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(d) The Invention of the Cross Closely linked with the legend of the vision of Constantine is that of the Finding of the True Cross by Helena, the mother of the emperor, and that of the Exaltation of the Cross, or the restoration of the cross to its place of honor in Jerusalem by Heraclius. Both were familiar to the Anglo-Saxons. The two most detailed accounts of the Invention are Cynewulf's poem Elene, of the eighth century and an anonymous homily of the eleventh, both of which have just been quoted among the chief sources of the Constantine legend. The Elene tells the story with great spirit. The expedition is described as a magnificent emprise, the aim of which was to gain the most precious object in the world. The whole has a distinctly warlike coloring, and suggests an expedition of viking warriors; but the story is the same as that of the well known legend. The details of the narrative of the homily vary scarcely at all from those of the Elene version.'
(e) The Exaltation of the Cross The chief account in Old English of the Exaltation is Ælfric's homily on that subject.' In this, the course of the story is the same as that of the accepted legend of the church. If there be any original contribution to the story it is in the elaboration of details, and in the speeches put into the mouths of the characters. One is significant enough for quotation:
*The few may be noted. In the Elene the element of perfume, which is dwelt upon by almost all, is omitted. It is 'a vapor like smoke' which reveals the hiding place of the crosses. In the homily it is 'the sweetest smell of all the most precious perfumes.' In the Old English Martyrology the brief paragraph under May 3d combines the smoke and the perfume. “There came up a smoke of delightful smell from the ground where the cross
was found.” Again, in the homily, it is a voice from heaven that bids Helena forge the nails on her son's bridle; in the Elene it is the advice of an elder of Jerusalem.
* Homilies, 3, 144.
And then the Emperor exclaimed with joy: 'O thou marvelous rood on which Christ deigned to suffer, and quench our sins with his precious blood! O thou rood shining more than the stars, glorious on this earth! Greatly art thou to be loved, 0 holy and winsome tree that wast worthy to bear the prize of all the earth! Be mindful of this assembly which is here gathered for the honor of God!'
This ardent devotion, as we shall find, was not peculiar to Ælfric.
To review briefly the legend of the cross: We find that as yet there was no legend of the tree of the cross, and no canon of belief as to the varieties of wood of which the cross was composed. But of the history of the cross after the crucifixion there is abundant material ; evidently the stories of Constantine, Helena, and Heraclius were perfectly familiar. The differences in these versions from the older stories are of small importance, the greatest variation from the accepted legend being the story of the vision of Constantine, which does not follow the original account of Eusebius.
II. THE CROSS IN THE CHURCH
(a) The Church Edifice The home of the cross was naturally the church. The cruciform church edifice had been known from a very early period. Indeed, whether the plan was at first consciously adopted out of reverence for the symbol of Christ, or whether it was the natural modification of the old Roman basilica, there are remains of churches of the epoch of Constantine which have for their ground-plan the cross.
Among the Anglo-Saxons, all the churches,' says Lingard,' mentioned by the most ancient Saxon writers are of a square or quadrilateral shape, and were probably built after the plan of the basilica at Rome, “in quadrum” (Bede, Hist. 2. 14), "templum quadratum” (Alc. Op. 2. 530). But Æthelwold, a monk of the monastery of St. Peter on the east coast of Bernicia, who wrote about the year 810, mentions not only a square but a cruciform church, the first of that form noticed in our annals (Æthel. De Abbat. Lind. 120-22).'"
But according to another record, Oswald built his church in modum crucis in memory of the victory of Heavenfield, and indeed upon the battle-field itself. In this case there was, of course, special significance in building the church cruciform, because it was the cross which gave Oswald the victory. But if the record is reliable, it shows that the cruciform church was not unknown in the early history of the faith among the Anglo-Saxons. Later, however, the practice became more common, and remains of cruciform churches of our period—for example, that of Stow in Lincolnshire, and that at Dover-exist to this day. But the practice did not become conventional till about the time of the Crusades.
