Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Jesse Tree Wood: Trunk, Vine, Leaves, Flowers, and Fruit-Part 4

[Apology to the reader:  I wrote these last four parts in MSWord so I could include footnotes and other formatting that I have not figured out how to do just using the blog mode.  If I do not keep each segment relatively short, I find the text starts to move around and do odd things that I had not told it to do. The text and the accompanying pictures seemed unstable.  So I had to break up what was intended as two longish blogs into four parts and there is still more to come. Of course, if anyone wishes to tell me what to do, I will gladly listen.  Thank you. ]

Crucifixion of Jesus of left topologically linked to the dream of Nebuchadnezzar about the great tree and was to be cut down.  This woodcut from a Biblia Pauperum was a reflection of the understanding that the felling of the great tree was prefiguring the redemptive death of Jesus.

Continued from previous blog:

      It is in this time period that one finds the first representation of the Crucifixion of Jesus.  Three images are presented below.  The earliest two depictions of the crucifixion were for private use.  The crucifixion scene on the door of Santa Sabrina in Rome is dated to the 6th century but not with as much certainty as the church itself.[17]

Carnelian engraved intaglio. 3-4th century, recovered in Constanta, Romania.  Inscription damaged, probably, ΙΧΘΥΣ or ICHTHYS.  The 12 figures probably represent the  apostles.  British Museum 1895,1113.1
Panel from an ivory casket: the Crucifixion of Christ
Ivory panel made in Rome about 420-430 CE now in the British Museum. 1856,0623.5  It is one of four panels that covered the sides of a small box. (Maskell ivories) On the left Judas is hanging from a tree with the spilled bag of coins.  To his right are St. Mary and St. John.  On a tree branch bending toward the crucified but not suffering Jesus in a bird feeding his chicks, a symbol for Jesus as the Church feeding forgiveness to his followers.  On the far right is a figure traditionally identified as Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced the side of Jesus.

Panel from wooden door of Santa Sabrina all'Aventino.  It represents Jesus crucified in the center and the two thieves on each side. The church was built about 425 CE in Rome during the pontificate of Pope Celestine I (422–433 CE.) and finished under the pontificate of Sixtus III (432–440 CE.) when the church was formally consecrated. 

            According to all the ecclesiastical histories, it was Constantine and his mother Empress Helena who ordered and funded the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.  The present Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the result of many reconstructions as the result of deliberate destruction, fire, earthquake, civil unrest, and neglect.  The current church bears little resemblance to the structure built by Constantine in the 4th century.  A plan of that church is useful in identifying the places in the church mentioned below, since the church covered the sites of the Crucifixion, removal of Jesus’ body from the cross, preparation for burial, burial site in the rock tomb, and the site of the Resurrection.  The church also covered the sites where the crosses were supposedly buried, subsequent destruction of the site with erection of pagan Roman temple under Emperor Hadrian, and the site where Empress Helena supposedly found three first century crosses.

1. Patriarchate
2. Rotunda-site of tomb and place of Resurrection
3. Edicule or room with the tomb
4. Garden courtyard
5. Calvary or Golgotha
6. Basilica or Martyrium
7. Atrium

            Depictions of the cross became more common as fragments of the cross became were dispersed around the known world.  Cyril of Jerusalem was the Bishop of Jerusalem from 350-386 with the exception of three periods of exile.  Cyril gave 23 lectures to those being prepared for baptism or shortly after baptism.  These were given in Jerusalem in the Martyrion, another early name for a place within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  The lectures as written give us a number of references to the cross.  In Lecture IV, On the ten points of doctrine, Sec. 10, Cyril mentioned that the catechumens were assembled at Golgotha as he spoke.  (See the plan for the Church above.)  He mentioned the Cross and then commented, “the whole world has since been filled with pieces of the wood of the Cross.”[18]  In Lecture X On the Clause, and in One Lord Jesus Christ…, Sec 19. Cyril writes about testimonies bearing witness to Jesus Christ.  “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.”[19]  Again in Lecture XIII, On the words Crucified and Buried, Sec. 4, Cyril wrote, "For though I should now deny it, here is Golgotha to confute me, near which we are now assembled; the wood of the Cross confutes me, which was afterwards distributed piecemeal from hence to all the world.  I confess the Cross, because I know of the Resurrection; for if, after being crucified, He had remained as He was, I had not perchance confessed it, for I might have concealed both it and my Master; but now that the Resurrection has followed the Cross, I am not ashamed to declare it.”[20]

