Our goal is to produce a mixed media and extensible edition of a key group of Anglo-Saxon artefacts associated with the “Visionary Cross” tradition in Anglo-Saxon England: the Ruthwell and Bewcastle standing stone crosses, prostate the Brussels Cross, and the Vercelli Book Dream of the Rood poem (for this tradition, see Ó Carragáin 2005).
The Bewcastle Cross is an eighth-century standing stone cross also found near a former Roman military site (see Bailey and Cramp 1988). Approximately the same size as Ruthwell, the severely weathered Bewcastle Cross still stands in its original location. It has the remains of a sundial on its side and may have been painted and decorated with other metalwork or glass attachments.
The Brussels Cross is an early eleventh-century reliquary that once contained a supposed fragment from the True Cross (see Van Ypersele de Strihou 2000; Webster 1984; Ó Carragáin 2005). It is built on an oak core that was covered with precious metal and jewels and perhaps a crucifixion (stolen sometime before 1793). Gilt silver decoration on the cross’s back and side bands bearing a vernacular inscription have survived.
Dream of the Rood poem
The Dream of the Rood is the modern title given to an anonymous Old English poem associated with the other three objects investigated in this project: the late tenth-century Vercelli Book, eighth-century Ruthwell Cross, and mid-eleventh-century Brussels Reliquary Cross.
The Ruthwell Cross is a 17 foot high stone cross erected in the eighth century at a former military site (later probably a monastery) in Dumfriesshire. The cross was pulled down and broken in the seventeenth century and partially reconstructed in the nineteenth. It is now located in a small apse on the north side of the Ruthwell church. The cross is perhaps best known to Anglo-Saxonists for a runic inscription that may be the oldest known record of an Anglo-Saxon vernacular poem (see Ó Carragáin 2005, 58-60; O’Donnell 1996, 287-288 for bibliography).
The Codex Vercellensis, or Vercelli Book, as it is known in the Anglo-Saxon world and now also in Italy, is a manuscript dating back to the end of the 10th century, containing miscellaneous religious works, in verse and prose. It is preserved in Vercelli, in the library of the S. Eusebio Cathedral under the index Codex CVII; it is made up of 136 folios of thin parchment, with a dimension of about 31×20 cm, well preserved, each of them containing between 23 and 32 lines. In the opinion of many scholars, the manuscript was written by a single scribe, who has been particularly diligent and meticulous in using the writing of that period, the Anglo-Saxon square minuscule.