Origins of Foot Washing & Foot Kissing (Cameron Kippen)


NOTE: This article is taken from the Canadian Federation of Podiatric Medicine (CFPM). The author is a Podologist and Shoe Historian from Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia.

Research into the religious significance of the washing and kissing of bare feet was inspired by the recent “foot worship” scandal of George Passias who “washed” and kissed Ethel Bouzalas’ feet with his own mouth. The former priest was defrocked last year for his sexcapades which came to light in video format.

What may surprise you dear reader is Christians protected their feet by the patronage of the holy.

Byzantine mosaic of washing the disciples' feet, at the Monreale Cathedral, Italy
Byzantine mosaic of washing the disciples’ feet, at the Monreale Cathedral, Italy

Two Saints championed the legs and feet, St Peter (The Apostle). The Feast of Peter and Paul is June 29th; and Servatus (Servaas, Servatius or Servais), his Memorial Day is 13 may. Servatus is frequently depicted as a bishop with three wooden shoes.

In Biblical times shoes were made from animal skins, and these were difficult to clean. This may explain why shoes in the Old Testament, an agricultural society came to represent all that was unclean. The emblems of filth were left outside homes and considered quite unsuitable for holy places. Feet encased in footwear required to be purified and this responsibility usually fell to the lowest house servant. Foot bathing signified the status of an honored guest and put them at ease and comfort. It also kept the floors, clean. Foot washing was viewed as an honor or service and became a common Jewish custom at formal banquets and took place either on arrival or before the feast.

Foot washing, when undertaken by anyone other than the lowest servant in the household, took on significant symbolic importance. Most authorities recognize this humble action as deliberate act of humility, a mark of respect or deliberate self-humiliation. Ceremonial feet washing often involved marking the toe with blood or oil to symbolize either consecration or the cleansing of the entire person. This type of ritual was considered important before entering God’s house. Bathing feet in oil was also taken as a prospect of wealth. When Mary Magdalene washed the feet of Jesus with her tears and dried them with her hair, she also anointed them with expensive ointment. For this token of devotion, Christ forgave her sins then proceeded to remind his host that he had not been extended the same courtesy as would be appropriate to a welcome guest. Jesus then subverted the symbolism by washing the feet of his disciple’s feet at the Last Supper. Despite protestation he reminded his devotees the significance of foot washing, which is celebrated to this day. ‘I have done this to give you an example of something that you should do.’ Christ’s action demonstrated that service rather than status represented greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven. This action prepared his disciples (and their converts) to walk in the path of righteousness. Christians adopted the Hebrew foot washing ceremony and in some religious faiths this is still considered as one of the three ordinances (sacrament) i.e. baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and foot washing.

An Emperor Kissing the Pope's Feet, Illustration from 'Acts and Monuments' (John Foxe)

Foot washing acts as a renewal of baptism and commitment to living God’s way of life. Foot washing is still practised in one form or other throughout the world on the Thursday before Good Friday. Popes, religious leaders, and monarchs have all honoured the commitment to faith and humanity. In the UK the ceremony was often accompanied with the distribution of alms in the form of food and drink, clothes and money. Until 1689, in the reign of William & Mary, the monarchs personally washed the feet of the selected poor. Foot cleaning was replaced by specially minted coins, called Monday Money. To this day the custom is still celebrated on the day before Good Friday, when Her majesty the Queen distributes specially minted money to the poor. A man and woman are chosen to represent each year of the monarch’s life and given the special coins in a church. The specially minted coinage is worth much more than its face value.

Pope Francis Kissing the foot of a Muslim boy
Pope Francis Kissing the foot of a Muslim boy

Proskunew describes a Persian custom, which involved kneeling and putting the face to the ground. This sometimes involved kissing the ground. Taken as the act of submission, respect, gratitude, supplication, neediness, and humility. This was used on all sorts of occasions. Thought to have originated as a non-verbal greeting where men of equal rank would kiss each other on the lips. An inferior kissed his superior on the cheeks, and where one was much less noble rank than the other, he fell to the ground in homage. Considered to have become ritualized at the oriental courts, depending on rank, visitors would prostrate themselves, kneel in front of, bow for, or blow a kiss to the king. There may have been practical reasons for blowing a kiss as halitosis was thought to be common. Magicians would use the same technique in order to prevent contamination of the sacred fire. Alexander the Great (327) spread his empire to incorporate others and naturally took Iranians to serve at his court. To win his or her respect and support he had to act like a Persian king, and ordered everybody to behave according to the oriental court ritual. The court custom, caused consternation amongst the Greeks as prostration, bowing or kneeling, to anyone other than the Gods was unacceptable. Despite violent opposition it is not clear whether Alexander the Great’s attempt at cultural infliction, succeeded.

