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September 14.

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, A. D. 629. St. Catharine of Genoa, A. D. 1510. St. Cormac, Bp. of Cashel, and king of Munster, A. D. 908.

Holy Cross,



Holy Cross is in our almanacs and the church of England calendar on this day, whereon is celebrated a Romish catholic festival in honour of the holy cross, or, as our ancestors called it, the holy rood. From this denomination Holy-rood-house, Edinburgh, derives its name.

The rood was a carved or sculptured groupe consisting of a crucifix, or image of Christ on the cross, with, commonly, the virgin Mary on one side, and John on the other; though for these were sometimes substituted the four evangelists, and frequently rows of saints were added on each side.*[1]

The rood was always placed in a gallery across the nave, at the entrance of the chancel or choir of the church, and this gallery was called the rood-loft, signifying the rood-gallery; the old meaning of the word loft being a high, or the highest, floor, or a room higher than another room. In the rood-loft the musicians were stationed, near the rood, to play during mass.

The holy roods or crosses being taken down at the time of the reformation, the rood-loft or gallery became the organ-loft or singing gallery, as we see it in our churches at present: the ancient rood-loft was usually supported by a crossbeam, richly carved with foliage, sometimes superbly gilt, with a screen of open tabernacle-work beneath.† [2]

When the roods, and other images in churches were taken down throughout England, texts of scripture were written on the walls of the churches instead. The first rood taken down in London was the rood belonging to St. Paul's cathedral, and then all the other roods were removed from the churches of the metropolis.‡[3]

The holy rood, at Boxley, in Kent, was called the Rood of Grace; its image, on the cross, miraculously moved its eyes, lips, and head, upon the approach of its marvelling votaries. The Boxley Rood was brought to London, and Hilsey, bishop fo Rochester, within whose diocese it had performed wonders under the papacy, took it to pieces at St. Paul's cross, and showed the people the springs and wheels by which, at the will of the priests, it had been secretly put in motion.§[4] The open detection and destruction of this gross imposture, reconciled many, who had been deceived, to the reformation.

The festival of Holy Cross, or as it is more elaborately termed by the Catholics, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, is in commemoration of the alleged miraculous appearance of the cross to Constantine in the sky at mid-day. It was instituted by the Romish church on occasion of the recovery of a large piece of the pretended real cross which Cosroes, king of Persia, took from Jerusalem when he plundered it. The emperor Heraclius defeated him in battle, retook the relic, and carried it back in triumph to Jerusalem.

According to Rigordus, a historian of the thirteenth century, the capture of this wood by Cosroes, though it was recaptured by Heraclius, was a loss to the human race they never recovered. We are taught by him to believe that the mouths of our ancestors "used to be supplied with thirty, or in some instances, no doubt according to their faith, with thirty-two teeth, but that since the cross was stolen by the infidels, no mortal has been allowed more than twenty-three!"*[5]

Nutting appears to have been customary on this day. Brand cites from the old play of "Grim, the Collier of Croydon:"—

"This day, they say, is called Holy-rood day,
And all the youth are now a nutting gone."

It appears, from a curious manuscript relating to Eton school, that in the month of September, "on a certain day," most probably the fourteenth, the scholars there were to have a play-day, in order to go out and gather nuts, a portion of which, when they returned, they were to make presents of to the different masters; but before leave was granted for their excursion, they were required to write verses on the fruitfulness of autumn, and the deadly cold of the coming winter.*[6]

"Tuesday, Sept. 14, 1731, being Holy-rood day, the king's huntsmen hunted their free buck in Richmond New park, with bloodhounds, according to custom."[7]


Passion Flower. Passiflora cœrulea.
Dedicated to the Exaltation of the Cross.

Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:

1. Fosbroke's British Monachism. [return]

2. Ibid. [return]

3. Stow's Chron. [return]

4. Hume. [return]

5. Brady's Clavis Calendaria. [return]

6. Slater's Schol. Eton, A. D. 1560, M. G. Donat. Brit. Mus. 4843 Brand. [return]

7. Gentleman's Magazine. [return]