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know of no tradition that gives Loki horns, though it was a familiar mediæval attribute of Satan.
On the other hand, there are carvings which are undoubtedly of pagan significance. These pictorial carvings on crosses belong to the period of Scandinavian influence, and were probably executed by Scandinavian artists. As the memories of pagan myth would be fresher among the Danes than among any other Christianized race of the British Isles, it would be surprising if there were no traces of pagan tradition in their art. As a fact, much of this pictorial ornament can be explained only in this way; these are myths, not only of pagan origin, but also bearing no resemblance to Christian doctrines or traditions.
Calverley has pointed out the representations of three heathen monsters in the carving of some of these crosses, and his explanation seems the most reasonable that can be found:
The three monsters whose fathers was Loki, and whose mother was the witch of Jötunhein (the land of giants), were the Fenriswolf, Jörmungand, the monster of the universe, also called Midgard's Worm,—the huge snake that lay in the great sea coiled around the earth; and a daughter, Hel.
Now when the gods heard that this kindred was being bred up in Jötunheim, and knowing that from such a stock all evil was to be expected on both father's and mother's side, Alfadir bade the children be brought to him, and the worm or snake he cast into the deep sea that lay around all lands, where it grew so that it coiled itself around all the earth and bit its tail with its teeth."
Any one who looks at the huge monster on the top of the Brigham cross-socket, coiled round the hollow, and biting its tail with its teeth, must at once identify the Midgard worm.'
'In the Brigham cross-socket,' continues Calverley, 'we have a full representation of the incarnation of Loki, Fenris, the Midgard snake, Hel, and the horse [on which Hel rode “], all under bonds. And the cross-head, in similar symbolism, represents the victory over the powers of evil.'
* Gylfaginning, 34.
* Calverley, p. 141.
One of these may serve as a type. On the shortest of the sculptured sides of the socket is a figure which Calverley describes as 'composed of a wide distended throat, over whose cavernous depths fang-like limbs appear to close with ominous strength. This is probably Hel, the goddess of the dead, who lived under the root of the great world-tree, and devoured those who died of sickness or old age.' Grimm says of her that she has gaping yawning jaws ascribed to her like the wolf; pictures in the MS. of Cædmon represent her simply by a wide open mouth. From this comes, of course, our word 'Hell,' and the mediæval representations of Hell-mouth in manuscripts, sculpture, and mystery-play.
'In the Danish popular belief,' says Grimm, ‘Hel is a three-legged horse that goes around the country as a harbinger of plague and pestilence. ... Originally it was no other than the steed on which the goddess posted over land, picking up the dead that were her due.' ?
Curiously enough, three-legged, horse-headed monsters are not an uncommon feature of much of this late Scandinavian type of ornament.
Let us examine one more instance. It is the picture of Loki upon the Gosforth Cross. Loki is the Teutonic Prometheus, and the story of his imprisonment is as follows: Skadi took a venomous serpent, and fastened it upon Loki's face.
The venom trickled down from it. Sigurn, Loki's wife, sat by and held a basin under the venom; and when the basin was full, carried the poison out. Meanwhile the venom dropped on Loki, who shrank from it so violently that the whole earth trembled. This causes what are now called earthquakes. The carving on the cross appears to correspond with this story exactly, showing Loki bound, with a serpent above, and his wife holding out the cup to catch the venom.
Cf. Beowulf 1698; Teuton. Myth. I. 312-314.
These instances are sufficient to show that pagan myths did persist, and appear even upon the ornament of some Christian crosses. We have seen, too, that there were striking correspondences between the mystical conceptions of Christ and the cross, and Odin and the tree. All this, with the use of the swastika, must have contributed a good deal to the reverence of the Anglo-Saxon Christian for the cross. Yet it seems too much to say that the heritage of Teutonic paganism could furnish enough of a spirit for special worship of the cross, or the impulse for erecting the famous stone crosses at any particular period.
