Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Dream of the Rood

Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross - known also as the Triumph of the Holy Cross in the modern Missal.

There is a history of the feast day and its different expressions by different communities here.

There are interesting articles about the feast in Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which looks at early Christian devotion to the Cross and their understanding of it, and is from the Project Canterbury site, in Exaltation of the Holy Cross from a specifically Catholic standpoint, and  Elevation of the Holy Cross from an Orthodox one.
Recently I was reading an anthology of Anglo-Saxon texts, which included the celebrated and important  text The Dream of the Rood, a meditation upon the Crucifixion spoken by the Cross itself.
There is an online introduction to the poem at Dream of the Rood

An impressive electronic edition by Mary Rambaran-Olm, which includes the original Old English text, a modern English parallel translation, textual notes, glossary and manuscript images can be viewed at Enter Dream of the Rood.

Translations by Richard Hamer can be found at The Dream of the Rood: ,by Elaine Treharne at The Dream of the Rood, Modern English Version and by Charles W. Kennedy at The Dream of the Rood.

Two online artickes about the poem and its historical and cultural context can be found at
Dream of the Rood and the Image of Christ in the Early Middle Ages, an article by Jeannette C. Brock shows how the image of Christ in the poem reflects the heroic ideals of the period rather than the original biblical accounts, and from Julia Bolton Holloway's Umilta site at Hilda and Caedmon: The Dream of the Rood.

The fact that part of the text of the poem is inscribed in rune son the Rthwell Cross in Dumfrieshire is well known as an important indicator of culture in the Northumbrian artistic tradition. The cross and its history and decoration ate considered in the article Ruthwell Cross which also outlines the debate about whether the runic inscription is original to the cross or added at a later date in the Anglo-Saxion era.

Crown ©, courtesy of Historic Scotland

The Ruthwell Cross 
Reconstructed and reassembled in the nineteenth century it is now inside the church at Ruthwell


Crosses such as that at Ruthwell and Bewcastle and the many other less well known ones which survive in part or as fragments in churches across much of northern England would have been painted. A copy of the Ruthwell cross was recently recoloured to indicate what they would have looked like.


Reconstruction of the north face of the Ruthwell Cross by John Prag, 
formerly in Manchester Museum

 Image © John Prag/oucs.ox.ac.uk

There is more about this colour reconstruction here.


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