The Cross in Scotland

 

By the Rev. Geo. S. Tyack, B.A.

 

The Reformation in Scotland was of a character more sweeping and destructive than is easy of realisation by an Englishman at the present day. In the southern kingdom much that as symbolism was valuable, and as art was admirable, was wantonly given over to the hammer or the flames at that time; but one learns to be thankful for the many works of glory and of beauty that were nevertheless left to us, when one turns one’s eyes to the northern realm. Carried away by the violence of the most extreme men, the Reformation there became a veritable revolution, in which everything that spoke of earlier times was condemned, and was treated as if it were a sacrament of Satan; and the attempt was seriously made to render “the King’s Daughter” yet more “glorious within” by stripping her of every shred of her “clothing of wrought gold.” Religion, that it might be more truly spiritual, was to be sent forth into the world absolutely naked of every external sign or form. The furniture of the churches was torn out, and sold or burnt; the statues of the saints were of course broken up; but the organs were also pulled down, and even the carved stalls and screens of the cathedrals were declared to be “idolatrous.” Nothing illustrates more strongly, and more curiously, the indiscriminate frenzy of destruction which for a time took possession of the people, than the fact that monuments and tombstones were even condemned as superstitious and sinful. Only a comparatively few of all the many memorials of Scottish worthies of earlier centuries escaped demolition, and this not wrought by the mere violence of a turbulent mob, but by formal resolutions of the General Assembly in the seventeenth century. In 1640 the Kirk Session of Aberdeen ordered the removal of a portrait of “Reid of Pitfoddels” from the vestry of the church, on the ground of its “smelling somewhat of Popery”; and in 1649 a similar authority at Kilmarnock condemned “a graven image” on the tomb of Lord Boyd. This action was taken, no doubt, in obedience to the summons issued by the General Assembly in 1640 to the presbyteries to complete the removal and destruction of all monuments.

Such being the state of feeling in Scotland, we are not surprised to find that the sign of our salvation was found even more obnoxious by the leaders of the movement there than it was among their brethren in England. With the latter, when the interiors of the churches were swept bare of crosses, the passion for destruction was stayed so far as that emblem was concerned; on spire and gable, on tomb and tablet, in churchyard and market-place, the stone crosses were for the most part left; and even when, under the Puritan regime of the following century, an attempt was made to pull down these by Parliamentary authority, the popular feeling was so far from being strongly in its favour, that the work was by no means done thoroughly and completely.

In spite of all that was intended, and even attempted, Scotland has, nevertheless, retained some examples of the ancient crosses, which are well worthy of our attention. In remote places the sacred sign has been spared in scattered instances for more appreciative days; in more populous centres the cross has been preserved in a secularised form, its symbol gone, and with it its meaning; but amid the wreck of so much, we must receive gratefully the fragments that remain.

The strictly church crosses, those that once stood on altar or on rood-screen, that led the stately procession, or cast their benign shadows athwart the graves of the faithful—these were all swept away. The Synod of Fife held, at the time of the Reformation, “visitations” from time to time, to search out and remove “crosier staffes” and “divers crosses,” as well as other ancient furniture, from the parish churches; and in so doing, doubtless, it was but acting as the other Synods of the country did. The old crosses in the churchyards, many of them of great age, and probably most interesting pieces of sculpture, were almost all destroyed. The market crosses, however, have in several cases survived, although the national emblem, the unicorn, has usurped the place of the Christian symbol, the cross; and the attack upon mortuary memorials was not altogether successful; in fact, it was hardly to be expected that any people would consent to the entire obliteration of the grave-stones of their ancestors.