            There is another 4th century reference to a presence of a wooden cross venerated by Christian pilgrims in Jerusalem.  It comes from the travelogue of a women, seemingly a well off and physically fit widow (though some have thought her a nun), who had the leisure and means to spend three years in the Holy Land.  Her name is not known but she is usually referred to as Egeria and her work as Peregrinatio Aetheriae or Itinerarium Egeriae.  She is thought to have come from southern France or Spain (Galacia). The date of the work is not certain but the early years of 380s are usually suggested.  Unfortunately her writings did not come to the present complete but missing beginning and ending.  Egeria describes in detail the services of the church in Jerusalem  In her description of the Veneration of the Cross during the Good Friday service, she wrote,

     Then a chair is placed for the bishop in Golgotha 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. It is guarded thus because the custom is that the people, both
    faithful and catechumens, come one by one and, bowing down at the table,
    kiss the sacred wood and pass through. And because, I know not when,
    someone is said to have bitten off and stolen a portion of the sacred wood,
    it is thus guarded by the deacons who stand around, lest anyone approaching
    should venture to do so again. 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.[21]

It is interesting to compare the itinerary of the nameless Bordeaux pilgrim who traveled to Jerusalem 50 years earlier in 333 CE.  This itinerary makes no mention of any cross, though the pilgrim notes that a church of "wondrous beauty" has been built, though other information about the consecration of the church would suggest that it was still being built at the time the Bordeaux pilgrim saw the church.  The pilgrim comments on the large cisterns, from which water is raised, presumably for baptism, outside the church as well as "bath" for baptizing infants.(<http://orion.it.luc.edu/~avande1/jerusalem/sources/bordeauxJerus.htm>)

            Sometime between 451 and 458, the date of his death, while Juvenal was Bishop of Jerusalem, Pope Leo I the Great wrote to him.  In letter CXXXIX, the pope wrote to the bishop about using associations with the places where he lived to strengthen his faith and the faith of his flock.  Pope Leo urged Patriarch Juvenal to make use of the sites at hand as aids for teaching the faith to new converts before Baptism.  Leo speaks of the true cross as calling out to Juvenal the truth of the Incarnation.[22]
        The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis) tells about another fragment of the true cross recovered by Pope Sergius (reigned 687-701).  Sergius was from a Syrian family that had settled in Sicily.  He may have gone to Rome in response to Arab raids on Sicily though the island was not conquered by Muslims until about 900.  In a tarnished silver casket, Sergius found a gold and jeweled cross that contained a piece of wood.  In honor of this relic, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross was and is celebrated on September 14th.[23]  That is also one of two dates for the consecration of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 335 CE.  So, the story about finding a fragment of the True Cross may in fact reflect the fact that Sergius brought the eastern church celebration of the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to Rome.  The spread of the celebration of Holy Cross Day in the western Catholic Church dates to the 7th century.

Helen finding the True Cross. British Library Egerton MS 1070. f.91v.
From the Book of Hours of René of Anjou, Paris use, 15th century France.

            The fate of Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was stormy.  The Byzantine Empire was not able to keep control of Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and any wood identified as the “True Cross.”  In the 614 war between the Byzantines and Persians, the victorious Persian general Shahrbaraz looted the city and killed thousands of the Christian inhabitants.  He took the relic as a war souvenir to Ctesiphon, now a part of Bagdad.  The Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (d. 641) fought back and defeated the Persians in the Battle of Nineveh in 627.  He recovered the relic of the True Cross and returned it to Jerusalem in 630.  He carried the fragment of the "True Cross" dressed in humble clothes and walking in bare feet into Jerusalem.

