple.  The thirty silver hoops were made into thirty plates that hung in the temple.  The silver eventually came to Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, as 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26.15).  The tree remained in the Temple in Jerusalem and many miracles were associated with it.  Eventually Caiaphas ordered that three hundred men get the tree to make the cross for Jesus.  None of the three hundred men could move the tree.  So, a section of wood was cut from the tree for the cross for Jesus. 
        
          The Legend of the Holy Rood picks up later with Helena, the mother on Constantine, coming to Jerusalem.  She went into the temple and saw wood there that was left from the cross that had previously been made for Jesus.  She was told by a voice of an angel to cut the remaining wood into four pieces, each 10 ells in length.  These four pieces were to be sent to the four corners of the earth.  Helen found the cross of Jesus’ crucifixion and the cross on which the robber was crucified,  the wood was carried with great honor to Constantinople.[8]  When Helena entered the city, a dead man was brought to her, and he was made alive by the wood from the true cross.
        
          A week later, Constantine went to Jerusalem.  Helena gave him two pieces of the Holy Cross.  One piece went to Jerusalem, one piece to Alexandria, one piece to Rome with Pope Silvester, and the final piece went to Constantinople.  Three days after the finding of the Cross, Judas, the Jew who helped Helena find the Holy Rood, gave Helena the five nails used in the crucifixion of Jesus. An angel again come to Helena and told her to make a bridle for her son from the five nails used for the crucifixion.  The mouth of the horse wearing the bridle had a great flame coming from it.  As a consequence, the people seeing it were terrified and accepted Christianity. The bridle sped the spread of Christianity.
        
      It is clear even from this summary that not all the story as we now have it hang together.  There are inconsistencies both within the story and between the story and the Gospels.It would seem that parts were added or parts lost.  It appears that the story or stories had different probable oral traditions before being written down and the versions were never completely reconciled.





[1] Eamonn O Carragain.  Sources or Analogues?  Using Liturgicial Evidence to Date The Dream of the Rood. In Sarah L. Keffer, Karen L. Jolly and Catherine E. Karkov, ed.  Cross and Cruciform in the Anglo Saxon World.  Studies to Honor the Memory of Timothy Reuter. (2010) Morganton, WV. West Virginia University Press, 135-165. Eamonn O Carragain. Ritual and the Rood: Liturgical Images and the Old English Poems of the Dream of the Rood Tradition. (2005) Toronto. University of Toronto Press.
[2] <http://koelner-dom.de/index.php?id=16852&L=1>
[3] Charles, R. H. ed. Apocrypha and Pseudepigraphia of the Old Testament in English.  Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1913. <http://www.ccel.org/c/charles/otpseudepig/adamnev.htm >  See also: Murdoch, Brian.  The Apocryphal Adam and Eve in Medieval Europe : Vernacular Translations and Adaptations of the Vita Adae Et Evae. (2009) Oxford, Oxford University Press. 27 ff. 74-77.
[4]< http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/anderson/vita/english/vita.lat.html>   <http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/apo/adamnev.htm > <http://www.marquette.edu/maqom/Latin%20Life%20of%20Adam%20and%20Eve.pdf>
Anderson, Gary & Michael E. Stone. “Introduction and problems of the text, in Part One of An Electronic Edition of the “Life of Adam and Eve” 1995. <http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/anderson/iath.report.html#Introductionv>
[5] <http://www.marquette.edu/maqom/Latin%20Life%20of%20Adam%20and%20Eve.pdf> 36.1 and 36.2.
[6] This interpolation is to be found in London, British Library, MS Arundel 326, said by Mozley to have derived from a manuscript of the thirteenth century, and its close copy, London, British Library, MS Sloane 289, dated to the fifteenth century. See J. H. Mozley,  Documents: The Vita Adae, Journal of Theological Studies. (1929) XXX-os,
[7] Napier, Arthur S. ed.  History of the Holy Rood-Tree : A Twelfth-century Version of the Cross-legend with Notes, EETS, OS 103 (1894) London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner.  2-32. <https://archive.org/details/historyholyrood01librgoog> <https://ia600400.us.archive.org/9/items/historyholyrood00librgoog/historyholyrood00librgoog.pdf>
[8] See Matthew 27.38, Mark 15.27, Luke 23.39.41, John 19.18.