The most famous existing example is the High Cross, or Market Cross, of the capital. The date of the foundation of this structure is unknown. Not far from its site is an ancient well, known as the Cross Well, from which some have conjectured that possibly the earliest cross was reared by some unknown teacher of the faith, who, in a far distant age, established himself in a cell beside this clear spring. Such a spot, we know, was often chosen by these apostolic teachers, and not infrequently a rude cross, erected hard by, served to mark the place as, in some sort, a sanctuary. Our first authentic allusion to this Cross is, however, of a date some centuries later than this. In 1175 William the Lion (1165-1214) decreed that “all merchandisis salbe presentit at the mercat and mercat croce of burghis.” From this, we may safely conclude that Edinburgh had a recognised Market Cross by that date, since we can hardly imagine that the capital was without a symbol that was evidently usual in the burghs of the country. A reference to the Cross is supposed to be contained in a document of 1437. The assassins of the noble but unfortunate King James I., who was barbarously slain in the February of that year, are said to have suffered for their crime “mounted on a pillar in the market-place in Edinburgh.” Ten years later we meet with a definite reference to this structure; the Charter of St Giles’s Church, dated 1447, contains the words “ex parte occidentali fori et crucis dicti burgi,” on the west side of the market-place and of the Cross of the said burgh. King James III. (1460-1488), in an epistle to the citizens of his capital written in October 1477, ordains that “all pietricks, pluvaris, capones, conyngs, checkins, and all other wyld foulis and tame to be usit and sald about the Market Croce and in na other place.” At this time, therefore, we find the Cross established as an acknowledged centre for commercial Edinburgh, such as it was in the fifteenth century.

The exact form of this early Market Cross is as doubtful as the date of its foundation. The pillar of the present erection is the same as that in the earliest historical notices which we have of it; but whether this originally stood upon a simple pedestal, upon a pyramid of steps, or upon an elevated platform like that of a later date, we cannot say. It has been thought probable, however, that the Cross was raised to its dignified altitude by the addition of the arcaded platform in the time of James III. This monarch was indolent, and unfit for the rule of a somewhat turbulent kingdom, but he was a patron of the arts, and a friend of the Church. Several improvements were made in Edinburgh during his reign, including the enlargement of St Giles’s Cathedral; hence it is possible that he also took in hand the adornment of the neighbouring Cross. Under James VI., previously to his becoming Sovereign of Great Britain, further alterations were made. In 1555 we read of work at the Cross consisting of “bigging the rowme thereof,” which is supposed to mean that at this time the open arches which upheld the platform were filled in, so as to form an enclosed “rowme” below. This room was entered by a door, which was secured with a lock; so that thenceforward only those having some high and official duty to perform, such as publishing a royal proclamation, could ascend to the broad base of the Cross. In the City Treasurer’s accounts for 1560 are two entries as follows: “Item for ane band to ye Croce dur,” and “Item for mending of ye lok of ye Croce dur.” Once more, we read in the same records for 1584, “5 Julii, Item, ye sam day given for ane lok to ye Croce dur, and three keyis for it.” There is extant an old engraving giving a bird’s-eye view of Edinburgh in 1647, from which we may see that in its main outlines the Market Cross was then much as it is to-day; the summit of the shaft (from which, doubtless, the cross had already been flung down) having been surmounted by the heraldic symbol of Scotland at the date of the last-quoted entry from the city accounts. The record concerning it is of a sum “payit to David Williamson for making and upputting of the Unicorn upon the head of the Croce.”

Early in the next century the whole erection was moved to a new site. In 1617 it was “translated by the devise of certain mariners of Leith from the place where it stood past the memory of man to a place beneath in the High Street.” A new substructure was made for it, of stone “brocht from the Deyne”; and the shaft was swung into “the new seat” on the 25th March, the cost of the entire work being £4486, 5s. 6d. (Scots).

The republicans of the Commonwealth period defaced the Cross, tearing down the royal arms, and hanging the crown from the head of the unicorn upon the gallows. At the Restoration, therefore, certain repairs had to be made; Robert Mylne was entrusted with the work, and a further contract was made with George Porteous “for painting the Croce.”

During the succeeding century frequent complaints were made that the Cross was an obstruction to traffic; and at last in 1756 the complainants obtained their wish. On the 13th March in that year the Market Cross of Edinburgh was demolished. The pillar, which fell and broke during the operation, was sold to Lord Somerville, who set it up in the vicinity of his house at Drum; the medallions which had adorned the base came eventually into the hands of Sir Walter Scott, who built them into a wall at Abbotsford, where they remain; the site was marked out with stones, as some small compensation for the loss to the lovers of antiquity; and finally a plain stone pillar was erected beside the well hard by, and this was officially declared to be from that day forward the Market Cross of the city. Even this contemptible substitute was not, however, suffered long to remain; but on the same plea of obstruction was presently removed like the Cross itself.