After the edifice had been completed, it was consecrated throughout by the cross. The bishop marked a cross with chrism at various places on the walls, and afterwards on these spots crosses were carved or painted, and sometimes crosses of metal were affixed. The altar-stone also was consecrated at the four corners and at the centre, and at these places as well crosses were carved. All this was in accordance with a custom of the church which has been traced to the fourth century. The legend of Edward the Confessor tells how Westminster was dedicated by angels who 'sprinkled' and 'marked' it 'with twelve crosses.'
(b) The Altar-Cross The cross that held the place of honor within the church was that upon the altar. The custom of placing a cross upon the altar is very old, though it did not become general till the ninth century, and then it was the plain cross, and not the crucifix. In fact, the plain cross was on the altar more often than the crucifix till as late as the sixteenth century. In the Anglo-Saxon church there was generally, at any rate, an altar-cross which either stood upon the altar or was suspended over it. It was, in the richer churches at least, of the most precious materials, for the cross was the symbol of the Redeemer, and as such nothing was too precious to lavish upon
* Hist. and Antiq. I. 371. 'Hist. Church of York, 1. 434. • This rite is given in detail in the Egbert Pontifical. * Ann. Cambr. 237.
(c) The Altar-Cross as a Crucifix In speaking of the crucifix among the Anglo-Saxons, Rock says: “Before all and above all other images in their estimation was that of the crucifix. The figure of Christ was frequently of the purest gold, a masterpiece of workmanship, and fastened by four nails to a cross of wood overlaid with plates of gold in which were set precious stones.'' Now it is noteworthy that in the long prayer offered at the consecration of the cross in the Egbert Pontifical, while the gold, the wood, the crystal, etc., are mentioned, there is no reference whatever to a crucified figure. It runs:
Radiet hic Unigeniti Filii tui splendor divinitas in auro, emicet gloria passionis in ligno, in cruore rutilet nostræ mortis redemptio, in splendore cristalli nostræ vitæ purificatio.'
The word cruore, by the way, suggests that the cross was painted red. This was a very ancient custom in Rome, and it is not unlikely that it was practised in England. Aside from the word just referred to, in the charters a boundary cross is sometimes mentioned as a 'red cross; ' the Dream of the Rood' and the Christ' represent the cross
Seymour, p. 209.
· For the significance of this ornament, see the prayer quoted below.
* Ebert, Ueber den Traum, etc., p. 83. • Earle, Charters, p. 291, No. 909.
1. ΙΙΟΙ. .
as bloody or red; and some of the ancient consecrationcrosses have vestiges of red paint.'
In the same Pontifical is an adoration-ceremony, containing a prayer to be said when the cross is adored, and this might seem at first glance to indicate that there was a figure of the Savior upon the altar-cross:
Domine Jesu Christe, adoro te in cruce ascendentem, spineam coronam in capiti portentem; deprecor te ut ipsa crux liberet me ab angelo percutiente. Domine Jesu Christe, adoro te in cruce vulneratum, felle et aceto potatum; deprecor te, ut tua mors sit vita mea.
But the prayer continues: Domine Jesu Christe, adoro te descendentem ad inferos, liberantem captivos, ... ascendentem in caelum, sedentem ad dextram Patris;
.. adoro te venturum in judicio, etc., showing that these conceptions of Christ have no reference to anything upon the actual cross.
This is confirmed by the fact that all Anglo-Saxon crucifixes represented the Savior, not with a thorny crown, but with the diadem of a king. The older tradition generally prevailed, representing Christ as ruling in majesty, not suffering in agony. The 'spineam coronam in capiti portantem' of the prayer could not in any case refer to a crucifix. Further, an illumination which pictures Cnut presenting a great golden jeweled altar-cross to the Abbey of New Minster (Hyde Abbey)' represents this cross as without the crucified figure. All this evidence, negative and positive, together with the fact that plain altar-crosses, rather than crucifixes, prevailed in Christian Europe generally till as late as the sixteenth century, makes it almost certain that among the Anglo-Saxons the altar-cross was always plain.
(d) The Crozier as a Crucifix In speaking of the crozier, or archiepiscopal cross, Rock affirms that 'while it is frequently shown in monuments as
* Archæologia 48, 456.
* Rock 1. 306. Note also legend of Dunstan, Vita S. Dunst., Rolls Series, 5, 63. p. 113.
• Palæog. Soc. Facs., Series 2, Vol. 1, pl. 16.