The Brussels Cross

The Brussels Cross or Drahmal Cross is an Anglo-Saxon crossreliquary of the early 11th century, now in the treasury of the Cathedral of SS. Michel and Gudule, Brussels. Badly damaged and with its once jewelled front missing, it takes the form of a large piece of cross-shaped wood covered with a silver plate bearing medallions engraved with the evangelists’ symbols at the end of the arms and an Agnus Dei at the center. Across the arms the artist has inscribed his name in large Roman letters: + Drahmal me worhte (‘Drahmal made me’). An inscription around the edges reads: + Rod is min nama; geo ic ricne Cyning bær byfigynde, blod bestemed (‘Rood is my name. Trembling once, I bore a powerful king, made wet with blood’). These lines bear a close relationship to ll. 44 and 48 in the Old English poem, ‘The Dream of the Rood‘. This is followed by a common form of dedication: þas rod het Æþmær wyrican and Aðelwold hys beroþo[r] Criste to lofe for Ælfrices saule hyra beroþor (‘Æthlmær and Athelwold, his brother, ordered this rood to be made so as to praise Christ for the soul of Ælfric, their brother’). The Anglo-Saxon inscription is contained on a silver strip which runs around the edges of the cross. It is written not in runes, but in Roman letters, in a curious mixture of Latin-style majuscules and minuscules. The letters ‘NE’ of ricne, ‘NG’ of cyning and ‘ME’ of bestemed are written as ligatures. Although it has not proved possible to identify with any certainty the persons named in the inscription, the text is in late West-Saxon which would ascribe it to the late tenth century or perhaps later.

[slickr-flickr tag=”brussels” type=”gallery”]

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