However, proskynesis was commonly practiced at the courts of his successors and remnants remain today occidentals, still bow for kings and queens. By the time of the Old Testament the custom had passed in judicial behavior and when an accused was brought before the judge, he lay prostate. If found guilty, the judge would place his foot on their neck. If innocent the judge would stoop over and lift their face with his hand. Lifting the face was a Hebrew concept, which equaled a declaration of innocence in a judicial, proceeding. When Muslims bow towards Mecca this is another reference to proskynesis and by contrast the posture of early Christian worship. was standing.

Saint Francis, complete with his own stigmata, fondles and kisses the bleeding wounds of Jesus
St. Francis, complete with his own stigmata, fondles and kisses the bleeding wounds of Jesus

According to Brasch (1989), kissing the feet was a gesture of homage and deference, far removed from its erotic roots. Millions of pilgrims with loving pressure have worn down the feet of the statue of Saint Paul in Rome with their lips. At the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire it was the custom for the faithful to kiss the right hand of the Papal Father. In the eighth century, a rather passionate woman took liberties and according to legend, the Pope cut off his hand in disgust. The custom of kissing the Pope’s right foot was adapted as more appropriate. Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) had kings and churchmen kiss his feet. Today the act of homage involves kissing the Pontiff’s right shoe. Lips are aimed at the cross-depicted on the shoe. This is either taken as a tribute to his authority or the simulation of servitude.



The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches practice the ritual of the Washing of Feet on Holy and Great Thursday (Maundy Thursday) according to their ancient rites. The service may be performed either by a bishop, washing the feet of twelve priests; or by an Hegumen (Abbot) washing the feet of twelve members of the brotherhood of his monastery. The ceremony takes place at the end of the Divine Liturgy.

After Holy Communion, and before the dismissal, the brethren all go in procession to the place where the Washing of Feet is to take place (it may be in the center of the nave, in the narthex, or a location outside). After a psalm and some troparia (hymns) an ektenia (litany) is recited, and the bishop or abbot reads a prayer. Then the deacon reads the account in the Gospel of John, while the clergy perform the roles of Christ and his apostles as each action is chanted by the deacon. The deacon stops when the dialogue between Jesus and Peter begins. The senior-ranking clergyman among those whose feet are being washed speaks the words of Peter, and the bishop or abbot speaks the words of Jesus. Then the bishop or abbot himself concludes the reading of the Gospel, after which he says another prayer and sprinkles all of those present with the water that was used for the foot washing. The procession then returns to the church and the final dismissal is given as normal.

Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Theophilos washes the foot of a priest during a ceremony in Jerusalem's Old City
Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem Metropolitan Theophilos washes the foot of a priest.


In the scriptures scholars accept feet were used as metaphors for the genitalia. Keen to downplay emphasis on the generative process which was more pagan, the ancient Hebrews took the foot and made it a gender icon.
‘And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in. I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night.’ (Gen 19:2)
In Isaiah (7:20) reference was made to the hair of the feet. Most authorities interpret this passage to mean pubic hair. By sexualizing the feet, there was need to cover them from uninvited gaze. In the vision of the Lord’s glory, Isaiah described the six wings of the seraphims.
‘and with twain he covered his feet.’ (Isaiah 6:2)
Centuries later, Christian art avoided showing feet of the Devine with only the more risque artists risking ex communication, by tempting viewers to glimpses of uncovered feet. Angels were painted with large wings, which covered their feet, hence, a representation of modesty. The term shoe, which had its derivation in Old English (Anglo Saxon), describes a cover but not as protection, instead it meant to partially conceal, in an alluring manner. In Biblical times feet were not sexually attractive but could become so, when embellished with sandals. The penis metaphor is most obvious in the Book of Ruth.
‘And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down ; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do.’ (Ruth 3:4)

Another sex tapes involves Ethel Bouzalas rubbing her feet on Father George Passias’s face.
Ethel Bouzalas rubbing her feet on Fr. George Passias’s face.


