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Zi^t Begenbatg ^i^forg of ($t <tto00*

( MAY ^^7 1918


[HE origin of the mediaeval romance of

the Crofs is hard to difcover.

It was

very popular. It occurs in a good num-


of authors, and

is depided in a

good many churches in ftained glafs.

I may perhaps be allowed here to repeat what I have faid in my article on the Legend of the Crofs,

in " Myths of the Middle Ages : "

" In the churches of the city of Troyes alone it appears in the windows of four : S. Martin-es-Vignes,


Pantaleon, S. Madeleine, and S. Nizier.



frefcoed along the walls of the choir of S. Croce at

Florence, by the hand of Agnolo Gaddi.


della Francefca alfo dedicated his pencil to the hiftory

in a feries of frefcoes in the chapel of

of the Crofs

the Bacci, in the church of S, Francefco at Arezzo. It occurs as a predella painting among the fpecimens

of early art

at the Accademia delle Belle Art! at

Venice, and is the fubje(5t of a pi(5ture

the Munich Gallery.

by Beham, in

The Legend is told in full in

the * Vita Chrifti,' printed at Troyes in 1 5 1 7 ;

in the

* Legenda Aurea' of Jacques de Voragine ; in a French

MS. of the thirteenth century, in the Britifh Mufeum.

Gervafe of Tilbury relates a portion of it in his *Otia Imperalia,' quoting Peter Comeftor ; it appears in the

' Speculum Hiftoriale ' of Gottfried of Viterbo, in the

* Chronicon Engelhufii,' and elfewhere."

In the very curious Creation window of S. Neot's Church, Cornwall, Seth is reprefented putting three

pips of the Tree of Life into the mouth and noftrils

of dead Adam, as he buries him.

Of the popularity of the ftory of the Crofs there

can be no doubt, but its origin is involved in obfcurity.

It is generally poflible to track moft of the religious

and popular folk tales and romances of the Middle

Ages to their origin, which is frequently Oriental, but

it is not eafy to do fo with the Legend of the Crofs.

It would rather feem that it was made up by fome

romancer out of all kinds of pre-exifting material, with

no other objedl than to write a religious novel for pious

readers, to difplace the fenfuous novels which were

much in vogue.

We know that this was largely done after the third century, and a number of martyr legends, fuch

as thofe of S. Apollinaris Syncletica, SS. Cyprian and

Juftina, the ftory of Duke Procopius, S. Euphrofyne,

SS. Zofimus and Mary, SS.Theophanes and Panfemne, and many others were compofed with this objedl. The

earlieft of all is undoubtedly the Clementine Recog-

nitions, which dates from a remotely early period,

and carries us into the heart of Petrine Chriftianity,

and in which many a covert attack is made on S. Paul

and his teaching.

On the other hand, we know that

an Afiatic prieft, as TertuUian tells us, wrote a romance

on "Paul and Thecla, out of love to Paul." S. Jerome

fays that a Pauline zealot, when convided before his

bifhop of having written the romance, tried to excul-

pate himfelf by faying that he had done it out of

admiration for S. Paul, but the Bifhop would not accept the excufe, and deprived him. Unfortunately

this romance has not come down to us, though we

have another on S. Paul and his relations to Thecla,

who is faid to have accompanied him on his apoftolic

rambles, difguifed in male attire.

The Greek romance literature was not wholefome

reading for Chriftians.

Some of the writers of thefe

tales became Chriftian bifhops, and probably devoted



their facile pens to more edifying fubjefts than the

difficulties of parted lovers.


Charicheia," is




" Theagenes


to have become

Bifhop of

Tricca, in Theflaly. Socrates, in the fifth century, in

fpeaking of clerical celibacy, mentions the feverity of

the rule impofed on his clergy by this Heliodorus,

" under whofe name there are love-books extant,

called Ethiopica, which he compofed in his youth." Achilles Tatius, author of the "Loves of Clitophon

and Leucippe," is faid alfo to have become a bifhop.

So alfo Euftathius of ThefTalonica, author of the

" Lives of Hyfemene and

Hyfmenias," but this

is more than doubtful.

Three things conduced to the production of a

Chriftian romance literature in the early ages of the

Church : ( i ) The neceflity under which the Church

lay of fupplying a want in human nature; (2) The

need there was for producing fome light wholefome

literature to fupply the place of the popular love-

romances then largely read and circulated ; (3) The

fadt that fome bifhops and converts were experienced

novel writers, and therefore ready to lend their hands

to fome better purpofe than amufing the leifure and

flattering the paflions of the idle and young.

