Holyrood (cross)

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The Holyrood or Holy Rood is a Christian relic considered to be part of the True Cross on which Jesus died. The word derives from the Old English rood, meaning a cross, or from the Scots haly ruid ("holy cross"). Several relics venerated as part of the True Cross are known by this name, in England, Ireland and Scotland.

Black Rood of Scotland[edit]

Saint Margaret (c.1045–1093), a Saxon Princess of England, was born in Hungary. Following the conquest of England by the Normans in 1066, she fled to Scotland, where she married Malcolm III Canmore, King of Scotland. She is said to have brought the "Holy Rood", a fragment of Christ's cross, from Hungary or England to Scotland with her. It was known as the Black Rood of Scotland.

The Catholic Encyclopedia reports that Saint Margaret brought the cross from Waltham Abbey, after which it was kept in Holyrood Abbey, which her son erected in Edinburgh.[1]

The relic was removed from Scotland by Edward I of England in 1296, along with the Stone of Scone and other treasures, but the Black Rood was returned in 1328. It was lost to the English again following the battle of Neville's Cross in 1346, after which it was held in Durham Cathedral until the Reformation of 1540, when it was presumably destroyed.[2]

An inventory made in England described the cross and its case in Latin soon after it was taken from Edinburgh Castle in 1296 as; "Unum scrinium argenteum deauratum in quo reponitur crux que vocatur le blake rode", which can be translated as "A silver-gilt casket in which lies the cross called the Black Rood".[3]

Holy Cross Abbey[edit]

A fragment of the Holy Rood was brought to a Cistercian Abbey in Thurles, County Tipperary, Ireland by Isabella of Angoulême, widow of King John of England, and thenceforth the Abbey was called Holy Cross Abbey. The relic was lost following the Cromwellian war in Ireland. However, it was later found and is currently in the Abbey.

Waltham Abbey[edit]

The term is also applied to the black flint cross formerly held at Waltham Abbey in Essex, England. The Holy Rood or Cross was the subject of veneration and pilgrimage in the middle ages, but disappeared when the Abbey was dissolved in 1540.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hunter-Blair, Oswald (1910). "Holyrood Abbey. In: The Catholic Encyclopedia.". New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 2015-10-25. 
  2. ^ McRoberts, David. "Note 10". Saint Margaret Queen of Scotland. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  3. ^ Ayloffe, Joseph, Calendar of Ancient Charters, (London 1774), 330
  4. ^ "Waltham Abbey". Britannia.com. Retrieved 2013-12-03.