A Heritage of Holy Wood: The Legend of the True Cross in Text and Image
Barbara Baert. Translated from the Dutch by Lee Preedy.
In the fourth century the idea arose that the Cross on which Christ was crucified had been found by Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine. Thus began a legend that would grow and flourish throughout the Middle Ages and cause the diffusion of countless splinters of holy wood. And where there is wood, there was once a tree. Could it be that the Cross was made from that most noble species, the Tree of Life? So, gathering characters along the way, the legend evolved into a tale that stretches from the Creation to the End of Time.
A Heritage of Holy Wood is the first reconstruction of the iconographic and literary tradition of the Legend of the True Cross. Its broad scope encompasses relic cults, pilgrimages, travellers’ tales and the Tree of Life and involves Church Fathers, crusader kings, Teutonic Knights and mendicant orders, all of which influenced the legend’s depiction from its earliest representation in manuscripts, reliquaries and altarpieces, to the great monumental cycles of the high Middle Ages. If the holy wood was the medium of medieval memory, A Heritage of Holy Wood reveals the growth rings of fifteen centuries of imagery.