Lollards and Their Influence in Late Medieval England

By Fiona Somerset; Jill C. Havens et al. | Go to book overview

Lollards and the Cross

Margaret Aston

Ymagines crucifixi et salutifera crux Christi
adoracione latrie a Christi fidelibus sunt adorande. 1

Roger Dymmok, 1395―6

Crux Christi super qua mortuus est non est adoranda. 2

Richard Wyche (d.1440)

Cross and crucifix were always at the heart of image controversy. Representations of the instrument of Christ's death and of the crucifixion itself were problematical for early Christians, and in later centuries difficult questions were attached to what became the central symbol and image of the Christian faith. What material creation could show this meeting point of divinity and humanity? And if such were made, what degree of veneration did it call for? Issues that had vexed the early church and the Byzantine iconoclastic controversy were present in Lollard disputes over church imagery, and these show how Wycliffites had grasped the nettle that stung most in the contest over image worship. The theology that had grown up round this matter was something they knowingly questioned.

In late fourteenth-century England the ubiquity of cross and crucifix affected life and worship in many ways and places. From wayside crucifix to the rood dominating the parish church, visual encounters with this image were a daily experience. The liturgy honoured the Holy Cross on appointed days, and the faithful rendered their respect by creeping to the cross on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Relics of the true cross were treasured (even carried about) by the privileged, and visited by pilgrims who took their way to Broomholm in Norfolk; while at Boxley in Kent there was a rood whose ability to move and respond to prayer corresponded with miracle stories that might be heard from preachers. To be Christian was to be marked with the sign of the cross from baptism to grave and, as Julian of

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1
Rogeri Dymmok Liber contra XII errors et hereses Lollardorum, ed. H.S. Cronin (136, 181). ("Images of the crucifix and the saving cross of Christ are to be worshipped by Christ's faithful with the worship of latria.”)
2
Fasciculi Zizaniorum (139, 503). ("The cross of Christ on which he died is not to be worshipped.”)

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