The citizens of the ancient city did not unanimously concur, by any means, in this destruction of a time-honoured landmark in the history of the country; and efforts were repeatedly made to obtain its restoration. After a time the movement was so far successful as to gain the return of “the pillar of the Cross” to Edinburgh, where it was set up on a pedestal within the railings of St Giles’s Church. So matters stood until recent times, when a complete restoration was effected by the generosity of the late Rt. Hon. W. E. Gladstone, who built a new and imposing octagonal base, on one of the faces of which the following inscription was placed in Latin, “Thanks be to God, this ancient monument, the Cross of Edinburgh, devoted of old to public functions—having been destroyed by evil hands in the Year of our Salvation 1756, and having been avenged and lamented, in song both noble and manly, by that man of highest renown, Walter Scott—has now, by permission of the city magistrates, been rebuilt by William E. Gladstone, who, through both parents claims a descent entirely Scottish. November 23rd, in the Year of Grace 1885.” The date is that of the day on which this noble present was formally given to the civic authorities by Mr Gladstone, who was then member of Parliament for Midlothian.

So far of the history of the fabric of the Cross: to trace in detail the great events in which it has been called to play a part, would be to recount no small portion of the annals of the Scottish kingdom. This spot has long been treated as the very centre and heart of the country. Here Scottish sovereigns met the citizens of their capital; here proclamation was made of peace and war, of the accession of kings, and of aught else of prime and pressing interest to the people; here, too, many have suffered for their devotion to causes, political or religious, which had—at any rate for a time—fallen before superior force.

A fountain near the old Cross ran red with wine when James IV. of Scotland brought home his bride, Margaret of England, and the first link in the golden chain was forged which should shortly join the realms. Here in 1512 the royal summons was read for the mustering of that army, so many of the gallant members of which were to fall at Flodden; and here—most fateful of all proclamations published there—the death of Elizabeth was announced, and the accession of James VI. to the double Crown of Great Britain.

 

EXECUTION OF THE EARL OF ARGYLE,
SHEWING THE OLD HIGH CROSS, EDINBURGH.

 

John Knox was burnt in effigy at the Cross in 1555, when he failed to return from Geneva in answer to a summons from the bishops; and ten years later a Roman Catholic Priest was “tyed to the Cross” and pelted because he had dared to say Mass on Easter Day. The Earl of Morton was beheaded here in 1581. Under James the Seventh of Scotland and Second of England many a powerful head fell on the scaffold beneath the shadow of the Cross. Those were stormy times in which religion and politics were curiously and unhappily mingled, so that those who to one side seemed mere rebels, to the other appeared as martyrs. Among others who suffered was the Earl of Argyle, together with many of his clan who had been led by him to open revolt.

Edinburgh had another Cross, known as St John’s, situated in the Canongate; it was similar in design to the High Cross, but smaller.

The Crosses of the Metropolis seem to have been taken as models by other Scottish burghs. Their plan was quite unlike any existing examples in England. The base or pedestal was an elevated platform, supported either by open arches, or by solid walls; on the top of this, the tall shaft of the cross was placed, and latterly it was crowned by a unicorn holding the Scottish shield. Steps, within the base, led to the platform from which proclamations and official notices were published by the city heralds. Judging from the analogy of the Market Crosses in the southern kingdom, it seems probable that the base was originally intended to be open, so as to afford shade or shelter, as the weather might require, to some at least of the market folk. Many English Crosses, the best known example of all, for instance, that of Chichester, provide accommodation of this sort, but none of them have a flat roof serving as a platform. Subsequently, as the business of the country grew, this shelter would prove so inadequate as not to be worth considering; and then the lower structure was in some cases built in, so as to protect the access to the platform, reserved now for formal and official purposes only.

