The prevailing idea was that the Cross was formed of three or more woods; either that the various parts were made, each from one of the three in that trinity springing from one root or, an idea not consistently followed, that the three woods were amalgamated, forming one trunk, out of which the upright beam was fashioned, thus containing in one beam the qualities of the three plants. And again, this peculiar growth was produced from three seeds containing three properties, although the fruit of one and the same tree.Share
It is curious to see how the same traditions will last through ages, taken from or added to, until in the last edition the earliest form is unrecognizable. Even Mandeville (fourteenth century) must have had very simple faith in the tradition — by his time much confused — to speak in his travels of a tree that was then lying as a bridge over the Kedron “of which the Cross was made.”
The Venerable Bede (c. 673-735) and John Cantacuzenus (c. 1292-1383) both record the idea that the Cross was composed of four kinds of wood: cypress, cedar, pine, and box. Innocent says the upright was of one wood, the transverse beam of another, the title of a third, and that the feet were supported on a projecting step made of a fourth wood. In England a notion existed that the wood was mistletoe, then a tree, but that ever since the Crucifixion it has been but a parasite. The aspen leaf was said to tremble because the Cross was of that wood.
In some parts of England the elder tree is supposed to have been the wood of the Cross, and to the present day some reverend peasants carefully look through their faggots before burning them for fear there should be any of this wood among them. (Read more.)