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Tree of Life

cross branches crucifixion century

In the description of the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:9, two special trees are mentioned: the Tree of Life and the *Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (God specifically forbade *Adam and Eve to eat fruit from the latter tree). Paradisical life-giving trees are described in a vision of *Ezekiel (47:12) and in Rev. 22:2 as a feature associated with the *Heavenly Jerusalem. The connection between the *cross upon which Jesus was crucified with the Tree of Life was worked out by medieval theologians and mystics (notably Saint *Bonaventura) and amplified as well as confused by the popular legends of the *True Cross. Although a number of early images of the *Crucifixion depict the cross as a tree with lopped-off branches or stumps, the full-blown imagery of the cross with flowers, fruit, tendrils, and leafy branches develops largely in the twelfth century and is found often in later medieval examples. The image maintains the standard Crucifixion elements: Christ is shown on the cross, the Virgin *Mary, Saint *John, and other figures are often present; however the cross itself seems to be sprouting and growing—giving life through the *death of Jesus. Symbolic doves and grapes may be found among the branches and a pelican may perch on top. , Later fourteenth-century expanded compositions may include figure- or bust-filled roundels of *prophets and *an-cestors (combining the Crucifixion with the *Tree of Jesse) or various other typological figures.
Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil [next] [back] Tree of Jesse

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