Much the fame conditions exifted in the Middle Ages.

There was an influx of fenfuous literature from the

Eaft, through the Arabs of Spain and Sicily; Oriental

tales easily took Weflern garb, in which the caliphs

became kings of Chriftendom, and the fakirs and imauns were converted into monks and Catholic


To counterad: thefe ftories, colledlions of

which may be found in Le Grand d'Aufli and Von

der Hagen, and in Boccaccio, the Gefl:a Romanorum

was drawn up, a colledllon of moral tales, many of

them of fimilar Oriental parentage.

But befide thefe

fliort ftories, or novels, were long romances, fome

heroic, and founded on early national traditions and

ballads. To thefe belong the Niebelungeh Lied and Noth, the Gudrun, the Heldenbuch, the cycles of

Karlovingian and of Arthurian romance.

As It happens, we have two authors in the Middle

Ages, living much about the fame time, one Intenfely

heathen in all his conceptions, the other as entirely

Chriftian, each dealing with fubjeds from the fame


and the one writing in avowed oppofition

to the tendency of the other's book.

I allude to

Wolfram of Efchenbach and Gottfried of Strafsburg. The latter wrote the Triftram, the former the Parzival.

In Gottfried, the moral fenfe feems to be abfolutely

dead ; there is no perception of the facrednefs of truth,

of chaftity, of honour, none of religion.

his exadl converfe.

Wolfram is

Wolfram gives us the hiftory of

the Grail, but he did not invent the myth of the

Grail, he

derived it from pre-exifting material.

The Grail myth

is almoft certainly heathen



origin, but it has been entirely Chriftianifed.

holy bafin is that in which the

Blood of Chrift is

preferved, and only the pure of heart can fee it ; but the Grail was really the great cauldron of Nature, the

bafin of Ceridwen, the earth goddefs of the Kelts, or,


among Teutonic nations, the facrificial cauldron of

Odin, in which was brewed the fpirit of poefy, of


blood of Mimer.

The remembrance of the

myfterious vefTel remained after Kelt and Teuton

had become Chriftian, and the poets and romancifts

gave it a new fpell of life by chriftening it.

much the fame with the ftory

of the Crofs.

It was

In the

Teutonic North, tree worfhip was widely fpread ; the

tree was facred to Odin, who himfelf, according to

the myfterious Havamal, hung nine nights wounded,

as a facrifice to himfelf, a voluntary facrifice, in *' the

wind-rocked tree."

That tree was Yggdrafill, theworld tree, whofe roots

extended to hell, and whofe branches fpread to heaven.

Northern mythology



of allufion

to this

tree, but we have, unfortunately, little of the hiftory

of it preferved to us ; we know of it only through

allufions. The Chriftmas tree is its reprefentative ; it

has been taken up out of paganifm, and rooted in

Chriftian foil, where it flourifhes to the annual delight

of thoufands of children.

Now the mediaeval romancifts laid hold of this tree, as they laid hold of the Grail bafin, and ufed it for

Chriftian purpofes.

The Grail cup became the chalice

of the Blood of Chrift, and the Tree of Odin became

the Crofs of Calvary.

They worked into the romance

all kinds of material gathered from floating folk-tale

of heathen anceftry, and they pieced in with it every

fcrap of allufion to a tree they could find in Scripture.

It is built up of fragments taken from all kinds of

old ftrudures, put together with fome {kill, and built

into a goodly romance ;

but the tracing of every

ftone to its original quarry has not been done by

anyone as yet.

The Grail myth has had many

ftudents and interpreters, but not the Crofs myth.

That remains to be examined, and it will doubtlefs

prove a ftudy rewarding the labour of invefliigation.


T^he Legendary

Hiftory of the Crofs.

HE Crofs on which our

Lord and Saviour fuf-

fered, would, naturally, if

properly authenticated,


%^^^miM deepeft veneration to all





Chriftian men, be their creed, or fhade of

opinion what it might; but, for over 300 years it could not be found, and it was

referved for the Emprefs Helena in her

old age

difcover its place of concealment." That

this Invention, or finding of the Crofs was believed in, at the time, there can be no manner of doubt, for it is alluded to by

(for fhe was 79 years old)


A.D. 326.


