Piero della Francesca: The Legend of the True Cross in the Church of San Francesco in ArezzoEdited by Anna Maria Maetzke and Carlo Bertelli (Milan, Italy: Skira, 2000; distributed in the U.S. by Rizzoli [www.rizzoliusa.com]) 340 pages, 230 color and 30 b&w illus., $75.00 (hardback)
Helena’s discovery of the true cross is only one stage in an elaborate history of the cross that developed in medieval Europe. The complicated story conflates Old Testament and New, ancient history and myth. It begins with a sapling from Eden, from which the cross will eventually be carved; it ends with a Byzantine battle against the Persians. The cast of characters includes Adam, Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, the Roman emperors Constantine and Heraclius, angels and Jewish wise men.