Most Excellent Tree: the changing image of the Cross through the centuries (BRIDFAS Lecture)

April 19, 2012 in Lecture

Most Excellent Tree: the changing image of the Cross through the centuries (BRIDFAS Lecture)

Thursday, 19 April 2012 ┬Ě 20:00 - 22:00


The British Decorative and Fine Arts Society of Hamburg e.V. (BRIDFAS) presents a lecture.

The Cross is such a well-known symbol in Christianity, it is all too easy to take it for granted and to forget that, like many other symbols, it has developed and changed overtime. There is very little evidence of the cross being used as a Christian symbol in the earliest centuries, (though one always has to remember that art objects, even religious ones, can be lost or destroyed and therefore to claim that an object was not used may be inaccurate), but with the arrival of the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century, it began to move centre stage. From then on, the cross, as a religious and artistic object, developed according to local circumstances, belief and use.

In one of the earliest mosaics, in the apse of the church of St Pudenziana in Rome, dating from the late fourth century, the cross has a central place and is shown encrusted with jewels and surrounded by the symbols of the four evangelists. By contrast, at St Sabina’s basilica in Rome in the fifth century, the cross has no glory but is depicted with a crucified figure of Christ upon it, As the centuries unfolded, so the cross became imbued with more and more characteristics, In England, for example, in the late tenth or early eleventh century, a cross-was created which carried references to the Anglo-Saxon poem, “The Dream of The Rood”. At the time it was believed that it consisted of wood taken from the True Cross. Before the Norman Conquest the wealthiest churches in England overflowed with bejewelled crosses, whereas at the Reformation the number of crosses in any one church was quite limited. How did all these changes come about? What can the changes tell us about the beliefs and practices of our forebears?

In this lecture, entitled, “Most Excellent Tree”, the developments in the imagery of the cross will be explored, beginning with the earliest surviving examples and charting their course until now. There will be references to poetry, hymnody and spirituality, but at all times the visual image of the Cross will be central. But the question now is whether the Cross, as a symbol, has lost its potency oor is it still an object which can inspire great art and deepen human understanding?

Lecturer: The Rt. Revd. Dr. Christopher Herbert

Loading Map....


The Anglican Church of St Thomas Becket
Zeughausmarkt 22
20459 Hamburg

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Skip to toolbar