Pilgrims carrying the good news of God’s Salvation had beautiful feet:

‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publish salvation; that saith unto Zion, The God reigneth!’ Is 52:7

‘Behold upon the mountains the feet of him that bringeth good tidings that publisheth peace!’ Nahum 1:15
By the New Testament those spreading the Gospels wore sandals.

‘And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;’ Ephesians 6:15

The ancient custom of falling voluntary at another’s feet was taken as a mark of reverence.
‘And I fell at his feet’ 1 Sam 25: 24

‘And Esther spake yet again before the king, and fell down at his feet..’ Esher 8:3.
Many who met Jesus were described to fall to their feet.
‘And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet.’ Mk 5:22

‘And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.’ Rev 1:17

Taking hold of the feet of another was considered an act of prayer.

‘And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet’ 2 Kings 4:27

‘And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.’ Mt 28:9
The action of touching a heel had profound meaning.
‘And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed ; it shall bruise thy head , and thou shalt bruise his heel.’ Genesis 4:15
Jacob meant ‘one who grabs the heel’ or ‘heel god’ in Hebrew.

‘He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with God:’ Hosea 12:3

‘And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel: and his name was called Jacob’ Gen 25:26
Images of heels were linked to potential disaster and the vulnerability of humanity.

‘The gin shall take him by the heel, and the robber shall prevail against him.’ Job 18:9

By the time of the New Testament, sitting at someone’s feet was considered an act of submission and tachability.
‘They went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus,’ Luke 8:35

‘And she had as sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard his word.’ Luke 10: 39

Spreading the Word of God across the known world would entail travelling. There is direct reference to Jesus Christ in the New Testament saying to his disciples to wear sandals whilst spreading the gospel. Later in the scriptures he is attributed to a statement not to be overburdened with footwear. Most scholars accept the latter to mean to travel light. By implication however as shoes and sandals were the preferred costume of the privileged then perhaps the Disciples were being directed to become more accepted by the higher social strata yet by the same token, not to appear too well attired to offend the poor. If sandals were to play an important role in the beginnings of Christianity then sandal makers and in particular sandal repairers would have a contributory role. Many affluent converts were disinherited from their family’s wealth yet compelled to spread the WORD, they needed an income for support themself. Many became sandal makers who worked by night whilst doing God’s work during day.

Sinful woman washes christ's feet
Sinful woman washes Christ’s feet





Christmas Stories in Christian Apocrypha: The birth of Jesus in the apocryphal gospels (Tony Burke, 2015)

NOTE: This Bible History Daily [Biblical Archaeology Society] article was originally published on December 10, 2014. It has been updated.

The presepio (nativity scene) is a centuries-old craft and one of Naples’s best-known traditions. This Neapolitan presepio was displayed in Rome.

One of the most familiar images of the Christmas season is the nativity scene—the well-known depiction of Jesus’ birth—displayed in an array of public and private settings, including churches, parks, store windows and on fireplace mantles. The scene, first assembled by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223, is iconographic, meaning its various elements are intended primarily to depict theological—not historical, nor even literary—truths. It harmonizes two very distinct stories: Luke’s birth of Jesus in a stable, visited by shepherds, and attended by an angelic host and Matthew’s Magi, who are led by a star to the home of Jesus’ family sometime before Jesus’ second birthday.

To most people viewing the nativity scene, it depicts the birth of Jesus as it happened, with farm animals, shepherds, angels and Magi crowding the Bethlehem stable. But the combination is apocryphal, in the wide sense that the complete scene is not an accurate reflection of what the Biblical texts say about Jesus’ birth and in the narrow sense that such harmonization of Matthew and Luke is a common feature of noncanonical Christian infancy gospels. Actually, these gospels not only combine the Biblical stories, they enhance them, with additional traditions about the birth of Jesus that circulated in antiquity. Of course most Christians throughout history were unaware of this distinction; before widespread literacy, Christians told the story of Jesus’ birth without awareness of which elements were based on Scripture and which were not.