The city of Aberdeen boasts that her Market Cross is the finest in the land. It was built in 1688 by a country mason named John Montgomery, and was placed opposite the Tolbooth. In 1842 it was moved to the present site in Castle Street, and was at the same time somewhat altered. It is hexagonal in plan, six wide arches supporting the upper platform, round which runs a circular balustrade garnished with shields of arms and medallions of Scottish kings. The pillar rising from the midst is handsomely carved, and supports a unicorn in white marble holding the national shield. All the British sovereigns since its erection have been proclaimed from this Cross, as well as the two Pretenders in 1715 and 1745. Near the spot now occupied by this erection originally stood the Flesh Cross, close to which were the shambles; lower down Castle Street was the Fish Cross, or Laich Cross, indicating the position of the fish market.

Prestonpans possesses a Market Cross of the same type as those already described, and still in good condition, as also does Elgin; similar Crosses at Perth and Dundee have been unhappily destroyed. Amongst other notices of the Town Cross at Linlithgow is a record of punishment inflicted upon an unfortunate burgess, for “in his great raschness and suddantie destroying the head of the Toun’s drum.” This unmusical citizen was deprived of the freedom of the burgh, fined £50 Scots, and ordered to “sitt doune upon his knees at the Croce at ten houres before noone, and crave the provost, baillies, and counsall pardone.” Drums were evidently of more account in Scotland in the seventeenth century than crosses or tombstones.

The ceremony of beating the bounds, or as it is called in Scotland “riding the marches,” is still observed in some burghs, and the procession usually starts and terminates at the Cross if there be one. At Lanark before separating the company sings “Scots wha hae” beneath the Cross, near which stands what would two centuries since have been called “an idolatrous statue” of William Wallace. At Linlithgow the function begins by drinking the sovereign’s health at the Cross, and the procession returns thither before breaking up. At Kilmarnock Fastern’s Eve (in English, Shrove Tuesday) used to be celebrated by a large amount of horse-play round the ancient Cross; the town fire-engines and their hose being called into requisition for the drenching of the crowd with water, who probably drenched themselves with something rather stronger later in the day.

Of all the royal edicts proclaimed from these Crosses the following was certainly one of the most curious. It was ordered to be published from every Town Cross in Scotland in 1619, and was issued by King James from London, whither a host of adventurers from his northern dominions had promptly followed him. The proclamation warns “all manner of persons from resorting out of Scotland to this our kingdome, unlesse it be gentlemen of good qualitie, merchands for traffiques, or such as shall have a generall license from our Counselle of that Kingdome, with prohibitioun to all masters of shippes that they transport no such persons;” it further goes on to announce that “Sir William Alexander, Master of Requests, hath received a commission to apprehend and send home, or to punish all vagrant persons who came to England to cause trouble, or bring discredit on their country.”

Here and there throughout Scotland crosses of various kinds have no doubt escaped destruction, when they happen to be in obscure places, or small and scarcely noticeable in form or situation; thus the old Cathedral of Brechin still preserves one of the consecration Crosses, cut in its walls as part of the ceremony of its original dedication. But almost the only examples of importance left to us, besides those town crosses which we have considered, are several exceedingly interesting ancient memorial or sepulchral crosses, of which those at Iona are by far the best known.

An anonymous writer in 1688, speaking of this sacred isle, says, “that M’Lean’s Cross is one of the 360 standing before the Reformation; the others were thrown into the sea by order of the Synod of Argyle.” In the absence of anything beyond the bare assertion, this statement must be considered as at least doubtful. No earlier writers, including those who had visited Iona, mention the fact; and if an organized attack of this kind were made upon the monuments of the island, it is difficult to explain why two were left untouched. That there were many more Crosses here formerly may be taken for certain, and that the Synod of Argyle would think them all idolatrous is equally clear; but it is not likely that it ordered so great an undertaking as that of digging from their foundations nearly four hundred massive blocks of stone, some, to judge by what is left to us, of great size, and casting them into the sea. All such monuments having been formally condemned throughout Scotland, it is fair to assume that those of Iona met with a good deal of ill-usage. The “axes and hammers” of the isle would be brought to bear upon “the carved work thereof”; and it is more probable that the mode of destruction has been of this kind, aided by time and storm, whose ravages nothing has been attempted to stay or to repair, than that any definite scheme of demolition has been carried out.

