The Exaltation of the Cross

Here followeth the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The exaltation of the Holy Cross is said, because that on this day the Holy Cross and faith were greatly enhanced. And it is to be understood that, tofore the passion of our Lord Jesu Christ, the tree of the cross was a tree of filth, for the crosses were made of vile trees and of trees without fruit, for all that was planted on the mount of Calvary bare no fruit. It was a foul place, for it was the place of the torment of thieves, it was dark, for it was in a dark place and without any beauty. It was the tree of death, for men were put there to death, It was also the tree of stench, for it was planted among the carrions. And after the passion the cross was much enhanced, for the vilety was transported into preciousness. Of the which the blessed S. Andrew saith: O precious Holy Cross, God saw thee. His barrenness was turned into fruit, as it is said in the Canticles: I shall ascend up into palm tree, et cetera. His ignobility or unworthiness was turned into sublimity and height. The cross, that was torment of thieves, is now borne in front of the emperors, his darkness is turned into light and clearness; whereof Chrysostom saith: The cross and the wounds shall be more shining than the rays of the sun at the judgment. His death is converted into perdurability of life, whereof it is said in the preface that, from whence that the death grew, from thence the life resourded, and the stench is turned into sweetness, Canticorum I.

This exaltation of the Holy Cross is solemnised and hallowed solemnly of the church, for the faith is in it much enhanced. For the year of our Lord six hundred and fifteen, our Lord suffered his people much to be tormented by the cruelty of the paynims. And Cosdroe, king of the Persians, subdued to his empire all the realms of the world; and he came into Jerusalem and was afeard and adrad of the sepulchre of our Lord, and returned, but he bare with him the part of the Holy Cross that S. Helena had left there. And then he would be worshipped of all the people as a god, and did do make a tower of gold and of silver, wherein precious stones shone, and made therein the images of the sun and of the moon and of the stars, and made that by subtle conduits water to be hid, and to come down in manner of rain. And in the last stage he made horses to draw chariots round about, Iike as they had moved the tower, and made it to seem as it had thundered. And thus this cursed man abode in this temple, and delivered his realm to his son, and did do set the cross of our Lord by him, and commanded that he should be called god, of all the people. And as it is read in libro de mitrali officio: The said Cosdroe, resident in his throne as a father, set the tree of the cross on his right side instead of the sun, and a cock on the left side instead of the Holy Ghost, and commanded that he should be called father. And then Eraclius the emperor assembled a great host and came for to fight with the son of Cosdroe by the river of Danube; and then it pleased to either prince that each of them should fight one against that other upon the bridge, and he that should vanquish and overcome his adversary should be prince of the empire without hurting either of both hosts, and so it was ordained and sworn, and that whosomever should help his prince should have forthwith his legs and arms cut off and to be plunged and cast into the river. And then Eraclius commended him all to God and to the Holy Cross with all the devotion that he might, and then they fought long. And at the last our Lord gave the victory to Eraclius and subdued to him his empire. The host that was contrary, and all the people of Cosdroe, obeyed them to the christian faith, and received the holy baptism. And Cosdroe knew not the end of the battle, for he was adored and worshipped of all the people as a god, so that no man durst say nay to him. And then Eraclius came to him, and found him sitting in his siege of gold, and said to him: For as much as after the manner thou hast honoured the tree of the cross, if thou wilt receive baptism and the faith of Jesu Christ, I shall get it to thee, and yet shalt thou hold thy crown and realm with little hostages, and I shall let thee have thy life. And if thou wilt not, I shall slay thee with my sword, and shall smite off thy head. And when he would not accord thereto, he did anon do smite off his head, and commanded that he should be buried because he had been a king. And he found with him one, his son, of the age of ten years, whom he did do baptize, and lifted him from the font, and left to him the realm of his father; and then did do break that tower, and gave the silver to them of his host, and gave the gold and precious stones for to repair the churches that the tyrant had destroyed, and took the Holy Cross and brought it again to Jerusalem. And as he descended from the Mount of Olives and would have entered by the gate by which our Saviour went to his passion, on horseback, adorned as a king, suddenly the stones of the gates descended and joined them together in the gate like a wall, and all the people was abashed. And then the angel of our Lord appeared upon the gate, holding the sign of the cross in his hand, and said: When the king of heaven went to his passion by this gate, he was not arrayed like a king, ne on horseback, but came humbly upon an ass, in showing the example of humility, which he left to them that honour him. And when this was said, he departed and vanished away. Then the emperor took off his hosen and shoes himself, in weeping, and despoiled him of all his clothes in to his shirt, and took the cross of our Lord and bare it much humbly unto the gate. And anon the hardness of the stones felt the celestial commandment and removed anon, and opened and gave entry unto them that entered. Then the sweet odour that was felt that day when the Holy Cross was taken from the tower of Cosdroe and was brought again to Jerusalem from so far country and so great space of land, returned in to Jerusalem in that moment and replenished it with all sweetness. Then the right devout king began to say the praisings of the cross in this wise: O crux splendidior, et cetera. O cross more shining than all the stars, honoured of the world, right holy and much amiable to all men, which only wert worthy to bear the ransom of the world, sweet tree, sweet nails, sweet iron, sweet spear, bearing the sweet burdens, save thou this present company that is this day assembled in thy laud and praisings. And thus was the precious tree of the cross re-established in his place, and the ancient miracles renewed. For a dead man was raised to life, and four men taken with the palsy were cured and healed, ten lepers were made clean, and fifteen blind received their sight again. Devils were put out of men, and much people and many were delivered of divers sickness and maladies. Then the emperor did do repair the churches, and gave to them great gifts, and after returned home to his empire. And it is said in the Chronicles that this was done otherwise. For they say that when Cosdroe had taken many realms, he took Jerusalem and Zacharias the patriarch, and bare away the tree of the cross. And as Eraclius would make peace with him, the king Cosdroe sware a great oath that he would never make peace with christian men and Romans if they renied not him that was crucified, and adored the sun. And then Eraclius, which was armed with faith, brought his host against him, and destroyed and wasted the Persians with many battles that he made to them, and made Cosdroe to flee unto the city of Ctesiphont. And at the last Cosdroe had the flux in his belly, and would therefore crown his son king, which was named Medasan, and when Syrois, his oldest son, heard hereof he made alliance with Eraclius, and pursued his father with his noble people, and set him in bonds, and sustained him with bread of tribulation and with water of anguish, and at last he made to shoot arrows at him because he would not believe in God, and so died. And after this thing he sent to Eraclius, the patriarch, the tree of the cross, and all the prisoners. And Eraclius bare into Jerusalem the precious tree of the cross, and thus it is read in many chronicles; also Siby saith thus of the tree of the cross: That the blessed tree of the cross was three times with the paynims, as it is said in the History Tripartite: O thrice blessed tree on which God was stretched. This peradventure is said for the life of nature, of grace, and of glory, which came of the cross.

Text taken from Medieval Sourcebook: The Golden Legend (Aurea Legenda) - Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, 1275 - Englished by William Caxton, 1483.