The interpretation of visual images involves considering not only the materiality of individual art objects and their immediate contexts of patronage, location and function but also the complex social and cultural elements of the imaginative world in which they were formed. For the medievalist faced with the scale and importance of religious art from the seventh to the fifteenth centuries, an essential part of the task is to understand the nature and variety of the connection between religious images and texts. The connection with the written word is most obviously apparent in the illumination of biblical, liturgical and devotional texts, which was a major art form throughout the period, but images in other media, including liturgical metalwork and carved ivory, often have allusive or contrapuntal inscriptions as an integral part of their design. 1 Even large-scale works such as wall paintings and stained glass, displayed in places of public worship, generally pre-suppose that the viewer, whether technically literate or not, has some familiarity with Scripture and with particular ways of seeing it. The identification of biblical subject matter alone is rarely enough to enable the modern viewer to understand the original function and possible meaning of images that do not simply illustrate biblical narratives but also offer an interpretation of their significance, drawing on ancient traditions of reading the text. The present chapter first briefly outlines some of those interpretative traditions and then considers their diverse and changing influences on the visual arts in the Middle Ages by examining the central Christian image of the Cross in examples taken from various times, media and contexts.