 

ST. MARTIN’S CROSS, IONA.

 

Two fine crosses yet remain in good preservation in Iona, known respectively as St. Martin’s Cross and the Cross of the Maclean. The former of these is considerably the older, and stands in front of the ruined cathedral. It is a monolith measuring fourteen feet in height above ground, eighteen inches in breadth, and ten inches in thickness, and is set in a block of granite three feet in height. It is elaborately carved, figures of the Blessed Virgin-Mother and the Holy Child, of ecclesiastics in vestments, of musicians with harps and wind instruments, occupying one face, together with foliage and twining snakes; while the other has a more conventional design. On the roadside, near the ancient nunnery, stands Maclean’s Cross, which has been described as “one of the oldest Celtic crosses in Scotland,” and even as “the oldest Christian monument” in that country. This is to ascribe to an undoubtedly ancient relic an antiquity to which it has no claim; it dates probably from the fifteenth century. It is eleven feet high, and is carved with the figure of the crucified Redeemer, attended by angels, and with much graceful scroll-work. The claimants for the greater age of this fine cross assert that it marks the spot where St. Columba rested on his last walk about the monastic lands.

St. Oran’s Chapel, alleged to have been built by Queen Margaret some time after 1072, contains one or two broken crosses. There is the shaft of one erected in memory of the Abbot Mackinnon in 1489, a portion of another known now as the “Flat stone of Oran,” and a fragment of yet a third. The famous burial ground of Iona, the Reilig Orain, to which were brought the remains of kings, not only from the mainland of Scotland, but from Ireland and even from Norway, has several sepulchral slabs which still bear the sacred sign. One, probably of the twelfth century, has a well-designed interlaced cross stretching almost the whole length and breadth of the stone, with a galley carved upon the one side of it and a sword upon the other; another, alleged to commemorate Ranald, Lord of the Isles in the early thirteenth century, has a small interlaced cross upon one side of a sword, and two “disguised” crosses, somewhat of the fylfot shape, upon the other. There is also a broken stone, with a portion of a cross of Irish design, and a fragmentary inscription. It has been supposed to mark the burial-place of Maol Patrick O’Banan, the saintly bishop of Conor and Down, who died in Iona in 1174. Two boulders, measuring rather less than two feet in length, have also been found in the island, each incised with a cross. One, which has a well-proportioned figure of the type commonly called “runic,” is supposed by some to have been the stone, which, according to his biographer Adamnan, formed the pillow of St. Columba.

Some others of the Western Isles have preserved a few of their ancient crosses. Boswell, in his “Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides” in 1773, speaks thus of the approach to Rasay: “Just as we landed I observed a cross, or rather the ruins of one, upon a rock, which had to me a pleasing vestige of religion.” A few days later the traveller set out to explore the island, and he made other discoveries of the same nature. “On one of the rocks just where we landed,” he tells us, “there is rudely carved a square, with a crucifix in the middle: here, it is said, the Lairds of Rasay, in old times, used to offer up their devotions; I could not approach the spot without a grateful recollection of the event commemorated by this symbol.” A little further on he writes, “The eight crosses, which Martin mentions as pyramids for deceased ladies, stood in a semicircular line, which contained within it the chapel; they marked out the boundaries of the sacred territory, within which an asylum was to be had; one of them, which we observed upon our landing, made the first point of the semicircle; there are few of them now remaining.” On the islet of Oronsay, immediately to the south of Colonsay, is a Celtic cross with a Latin inscription, erected in memory of a Prior who died in 1510. Some of the crosses from Iona are said to have been carried to the neighbouring island of Mull, and to the mainland of Argyle. At Campbelltown in that county is a handsome cross, carved from a monolith of blue granite, and now serving as a Market Cross, which is alleged to be one of the spoils of St. Columba’s isle.

Argyleshire has also preserved some interesting sculptured tombstones. The churchyard of Kilfinan has two such; one is adorned with a wheel-headed cross, the shaft of which is covered with scrolls, a wicker-pattern design running down either side of it; the other has a cross with deep hollows at the intersection of the arms. At Nereabolls, in Islay, is the upper portion of a crucifix, broken off beneath the arms of the figure; it is roughly carved, but has nothing of the grotesqueness of some very early attempts at the human form. All these stones date from the fourteenth or following century.