It must be borne in mind that the pagan ornament just discussed was a later development in the art of the cross, long after the impulse for erecting the ornamental cross had begun, and, indeed, when the art of the stone cross had already reached its zenith. It belongs to crosses of the tenth or eleventh centuries, belonging to Danish-Saxon territory. We have yet to account for the phenomenon of the special interest in the cross, which, we have found, seemed to be centred in the latter part of the eighth and the beginning of the ninth century.
III. THE ICONOCLASTIC CONTROVERSY
Let us turn to the history of the church. The great question that stirred the Christian church of this period was that of the use of images in worship.
In the history of the cross in art, we saw that the influences that transformed the symbolistic cross with the realistic crucifix came from the image-loving East. The Eastern Christian seems to have inherited from the Greeks a love for all that appealed to the eye; and images of Christ, of Mary, and the saints came to be so numerous, and so commonly worshiped, that the defenders of the Faith had great difficulty in answering the charges of idolatry brought against the Christians by their enemies, the Jews and Mohammedans. A reaction set in, and with Leo III, Emperor of the East, the Iconoclastic crusade was begun. The history of the long struggle that followed is divided by Schaff' into three periods:
1. The war upon images and the abolition of imageworship by the Council of Constantinople, A. D. 726-754. 2. The reaction in favor of image-worship, and its solemn sanction by the second council of Nicea, A. D. 754-787. 3. The renewed conflict of the two parties and the final triumph of image-worship, A. D. 842.
The impulse that set the iconoclastic movement on foot was to destroy the force of the charge of idolatry brought against the Christians by their enemies. The image-worshipers, on the other hand, defended themselves by making a distinction between the quality of the worship accorded to God and that accorded to images, at the same time repudiating the charge of idolatry.
The first attack upon images was an edict issued by the Emperor in 726, which prohibited only the worship of images. In a second edict, four years later, he commanded that all images and pictures should be removed or destroyed. He took down the picture of Christ which stood over the gate of the palace and substituted for it a plain cross, accompanied by an inscription, a part of which is as follows:
'The Emperor can not endure that Christ should be sculptured as a mute and lifeless image graven on earthly materials. But Leo, and his young son Constantine, have at their gates engraven the thrice blessed representation of the cross, the glory of believing monarchs.''
These edicts aroused a storm of opposition, and the servants who took down the picture were killed by a mob. Rebellions burst out in the Greek Archipelago, and Pope Gregory of Rome openly defied the Emperor. However, in his own empire Leo was strong enough to enforce his decrees.
* Hist. Christ. Church 4. 454. » Walch, Essay on Ancient Coins, p. 132.
His son, who succeeded him, was also an iconoclast; he summoned a council in 754 which 'condemned and forbade the public and private worship of sacred images on pain of deposition and excommunication. ... It denounced all religious representations by painter or sculptor, as presumptuous, pagan, and idolatrous.'
Leo IV adhered to the same policy, but after his death his widow, Irene, labored to restore image-worship. She called a council in 787 at Nicæa, which nullified the decree of the previous council of the year 754, and pronounced anathemas upon iconoclasts. After the deposition of Irene, the controversy went on again for thirty-five or forty years. The emperor Theophilus was the last and the most bloody of the iconoclastic emperors, but his widow, like Irene, brought image-worship back again. A final synod in 842 restored to the churches images and the worship of images. It decreed that the event should evermore be celebrated 'by a procession and a renewal of the anathema on the iconoclastic heretics.'
Such, in outline, is the history of the great controversy. The iconoclasts failed of popular support-as all iconoclasts do—because they had nothing to substitute in the place of images. Leo and his followers tried to substitute the cross. Indeed, all those who opposed the worship of images made a notable exception in favor of the cross, attempting to turn the feeling of reverence toward the one visible symbol to which it might properly be offered. But to the Greeks, and to the Church of Rome which had felt much of Greek influence, the cross as a visible image was insufficient.
In the West, however, the feeling was different. The adoration of the cross and the veneration of saints' relics took the place that the worship of images held in the East. The Teutonic tribes did not have the artistic traditions of the Greeks, and apparently did not crave sculptured or painted representations of Christ and the saints as objects of worship
1 Schaff 4. 457-8.