The Christian Apocrypha are rich with tales of the birth of Jesus. The earliest and most well-known of these are the stories found in the Protevangelium (or “Proto-Gospel”) of James. Composed in the late second century, this text combines the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke with other traditions, including stories of the Virgin Mary’s own birth and upbringing. The Protevangelium was exceptionally popular—hundreds of manuscripts of the text exist today in a variety of languages, and it has profoundly influenced Christian liturgy and teachings about Mary. The Protevangelium was transmitted in the West as part of the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, which added to it tales of the Holy Family’s sojourn in Egypt and, in some manuscripts, stories of Jesus’ childhood taken from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Other Pseudo-Matthew manuscripts incorporate a different telling of Jesus’ birth from an otherwise lost gospel that scholars call the Book about the Birth of the Savior. In the East, the Protevangelium was translated into Syriac and expanded with a different set of stories set in Egypt to form the Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was later translated into Arabic as the Arabic Infancy Gospel. Another Syriac reworking of theProtevangelium lies behind the Armenian Infancy Gospel. Christians in the East also expanded on Matthew’s Magi traditions creating the Revelation of the Magi, the Legend of Aphroditianus, and On the Star (erroneously attributed to Eusebius of Caesarea), each of which in their own way narrates how the Magi became aware that the star heralded the birth of a king.

If readers of these apocryphal texts could see the modern nativity scenes, they would be surprised to find the baby Jesus in a stable: In the infancy gospels, the birth takes place in a cave outside of Bethlehem, the same location given also by Justin Martyr (in his Dialogue with Trypho 78), who died around 165 C.E. They might have expected also to see a midwife in the scene; indeed, she does appear regularly in Eastern Orthodox depictions of the nativity, helping Mary bathe the newborn. As theProtevangelium tells it, Joseph left Mary in the cave and went into Bethlehem to find a midwife. But as Joseph and the midwife approached the cave, they saw a bright cloud overshadowing it. The cloud then disappeared into the cave and a great light appeared, which withdrew and revealed the baby Jesus. Each of the later expansions of the Protevangelium narrate this scene in their own unique way, but they all endeavor to show that Jesus was not born in a natural manner, thus allowing Mary to remain physically a virgin after the birth. So superhuman is Jesus that some texts report that he could be perceived in multiple forms. The Armenian Infancy Gospel, for example, reports that the Magi each saw him in a different way: as the Son of God on a throne, as the Son of Man surrounded by armies, and as a man tortured, dead and resurrected.

The apocryphal accounts agree with Luke that the shepherds visited the Holy Family shortly after Jesus’ birth. In the Western texts, the family then moves from the cave to a stable and places the baby in a manger. There an ox and an ass bend their knees and worship him, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 1:3, “The ox knows it owner, and the donkey its master’s crib” (see Pseudo-Matthew 14 and Birth of the Savior 86). Though an apocryphal embellishment, the animals became a common ingredient in subsequent depictions of the nativity and may be observable in nativity scenes today.

Most often, the cave remains the scene of subsequent events, including the circumcision (from Luke 2:21) and the visit of the Magi. The Magi are typically depicted in art and iconography as three richly-adorned Persian kings. However, Matthew calls them only “magi from the East” (Matthew 2:1) and does not say how many there were. The writers of the apocryphal texts did their best to clarify these matters. In the Revelation of the Magi, there are at least twelve Magi—the same number is given in other Syriac traditions—and they came to Bethlehem in April (not December) from a land in the Far East called “Shir,” perhaps meant to be understood as China. The Armenian Infancy Gospel says there were three kings, and they were accompanied by 12 commanders, each with an army of 1,000 men, which would make for a very crowded stable indeed. Many of the texts continue the story of the Magi and tell what happened when they returned to their home country: In theLife of the Blessed Virgin (=Arabic Infancy Gospel) they bring back one of Jesus’ swaddling bands, which they worship because it has miraculous properties; in the Revelation of the Magi they share the vision-inducing food (some kind of magic mushrooms?) given to them by the star; and in the Legend of Aphroditianus they return with a painting of Jesus and his mother. None of these apocryphal Magi traditions are featured in nativity scenes today, but some of them influenced medieval art and literature.

Christians of all times and places have delighted in the story of Jesus’ birth, so much that they have yearned to learn more about the first Christmas than is found in the Biblical accounts. The Christmas nativity scene is the outcome of efforts by creative and pious writers to fill in blanks left by Matthew and Luke and to combine multiple traditions, Biblical and non-Biblical, into one enduring image. The nativity scene is a timeless representation of when God became man; it is also a testament to human imagination and the art of storytelling.