Heraclius returned cross to Jerusalem in 630.  From Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, in French, with continuation to 1231 by William of Tyre.   Manuscript is in British Library Royal 15 E I f.16. Made in souther Netherlands, Bruge about 1479-80.  Text in French. <http://molcat1.bl.uk/IllImages/Ekta/mid/E115/E115495a.jpg>

       Sixteen or seventeen years later, Jerusalem was under siege by the army of Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah and the city led by Patriarch Sophronius capitulated in April 637 or 638.  Jerusalem remained under Muslin control until conquered by the Crusaders in 1099, during the First Crusade.  Less than 100 years later the Crusaders lost control after the disastrous Battle of Hattin in July 1187 against Saladin.  Within months of the battle of the horns of Hattin, Jerusalem surrendered to Saladin.  The wood of the True Cross was lost to the forces of Saladin and never recovered.
The loss of the Holy Cross.  British Library Royal 15 E I, f. f.433v.  William of Tyre, Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, to 1231.Made in south Netherlands, Bruge, 1479-1480.


[1] Nicholas Orme. Medieval Children.(2001) New Haven: Yale University Press.
[2] Dittmann K, Grupe G. (2000) Biochemical and palaeopathological investigations on weaning and infant mortality
in the early Middle Ages. Anthropol Anz.;58(4):345-55. (This article looked at a site in southern Germany dated to 500-700 CE.)
[3] Hühne-Osterloh G. (1989) Causes of pediatric mortality in a medieval skeletal series  Anthropol Anz. Mar;47(1):11-25. A study in Schleswig in northern Germany found another peak in mortality for children aged 8-10 years, most probably because of inadequate nutrition in the face of more work burdens as children passed the age of 7 years and could contribute to the work the family need to sustain itself.
[4] Lewis ME and Gowland R. (2007)Brief and precarious lives: infant mortality in contrasting sites from medieval and post-medieval England (AD 850-1859) Am J Phys Anthropol. 134(1):117-29.  Pearson JA, Hedges REM, Molleson TI, Özbek M (2010) Exploring the relationship between weaning and infant mortality: an isotope case study from AşikliHöyük and Çayönü Tepesi. Am J Phys Anthropol 143: 448–457.
[5] Orme, p. 117.
[6] Orme, p. 117.
[7] Maureen Barry McCann Boulton.  Sacred Fictions of Medieval France.(2015) Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 100.
[8] <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.v.ii.xviii.html>
[9] <http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/vita-constantine.asp>
[10] <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf202.ii.iv.xvii.html>
[11] <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf202.iii.vii.i.html>
[12] Cambridge, Corpus Christi College Library MS 187 is an 11th century manuscript of Eusebius' Historia ecclesiastica, transl. by Rufinus.  There is a nearly identical text referred to as MS 184.  Both were from Christ Church Abbey, Canterbury. There is an online digital copy of the manuscript at: <https://parker.stanford.edu/parker/actions/manuscript_description_long_display.do?ms_no=187>.
[13] Gneuss and LaPidge Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts (2014) p.544.
[14] For a detailed listed of places and dates see: Desiree Scholten, MA Thesis entitled The History of a Historia
Manuscript transmission of the Historia Ecclesiastica Tripartita by Epiphanius-Cassiodorus. University of Utrecht  <http://cmrp.oeaw.ac.at/PDF/thesis_desiree_scholten.pdf>
[15] Desiree Scholten, “Cassidorius’ Historica Tripartita before the earliest extant manuscripts” in Clemens Gantner, Rosamond McKitterick, Sven Meeder, ed. The Resources of the Past in Early Medieval Europe. (2015) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., pp.34-50.
[16] Rosamond McKitterick. History and Memory in the Carolingian World. (2004) Cambridge: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. p.235-244.
[17] Allyson Everingham Sheckler  and Mary Joan Winn Leith. The Crucifixion Conundrum and the Santa Sabina Doors. (2010)Harvard Theological Review. Vol 103 (1) 67-88.
[18] <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf207.ii.viii.html>
[19] <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf207.ii.xiv.html>
[20] <http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf207.ii.xvii.html>
[21] <http://www.ccel.org/m/mcclure/etheria/etheria.htm>
[22]< http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf212.ii.iv.cxxxiii.html>
[23] Raymond Davis, ed. The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis): The Ancient Biographies of the First Ninety Roman Bishops to AD 715. (2000) Liverpool. Liverpool University Press, 87-88.

Still more to come!

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