[HNW] vines/Welsh needlework

Sarah Randles s-randles at adfa.edu.au
Sun Mar 23 20:58:49 PST 2003

Gerald said:
>Scrolling vines were non-pagan enough to be fine for church use.

The scrolling vine is more than 'non-pagan'.  Although its origins are
certainly pre-Christian it gets adopted into Christian iconography where
the tree of life becomes symbolically synonymous with the cross of the
crucifixion.  An example of the way this works is in the Bury St. Edmunds
Cross in the Cloisters museum (10th c. English from memory), which shows
Christ crucified on a living tree.  A similar theme is used in the 10th c.
English poem, The Dream of the Rood.  Elsewhere where you see vines in
Christian iconography, one level of meaning can be that of the crucifixion
and redemption.  The other place the inhabited vine shows up in Christian
iconography is the Tree of Jesse - which usually shows the sleeping Jesse
at the bottom with his descendents, including King David, the Virgin and
Christ all 'inhabiting' the branches of the vine.  Examples in medieval
embroidery include an opus Anglicanum cope in the V&A and an applique
hanging in the Landesmuseum at Braunschweig, both 14th c.

And sometimes, they're just vines ...

Sarah Randles
s.randles at adfa.edu.au

Australian National Dictionary Centre
Australian National University
ACT 0200
Phone: (02) 6125 0476 Fax: (02) 6125 0475
(On Thursdays and Fridays, I am at the School of English, ADFA on Ph: (02)
6268 8387, same e-mail address.)

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