This small tripartite painting, The Nativity with the Prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel, is part of a massive altarpiece known as the Maestà. Composed of many individual paintings, the Maestà was commissioned by the Italian city of Siena in 1308 from the artist Duccio di Buoninsegna. It contains elements of the birth of Jesus from Christian Apocrypha, including the cave, the ox, the ass and the midwife.

Interested in learning about the birth of Jesus? Learn more about the history of Christmas and the date of Jesus’ birth in the free eBook

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The Legend of Lot and the Tree of the Cross (Holy Tradition)

This legend is told at the Greek Convent of the Cross, which lies in a charming and flowery valley near Jerusalem. In the old church there, interesting also far its frescos and mosaics, is a series of paintings illustrating the story, and under the altar a little fresco of the last scene, Lot watering the Tree of the Cross. In front of the altar is a circle of marble inset into the floor and there pilgrims kneel in adoration, while the priest, letting down a long spoon into the cave below, brings them up a tiny pinch of that blessed earth in which once the Holy Tree of the Cross did grow. The story told in the church runs as follows:

Room of the Holy Tree: Monastery of the Cross, Jerusalem
Room of the Holy Tree: Monastery of the Cross, Jerusalem

“Abraham before he died gave Lot three shoots to plant and these he set where now stands the convent of the Cross, and they remained green, but did not grow at all.

After his departure from Sodom, Lot fell into sin, and was warned by an angel that he could not be saved unless the shoots grew, and to ensure this he must water them with water from the River Jordan. So he went down with his donkey into the valley to get the water. On his way back, as he passed by the Inn of the Good Samaritan, a pilgrim (some say a Russian pilgrim) met him and begged for a drink and so thirsty was that pilgrim that he drank the skin dry.

The left panel shows (from left to right) Lot escaping the destruction of Sodom, Abraham giving lot the triplet seeding, and Lot planting the tree.
The left panel shows (from left to right) Lot escaping the destruction of Sodom, Abraham giving lot the triplet seeding, and Lot planting the tree.

There was nothing for it but to go down again to the river and bring water up again, but again on his return a pilgrim met him and drank the skin dry. This happened three times and Lot was in despair when the angel appeared to him and told him that the pilgrim was the Evil One in disguise set there to tempt him and that as he had passed the test satisfactorily he might now go and water the shoots. This he did, and the shoots immediately began to grow, and became a tree, which was seen to be of three kinds, Cedar, Cypress and Pine.”

The picture of Lot watering the strange Tree with its three branches of divers kinds, is the last of the series in the church, but the priest, when explaining them, tells further how the Tree stood until cut down by the Jews for the Temple of Solomon.

Rejected by the workmen, it was recognized and worshipped by the Queen of Sheba, and on her advice, stowed away by Solomon in his store houses below the Temple until the time appointed.

The center panel starts from Lot who waters the Holy Tree from the waters of the Jordan river. Many years later it is cut down, and its wood are hauled by two men to the crucifixion site.
The center panel starts from Lot who waters the Holy Tree from the waters of the Jordan river. Many years later it is cut down, and its wood are hauled by two men to the crucifixion site.

Other versions of the legend are told in Jerusalem; the following one, told by one of the monks at the convent of S. Gerasimus by the Dead Sea, carries the story back to Adam.

“When Adam lay dying he thought on that fair Garden from which he had been cast forth and he sent his son Seth to pray that he might be given one fruit from the Tree of Life. So Seth came after many days to the Gate of the Garden and begged the angel to give him the fruit. This could not be, but God in His mercy permitted the angel to give him three seeds which he placed in his father’s mouth before death came, and they were buried with him. From the Patriarch’s grave there sprang a tree unlike all other trees, far though always green it grew not and remained so throughout the years, unknown of men.

Now after Lot had fled from Sodom he fell into grievous sin and was warned by an angel that his only hope of forgive­ness was to carry water from the River Jordan and water with it that small tree that grew on Adam’s grave.

So Lot set forth with his donkey, filled his water skin from Jordan, and returned to Jerusalem. On the way there he met a thirsty pilgrim who asked for a drink and when it was granted, drank the skin dry. He went down again to Jordan and again on his return he met a pilgrim who drank the water and after this had happened a third time Lot was exhausted and fell by the way.

Lot watering the Holy Tree -- Monastery of the Cross, Jerusalem
Lot watering the Holy Tree — Monastery of the Cross, Jerusalem

Then the angel appeared once more and Lot said, “What shall I do? If I give not drink to the thirsty I do a great wrong, and if I water not that tree I cannot be saved; and now I am faint and like to die.”

