Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Ritual and the Rood: Liturgical Images and the Old English Poems of the Dream of the Rood Tradition

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Ritual and the Rood: Liturgical Images and the Old English Poems of the Dream of the Rood Tradition

Article excerpt

Éamonn Ó Carragáin, Ritual and the Rood: Liturgical Images and the Old English Poems of the Dream of the Rood Tradition (London and Toronto: The British Library and University of Toronto Press, 2005). xlviii + 427 pp. ISBN 0-7123-4875-1. £50.00.

Éamonn Ó Carragáin has devoted decades to the close study of the Ruthwell Cross, the Old English poem The Dream of the Rood, and their liturgical background in the development of the rites of the Roman Church of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages. This book draws together the fruits of this research, together with a short discussion of the Brussels Cross. The book begins with a description of the Ruthwell Cross as it appears today, including a thorough account of the Cross in the early modern period. After this, the book is devoted mostly to discussion of the reconstructed Cross and its iconography in the context of the liturgy the Anglo-Saxon Church inherited from Rome. The opening chapter introduces four hypotheses to be explored: Ó Carragáin presents evidence that the Ruthwell Cross had a communal function, and that its design points to its creation for a monastic community; he argues that the verse tituli are an original feature (with implications for the date of The Dream which are not fully explored); the lower stone must be read according to the movement of the sun; theological ideas centred on gift exchange influenced the iconography and tituli on the Cross. Discussion of these is woven through the systematic analysis of the Cross's panels and accompanying text in relation to the key liturgical feasts evoked by the Cross's images.

Chapter 2 begins with discussion of one of the runic verse half-lines on the Cross, which is also found in The Dream, referring to Christ's courage. The discussion of this verse reveals both the breadth of Ó Carragáin's approach, and the detail at his command. …

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