Cbe iLegennar^

Riifinus on

the Invention.

St. Cyril, Patriarch of Jerufalem (a.d. 350

to 386), and by St. Ambrofe.


of Aquila, a friend of St. Jerome, in his

Kcclejiajlical Hijlory, gives an account

of its finding, in the following words


the fame time, Helena, the

mother of Conftantine, a woman


incomparable faith, whofe fincere piety

was equalled by her rare munificence,

warned by celeftial vifions, went to Jeru-

falem, and inquired of the inhabitants

where was the place where the Divine

Body had been affixed and hung on a

Hadrian :

fatd to have

done this.


for the

ftatue to Venus,' in order that the Chrif-

tians who might wifh to adore Chrift in

that place, fhould appear to addrefs their

homage to the goddefs ; and thus it was

little frequented, and almoft forgotten.

After clearing away the profane objedts

which defiled it, and the rubbiih that

up, fhe found three

was there heaped

crofi^es placed in confufion. But the joy

This place was difficult to find,

perfecutors of old had raifed a

iJ)iaotp of tbe Crof0.


which this

difcovery caufed her was

tempered by the impoffibility of dif-

tingaifhing to whom each of them had


There, alfo, was found the

title written by Pilate in Greek, Latin,

and Hebrew charad:ers; but flill there

was nothing to indicate fufficiently clearly

the Crols of our Lord. This uncertainty

of man was fettled by the teftimony of

heaven." And then follows the ftory of

the dead woman being raifed to life.

Not only did Rufinus write thus, but Socrates, Theodoret, and Sozomen, all

of whom lived within a century after







fo that it mufl have been of current


The punifhment of the Crofs was

a very

ordinary one, and of far wider

extent than many are aware.

It was




of the Crofs.

common among the Scythians, the Greeks,

the Carthaginians, the Germans, and the

Romans, who, however, principally ap- plied it to their flaves, and rarely crucified


Cfte LegenDarp

free men, unlefs they were robbers or



of the Crofs.

Alexander the Great, after taking the

city of Tyre, caufed two thoufand in-

habitants to be crucified.

Flavius Jofephus relates, in his Anti- quities of the Jews, that Alexander, the

King of the Jews, on the capture of the

town of Betoma, ordered eight hundred

of the inhabitants to fuffer the death of

the Crofs, and their wives and children

to be maffacred before their eyes, whilft

they were flill alive.

Auguftus, after the Sicilian War, cru- cified fix thoufand flaves who had not

been claimed by their mafters.

Tiberius crucified the priefts of Ifis,

and defiiroyed their temple.

Titus, during the fiege of Jerufalem, crucified all thofe unfortunates who,

to the number of five or fix hundred



fled from the city to efcape


and fo numerous were thefe

executions, that crofi^es were wanting,

©iflorp of tbz Ctof$.

and the land all about feemed like a

hideous forefl.

Thefe inflances are fufficient to (how that death by crucifixion was a common

punifhment ; but, Angularly enough, the

fhape of the Crofs has never been fatif-

fadlorily fettled ; pradlically, the queftion

lies between the Crux capitata^ or immijfa,

which is the ordinary form of the Latin

Crofs, and the Crux an/ata, or commijfa,

frequently called the Tau Crofs, from the

Greek letter T.

The T'fiw-fhaped Crofs


TAe different

forts ofCrofes.

is, undoubtedly, to be met with moft

frequently in the older reprefentations

and the more ancient authorities, fuch

as Tertullian, St. Jerome, St. Paulinus,

Sozomen, and Rufinus, are of opinion

that this was the fhape of the


After the fifteenth century, our Lord is

rarely depicted on the Crux commijfa, it

being referved for the two thieves.

M. xAdolphe Napoleon Didron, in

his Iconographie Chretienne, gives a few




antiquity of the

Antiquity of

the Tau Crofs.

T^au Crofs : " The Crofs is our crucified



in perfon ; * Where the Crofs is,

is the

martyr/ fays St. Paulinus.

Confequently it works miracles, as does

Jefus Himfelf : and the lift of wonders

operated by its power is in truth immenfe.

By the fimple fign of the

Crofs traced

upon the forehead or the breaft, men

have been delivered from the moft im-

minent danger. It has conftantly put demons to flight, protefted the virginity

of women, and the faith of believers;

it has reftored men to life, or health, infpired them with hope or refignation.