In certain districts several Celtic crosses have been suffered to survive, or have been brought forth from the concealment into which the neglect, or the violence, of past ages had thrown them; and they present perhaps the most valuable examples of runic inscriptions and of contemporary carving which we now have in Great Britain. Some of them are quadrilateral slabs on which the sacred symbol is cut, others are carved into the shape of a cross; most of them have a large amount of characteristic adornment. There are men riding and hunting, animals conventional, if not actually grotesque, interlaced chain designs, and intricate and often very graceful scrolls. Among other figures cut on these ancient monuments we find constantly repeated some of those Pictish symbols, the meaning of which is one of the apparently insoluble problems of archæology. The twin circles connected by three lines like a Z, or included within the arms of it, the crescent crossed by two lines forming a V, a grotesque somewhat distantly resembling an elephant; these and other forms constantly meet us. They are characteristic of the carving of a time not more than eight or nine centuries from our own, yet the very alphabet of the symbolic language which they speak is lost. They have been described as the work of Cymric Christians, as Gnostic, as magical, as derived from oriental Paganism, as learned from Scandinavian heathenism; but even if we could agree as to their origin, we should yet be in the dark as to their meaning. In Wigtonshire are several crosses, including some of this type: we find them at Kirkcolm, Kirkmadrine, Whithorn, Monreith, and St. Ninian’s cave. At Kirkcolm is an exceedingly rudely carved crucifix; beneath the figure of the Crucified is another human figure accompanied by two creatures meant apparently for birds; the whole being of the roughest description. The Monreith Cross stands seven and a quarter feet in height, and has a wheel head, with a shaft whose sides curve slightly outwards from top and bottom; an ingeniously contrived scroll covers the face. The Kirkmadrine example has incised upon it the sacred monogram XP conjoined, and arranged crosswise within a circle.

In Kirkcudbright is the splendid Ruthwell Cross, standing over seventeen feet in height. The shaft tapers gracefully towards the head, and has within panels upon it the effigies of several saints; the sides have a singularly fine scroll of conventional foliage with birds; and the head is light and elegant. It is altogether a very beautiful structure.

Other stones worthy of notice now are, or have been found, at St Madoes and Dupplin, near Perth; at Kirriemuir, and elsewhere, in Forfar; and in some other places, chiefly along the north-eastern coast of the country. It must be remembered that the Reformation progressed much more slowly in the Highlands than in the Lowlands, so that we might naturally expect that the demolition of the crosses would not be carried out quite so thoroughly in the north as in the south.

It was, however, in a southern town that we read of the last use, until recent times, of that ancient ceremony for Good Friday which our forefathers called “Creeping to the Cross.” On May 8th, 1568, Grindal, then bishop of London, writes to Sir William Cecil, afterwards Lord Burleigh: “Evans, who is thought a man of more simplicity than the rest, hath reported (as I am credibly informed) that at Dunbar, on Good Friday, they saw certain persons go bare-foot and bare-legged to the church, to creep to the cross; if it be so the Church of Scotland will not be pure enough for our men.”

In spite of the abolition of the sign of the cross in the ceremonial of the church, and the destruction, so far as possible, of the material cross in its buildings, even Presbyterian Scotland could not discard the emblem of St. Andrew from among its national devices. The Covenanters marched across the Border in the Great Civil War, under a flag which bore that symbol; the white Cross of St. Andrew lay athwart its field, charged at the centre with the thistle, while in the spaces between the four members of the cross was the motto, “Covenants for Religion, Croune, and Kingdoms.” Under the Commonwealth the royal arms, of course, dropt out of use, their place being taken by a shield, the first and fourth quarters of which were charged with St. George’s Cross (for England), the second with St. Andrew’s Cross (for Scotland), and the third with the Irish harp.

 

COVENANTER’S FLAG.

