bēam, m.n: tree, cross, column, wood. (“beh-ahm”)

Today is the feast of the Invention of the True Cross.


Walrus ivory cross with silver fittings, evidently intended both as a reliquary (presumably for an enshrined piece of the True Cross) and as a pectoral cross. England, c. 1050. Image used with permission of the Victoria and Albert Museum. © V&A Images

And ϸæs embe twa niht   ϸætte tæhte God

Elenan eadigre   æϸelust beama,

on ϸam ϸrowode   ϸeoden engla

for manna lufan,   meotud on galgan

be fæder leafe.

—The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium), lines 83-87a

And it is after two nights that God showed to blessed Helena the noblest of crosses, on which the Lord of angels, the Creator on the gallows, suffered for the love of men, by his Father’s leave. (trans. by K. Karasawa)

Further information from Kazutomo Karasawa’s The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium) (Cambridge, 2015), p. 102:

The Invention of the True Cross (3 May) celebrates “…the supposed discovery of the True Cross in Jerusalem by St Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great. The event was first mentioned in Ambrose’s De obitu Theodosii.” The earliest version of the legend is thought to be Syriac, established by the end of the 4th or beginning of the 5th century. The feast on 3 May is first attested in 7th-century Gaul.

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