" Such is the virtue of the Crofs, that

a mere allufion to that facred fign, made

even in the Old Teftament, and long

before the exiftence of the Crofs, faved

the youthful Ifaac from death, redeemed

from deftru6tion an entire people whofe

houfes were marked by that fymbol,

healed the envenomed bites of thofe who

looked at the ferpent raifed in the form

of a Tail upon a pole.

It called back the

^iliot? Of tj)e Crof0,


foul into the dead body of the fon of that

poor widow who had given bread to the prophet.

" A beautiful painted window, belong-


to the thirteenth

century, in the

Cathedral of Bourges, has a reprefen-

tation of Ifaac bearing on his fhoulders

the wood







his facriiice, arranged in the form of a

Crofs ;

lintel of their dwellings with the blood

of the Pafchal lamb, in the form of a

the Hebrews, too, marked the

Tau or Crofs without a fummit.


TheTau Crofs.

widow of Sarepta picked up and held

croflwife two pieces of wood, with which

fhe intended to bake her bread.

figures, to which

others alfo


may be

added, ferve to exalt the triumph of the

Crofs, and feem to flow from a grand

central picture which forms their fource, and exhibits Jefus expiring on the Crofs.

It is from that real Crofs indeed, bearing

the Saviour, that thefe fubje<fts from the

Old Teftament derive all their virtue."


C6e Legenuarp

The wood of which it was made is as

unfettled as its fhape.

The Venerable

Bede fays that our Lord's Crofs was made

Wood of the Crofs.

of four kinds of

wood : the infcription

of box, the upright beam of cyprefs, the

tranfverfe of cedar, and the lower part of

pine. John Cantacumene avers that only

three woods were employed: the upright,

cedar ; the tranfverfe, pine ; and the head

in cyprefs. Others fay that the upright was cyprefs, the tranfverfe in palm, and

the head in olive ; or cedar, cyprefs, and


Moft authorities feem to concur

that it was made of feveral woods, but

there is a legend that it was made from

the afpen tree, whofe leaves flill tremble

at the awful ufe the tree was put to

whilfl that veritable traveller. Sir John

Maundeville, fays : " And alfo in Iheru-

falem toward the Weaft is a fayre church

where the tree grew of the which the

Lipfius fays that it

Croffe was made."

was made of but one wood, and that

was oak ; but M. Rohault de Fleury (to

^ifiorp of tfie Ctof0.


whofe wonderful and comprehenfive

work, M^moire fur les Injiruments de la

Pajjion de notre Sauveur Jefus Chrijly I

am deeply indebted, fays, " M. Decaifne,

member of the Inftitut, and M. Pietro

Savi, profelTor at the Univeriity of Pifa,

have fhewn me by the microfcope that

the pieces in the Church of the Holy

Crofs of Jerufalem at

Cathedral at Pifa,

Rome, in the

in the Duomo at

Florence, and in Notre Dame at Paris,

were of pine.''

And he adds, in a foot-

note, " Independently of the experiments which M. Savi kindly made in my

prefence, he wrote me the refults of other

obfervations, which tended to confirm."

Invention of the

Starting with the



the loving,

but fervid,

Crofs made

of pine.

imaginations of the faithful foon wove round it a covering of imagery, as we

have juft feen in the cafe of the feveral

woods of the Crofs, and the facred tree

became the fubjed: of a legend (for fo it

always was only meant to be), which


Cbe Legennatp

was incorporated in the Legenda Aurea

SanSlorumy or Goldefi Legend of the SaintSy

of Jacobus de Voragine, a colledion of legends connected with the fervices of

the Church. This book was exceedingly



popular, and, when

Caxton fet up his

printing-prefs at Weftminfter, he pro-

duced a tranflation, the hiftory of which

he quaintly tells us in a preface.*

As this Goldeu Legend is the ftandard authority on the fubjeft, and as it will

* " And for as moche as this fayd worke was grete & over

chargeable to me taccomplifflie, I feryd me in the begynnynge

of the tianflacion to have contynued it / bycaufe of the longe

tyme of the tranflacion / & aifo in thenpryntyng of y^ fame

and in maner halfe defperate to have accompliflH it / was in

purpofe to have lefte it / after that I had begonne to tranflate

it / & to have layed it aparte ne had it be(en) at thynftance &

requefte of the puyffant noble & vertuous erle my lord wyllyam

erle of arondel / whych defyred me to procede & contynue the

faid werke / & promyfed me to take a refonable quantyte of

them when they were acheyeued &; accomplished / and fente to

me a worfhypful gentylman a fervaunt of his named John Stanney which folycyted me in my Lordes name that I fliold

in no wyfe leve it but accomplifflie it promyfyng that my fayd lord fhold duringe my lyf geve & graunt to me a yerely fee /

that is to wete a bucke in fommer / & a doo in Wynter / with

whiche fee I holde me wel contente," &c.