 

Some few folk-customs, involving the use of this sign have also lived on in the northern kingdom. At Borera, for instance, is a Celtic cross, now overthrown; and whosoever wishes for rain has but to raise this, according to the local belief at one time, and he will obtain his desire. It used also to be customary in some parts of the country, when a bridegroom arrived at the church door ready for his wedding, to unfasten the shoe-string on his right foot and to draw a cross upon the doorpost. Such usages, however, seem to have been rarer in Scotland than in England.

St. Margaret of Scotland, a queen worthy of everlasting remembrance, who died in the year 1093, gave to one of the churches in her husband’s dominions a splendid crucifix, on which was a figure of the Redeemer in pure gold. The one historic crucifix of the country, however, is the famous Black Rood of Scotland, round which gathers much both of legend and of history, and from which the royal palace and abbey in Edinburgh received its name of Holy Rood. The story of this ancient cross is recounted at length in the “Rites of Durham,” and is as follows.

King David Bruce was hunting in a forest hard by Edinburgh one Holy Cross Day, or Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (September 14th), and had become separated from his companions, when a wondrous hart, of great beauty and strength, suddenly appeared to him. The creature charged the king’s horse, and so terrified it that it took to flight; but the hart followed “so fiercely and swiftly” that it bore down both the horse and its royal rider to the ground. Bruce, putting forth his hands to save himself, was about to seize the antlers of his assailant, when, from the head of the hart, “there most strangly slypped into the King’s hands the said crosse most wonderously,” and forthwith the animal vanished. On the following night Bruce was warned in his sleep to build an abbey at the spot where this miracle had happened. Accordingly, he sent to France and Flanders for workmen, built the abbey of the Holy Rood, which he gave to the canons regular of St. Augustine, and “placed the said Cross most sumptuously and richly in the said Abbey, ther to remayne in a most renowned monument.” So it continued until “the said king” invaded England previous to the Battle of Neville’s Cross; this sacred relic was then brought forth, and carried to the war. Again the king received a vision during his sleep, in which he was warned in no case to damage the patrimony of St. Cuthbert; but, in spite of this, he proceeded to lay waste and to destroy the domains of the great Abbey at Durham; and for this disobedience divine vengeance fell upon him. He himself was captured at the ensuing fight, many of the flower of his nobility fell on the field, his royal standard became a prize to the English, and the Holy Rood was taken! All the trophies of the victory were solemnly offered by the English as an act of thanksgiving at St. Cuthbert’s shrine at Durham, and the Rood “was sett up most exactlie in the piller next St. Cuthbert’s shrine in the south alley of the said Abbey.” The writer of the “Rites” tells us in one place that “no man knew certenly what mettell or wood the said crosse was mayd of;” at a later point in his story he implies that it was of silver and was termed the “Black Rude of Scotland” from “being, as yt weare, smoked all over,” doubtless from the tapers constantly burnt before it both in Edinburgh and in Durham. At the Reformation this valuable and historic cross was carried off with the other abbey treasures, and no doubt found its way into the melting pot.


SEAL OF HOLYROOD ABBEY.

 

Our chronicler is not quite sound in his history. It was David I. who founded Holyrood Abbey, about the year 1128; and to whom, therefore, the first part of the story relates; but it was David II., son of Robert Bruce, and thus a descendant of the first Scottish King of that name, who lost the relic at Neville’s Cross in 1346. There is another story to the effect that St. Margaret brought the crucifix from the Holy Land in 1070; and that both religious and filial devotion thus prompted David I., the youngest of her sons, to raise and dedicate the abbey, which was to enshrine it. The saintly queen may perhaps have received the rood from Jerusalem, she can hardly have brought it thence herself, for it does not seem that she ever undertook that pilgrimage.

The seal of Holyrood Abbey, probably the most famous of all the many foundations dedicated in honour of the Holy Cross, contains a memorial of the legend above given. The centre is occupied by a crucifix beneath a canopy, with the Blessed Virgin and St. John on either side; below this is the Madonna enthroned and holding the Holy Child. A crosier, on one side of these figures, marks the dignity of the abbey; a stag, on the other side, with a cross rising from its forehead recalls the tradition of its inception; while the royal shield of Scotland below informs us of the sovereignty of the founder.