But the angel said, “Fear not, each time thou didst give drink to a pilgrim an angel watered the tree.”

Then Lot died in peace.

Now these legends have come down from the medieval legends of the Cross,[2] the best known version of which is contained in the Legenda Aurea, called ‘Golden,’ “for like as passeth golde in valewe all other metallys so this legend excelleth all other books.”[3]

What is curious in the Jerusalem version is the prominence of the story of Lot and the Watering of the Tree, an episode which does not occur at all in the Golden Legend.[4] Perhaps this may be explained by the special honour in which Lot is held in Palestine. To the Moslems he is a prophet of righteousness; he is also the eponymous hero of the Dead Sea (Bahr Lut) and the people of the Cities of the Plain were the People of Lot. More, he has become a Christian saint, and there is even a church dedicated to him in Trans Jordan, the ruined Khirbet Mukhayat, with its lovely mosaics and inscription therein to “Holy Lot.” The story of the Queen of Sheba is found in the mediaeval ver­sions of the west but not of the east, while the idea that the cross was made of different woods is found not only in these but in many earlier writers. ‘the Venerable Bede says that they were of four kinds, box, cypress, cedar and pine, John Cantacumene averred that only three were used, cedar, cypress and pine, as in our version, others said they were cypress, palm and olive, or cedar, cypress and olive. In the Golden Legend “there were four manner of trees, that is of palm, of cypress, of cedar, and of olive.” Interpretations are given of the mean­ing of the woods, it has been said “the Cross was made of the palm of victory, the cedar of incorruption, and the olives of royal and priestly benediction,”[5] or again, the cedar signifies power, the cypress suffering, and the olive joy and peace. Most interesting is the mention of the palm wood because the Tree of Life was very early conceived of as the palm tree.

Now in the Golden Legend Seth goes to the Garden of Eden to procure the ‘oil of Mercy’ for his dying father and receives three grains of the fruit of the Tree, which he lays under Adam’s tongue. The Tree here is the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, for later we read: “the Cross by which we be saved came of the tree by which we be damned,” while in our Jerusalem legend the Tree of the Cross grew from the seeds of the Tree of Life. It is as if in the Golden Legend, by the inclusion of the Palm, the Tree of the Cross was given descent from both the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life.[6]

The wood is brought to the crucifixion site, and Jesus is hammered to the cross, with the Roman soldiers watching on the left side and Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene on the right background.
The wood is brought to the crucifixion site, and Jesus is hammered to the cross, with the Roman soldiers watching on the left side and Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene on the right background.

With these legends must also be connected the story that the Cross was actually erected on the skull of Adam, which is commemorated in the Chapel of Adam in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – there where the first Adam was buried did the second Adam prevail. In such ways as these did the loving imagination of the faithful in mediaeval times link together the Tree of the Cross with the Trees of Eden and that Tree of Life that grew “in the holy city Jerusalem” whose leaves “were for the healing of the nations.”

  The last panel, just above the place of the Holy tree, shows Jesus crucified on the cross with the two women witnesses.
The last panel, just above the place of the Holy tree, shows Jesus crucified on the cross with the two women witnesses.


  1. See Hanauer, “Folk Lore of the Holy Land,” pp. 36-39. The legend is not known at Artas, it is only told among Christians. In one version the three shoots are given to Abraham by the angels and are mistakenly thrown into the fire by Sarah. Abraham, seeing that the shoots remain miraculously unburnt, rescues them and gives them to Lot to plant. Some of the pictures in the Church show another variant still, a little devil isseen slyly emptying away the water from the vessel borne by Lot’s donkey.
  2. “Legenda Aurea Sanctorum,” written by Jacopus de Voragine in the 13th See Ashton, “The Legendary History of the Cross.” (1887).
  3.  de Worde. (1498).
  4. There is a Greek legend of Lot and the Tree in Fabricius, Cod. Pseudepigr. VT., I.428-431. (See Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible).
  5. W. Seymour, “The Cross in History, Tradition and Art (1898), p. 97.
  6. xxii. 2. The Tree of Life here was thought to be the palm tree, because “she yielded her fruit every month,” and the date palm was supposed to put forth a shoot each month.

A small hole within a decorated bronze plate marks the place where the holy Tree once stood.
A small hole within a decorated bronze plate marks the place where the holy Tree once stood.