^iftotp of ti)e Crofs.


much affift the intelligent appreciation



wood-blocks, I

reproduce it,

premifing that I have ufed throughout

the firfl edition, 20 Nov., 1483 :

' But alle the dayes of adam lyvynge

here in erthe amounte to the fomme of

yere / And in thende of his lyf


* This apparently long life of Adam is admitted on all hands, even in the Revifed Verfion of the Bible. The Talmud

fays that God promifed him one thoufand years of life, and it

is recorded that he begat Seth when he was a hundred and

thirty years old. On this the Talmud {Erwvin, fol. j8, col. 2)

has the following comment : " Rav Yirmyah ben Elazer faid :

All thofe years, which Adam fpent in alienation from God,

he begat evil fpirits, demons, and fairies ; for it is faid, ' And

Adam was an hundred and thirty years, and begat a fon in his own likenefs, after his image ' ; confequently, before that

time, he begat after another image."

Page 39.

Length of

Adam's life.

This term of one hundred and thirty years feems to.have

been a period in Adam's exiftence, for we again find {Ertiuin,

fol. 18 b.) : "Adam was a Chafid, or great faint, when he

obferved that the decree of death was occafioned by him ; he

fafiedd. hundred and thirty years, and all this time he ablhined

from intercourfe with his wife."

There is

a Talmudical tradition that God fhowed the

future to Adam (Avoth d'Rab. Nathan, chap. 31): "The

Holy Onebleffed be He ! fliewed unto Adam each genera-

tion, and its preachers, its guardians, its leaders, its prophets, its

heroes, its finners, and its faints, faying, ' In fuch and fuch a

generation fuch and fuch a King (hall reign, in fuch and fuch a generation fuch and fuch a wife man fhall teach.' "




Adams length

of life.


Oi tl)pnucuc2on of ttplp

croffe / ant) firft of tl)gs ^i^o^te


^iaotp of t\)t Crof0.

whan he fhold dye / it is faid but ot none

audtoryte / that he fente Seth his fone in

to paradys for to fetch the oyle of mercy

/ where he receyuyde certayn graynes of the fruyt of the tree of mercy by an

angel / And whan he come agayn / he

fonde his fader adam yet alyve and told

hym what he had don.

And thenne


This is amplified in Midrafli Yalkut (fol. 12), where it is

laid that God ftiowed Adam all future generations of men,

with their leaders, learned and literary men, and there he

obferved that David was credited with only three hours

of life, and he faid, "Lord and Creator of the world, is this

"Such was my firft intention," was the reply.

unalterable ?"

" How many years have

I to live ? " aflced Adam.

" One

thoufand." Then Adam faid, " I will lend him fome of my

years." And a document was drawn up whereby Adam

transferred feventy years of his life to David.

S. Baring-Gould, in his legends of Old Tejiament CharaSlers,

vol i. p. 77, referring to a MufTulman legend, fays : " Finally,

when Adam reached his nine hundred and thirtieth year, the

Angel of Death appeared under the form of a goat, and ran between his legs.

" Adam recoiled with horror, and exclaimed, ' God has

given me one thoufand years ; wherefore comeft thou now ?

Angel of Death, ' haft thou not

given feventy years of thy life to the prophet David t "Adam ftoutly denied that he had done fo. Then the Angel

of Death drew the document of transfer from out of his beard,

and prefented it to Adam, who could no longer refufe to go.''*

" ' What ! ' exclaimed the



^ifior^ of tbe CroCg.


lewes in the water of pyfcyne* / And on

thys day it was founden of Helayne in

the mounte of Calvarye/.

Of the Holy Croffe.

HE holy croffe was founden two

hondred yere after the refurrexyon

of our lord / It is redde in the gofpel of

nychodemus^ / that whan adarn wexyd

feck / Seth hys fone wente to the gate of paradyfe