"I sees Calvary wid de sacred trees, sees de thief en de murderer en de least of dese"
Lynching of John Heith
Public DomainLynching of John Heith - Credit: Noah Hamilton Rose
Crucifixion of Christ
Public DomainCrucifixion of Christ - Credit: Matthias Grünewald

Calvary is the spot, just outside the walls of ancient Jerusalem, where Christ is crucified after having been scourged, mocked and crowned with thorns. The sacred tree to which Reverend Shegog refers is the cross which Jesus is forced to carry to the site of his own execution (The Dream of the Rood, an Old English poem from around the 8th century, describes the cross as “syllicre trēow on lyft lædan lēohte bewunden, bēama beorhtost” –“ a most wondrous tree born aloft, wound round by light, brightest of beams”). The tree itself is thought to be dogwood (see note for page 64).  Alongside Jesus, two thieves are crucified. Another prisoner, Barabbas — a seditionist “who had committed murder in the insurrection” (Mark 15.7) — is released when the crowd demands for Jesus to be killed in his stead.