The Christian cross, seen as a representation of the instrument of the crucifixion of Jesus, is the best-known symbol of Christianity. It is related to the crucifix (a cross that includes a corpus, usually a three-dimensional representation of Jesus' body) and to the more general family of cross symbols, the term cross itself being detached from the original specifically Christian meaning in modern English (as in many other western languages).[note 1]
The basic forms of the cross are the Latin cross with unequal arms (✝) and the Greek cross (✚) with equal arms, besides numerous variants, partly with confessional significance, such as the tau cross, the double-barred cross, triple-barred cross, cross-and-crosslets, and many heraldic variants, such as the cross potent, cross pattée, cross moline, cross fleury, etc.
John Pearson, Bishop of Chester (c. 1660) wrote in his commentary on the Apostles' Creed that the Greek word stauros originally signified "a straight standing Stake, Pale, or Palisador", but that, "when other transverse or prominent parts were added in a perfect Cross, it retained still the Original Name", and he declared: "The Form then of the Cross on which our Saviour suffered was not a simple, but a compounded, Figure, according to the Custom of the Romans, by whose Procurator he was condemned to die. In which there was not only a straight and erected piece of Wood fixed in the Earth, but also a transverse Beam fastned unto that towards the top thereof".
There are few extant examples of the cross in 2nd century Christian iconography. It has been argued that Christians were reluctant to use it as it depicts a purposely painful and gruesome method of public execution. A symbol similar to the cross, the staurogram, was used to abbreviate the Greek word for cross in very early New Testament manuscripts such as P66, P45 and P75, almost like a nomen sacrum. The extensive adoption of the cross as Christian iconographic symbol arose from the 4th century.
However, the cross symbol was already associated with Christians in the 2nd century, as is indicated in the anti-Christian arguments cited in the Octavius of Minucius Felix, chapters IX and XXIX, written at the end of that century or the beginning of the next,[note 2] and by the fact that by the early 3rd century the cross had become so closely associated with Christ that Clement of Alexandria, who died between 211 and 216, could without fear of ambiguity use the phrase τὸ κυριακὸν σημεῖον (the Lord's sign) to mean the cross, when he repeated the idea, current as early as the apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas, that the number 318 (in Greek numerals, ΤΙΗ) in Genesis 14:14 was interpreted as a foreshadowing (a "type") of the cross (T, an upright with crossbar, standing for 300) and of Jesus (ΙΗ, the first two letters of his name ΙΗΣΟΥΣ, standing for 18). His contemporary Tertullian rejected the accusation of Christians being "adorers of the gibbet" (crucis religiosi).[note 3] In his book De Corona, written in 204, Tertullian tells how it was already a tradition for Christians to trace repeatedly on their foreheads the sign of the cross.[note 4] The crucifix, a cross upon which an image of Christ is present, is not known to have been used until the 6th century AD.
The oldest extant depiction of the execution of Jesus in any medium seems to be the second-century or early third-century relief on a jasper gemstone meant for use as an amulet, which is now in the British Museum in London. It portrays a naked bearded man whose arms are tied at the wrists by short strips to the transom of a T-shaped cross. An inscription in Greek on the obverse contains an invocation of the redeeming crucified Christ. On the reverse a later inscription by a different hand combines magical formulae with Christian terms. The catalogue of a 2007 exhibition says: "The appearance of the Crucifixion on a gem of such an early date suggests that pictures of the subject (now lost) may have been widespread even in the late second or early third century, most likely in conventional Christian contexts".
The cross as a Christian symbol or "seal" came into use at least as early as the second century (see "Apost. Const." iii. 17; Epistle of Barnabas, xi.-xii.; Justin, "Apologia," i. 55-60; "Dial. cum Tryph." 85-97); and the marking of a cross upon the forehead and the chest was regarded as a talisman against the powers of demons (Tertullian, "De Corona," iii.; Cyprian, "Testimonies," xi. 21–22; Lactantius, "Divinæ Institutiones," iv. 27, and elsewhere). Accordingly the Christian Fathers had to defend themselves, as early as the second century, against the charge of being worshipers of the cross, as may be learned from Tertullian, "Apologia," xii., xvii., and Minucius Felix, "Octavius," xxix. Christians used to swear by the power of the cross
Catholics, Orthodox Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, members of the major branches of Christianity with other adherents as Lutheranism and Anglicans, and others often make the Sign of the Cross upon themselves. This was already a common Christian practice in the time of Tertullian.[note 4]
The Feast of the Cross is an important Christian feast. One of the twelve Great Feasts in Orthodox Catholic is the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14, which commemorates the consecration of the basilica on the site where the original cross of Jesus was reportedly discovered in 326 by Helena of Constantinople, mother of Constantine the Great. The Catholic Church celebrates the feast on the same day and under the same name (In Exaltatione Sanctae Crucis), though in English it has been called the feast of the Triumph of the Cross.
Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican bishops place a cross [+] before their name when signing a document. The dagger symbol (†) placed after the name of a dead person (often with the date of death) is sometimes taken to be a Christian cross.
Although Christians accepted that the cross was the gallows on which Jesus died,[note 5] they had already begun in the 2nd century to use it as a Christian symbol.[note 6] During the first three centuries of the Christian era the cross was "a symbol of minor importance" when compared to the prominence given to it later, but by the second century it was closely associated with Christians, to the point where Christians were mocked as "adorers of the gibbet" (crucis religiosi), an accusation countered by Tertullian.[note 3] and it was already a tradition for Christians to trace repeatedly on their foreheads the sign of the cross.[note 4] Martin Luther at the time of the Reformation retained the cross and crucifix in the Lutheran Church,[note 7] which remains an important feature of Lutheran devotion and worship today. Luther wrote: Crux sola est nostra theologia, "The cross alone is our theology."
On the other hand, the Great Iconoclasm was a wave of rejecting sacred images among Calvinists of the 16th century.[note 8] Some localities (such as England) included polemics against using the cross in worship. For example, during the 16th century, a minority of theologians in the Anglican and Reformed traditions Nicholas Ridley, James Calfhill, and Theodore Beza, rejected practices that they described as cross worship. Considering it a form of idolatry, there was a dispute in 16th century England over the baptismal use of the sign of the cross and even the public use of crosses. There were more active reactions to religious items that were thought as 'relics of Papacy', as happened for example in September 1641, when Sir Robert Harley pulled down and destroyed the cross at Wigmore. Writers during the 19th century indicating a pagan origin of the cross included Henry Dana Ward, Mourant Brock, and John Denham Parsons. David Williams, writing of medieval images of monsters, says: "The disembodied phallus is also formed into a cross, which, before it became for Christianity the symbol of salvation, was a pagan symbol of fertility." The study, Gods, Heroes & Kings: The Battle for Mythic Britain states: "Before the fourth century CE, the cross was not widely embraced as a sign of Christianity, symbolizing as it did the gallows of a criminal." This reaction in the Anglican and other Reformed Churches was shortlived and the cross became ubiquitous in these Christian traditions.
Jehovah's Witnesses do not use the symbol of the cross in their worship, which they believe constitutes idolatry. They believe that Jesus died on a single upright torture stake rather than a two-beam cross, arguing that the Greek term stauros indicated a single upright pole. Although early Watch Tower Society publications associated with the Bible Student movement taught that Christ was executed on a cross, it no longer appeared on Watch Tower Society publications after the name Jehovah's witnesses was adopted in 1931, and use of the cross was officially abandoned in 1936.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that Jesus died on a cross, however, their prophet Gordon B. Hinckley stated that "for us the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the living Christ." When asked what was the symbol of his religion, Hinckley replied "the lives of our people must become the only meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship." Prophet Howard W. Hunter encouraged Latter-day Saints "to look to the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of your membership." Images of LDS temples and the Angel Moroni (who is found in statue on most temples) are commonly used to symbolize the faith of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The cross suspended over the altar is the focal point of the entire Church interior, and reminds us to center our lives in Christ.
It was, however, the crucifix that became the most important and widely disseminated Lutheran devotional image.
Lutherans have always used crucifixes and crosses, candles, and objects of sacred art.
The ankh is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol that was most commonly used in writing and in art to represent the word for "life" and, by extension, as a symbol of life itself. Its use continued through the Coptic Egyptians who adapted it as the crux ansata, a variant form of the Christian cross.
The sign has a cross shape but with an oval loop in place of an upper bar. The origins of the symbol are not known, although many hypotheses have been proposed. It was used in writing as a triliteral sign, representing a sequence of three consonants, Ꜥ-n-ḫ. This sequence was found in several Egyptian words, including the words meaning "mirror", "floral bouquet", and "life". In art the symbol often appeared as a physical object representing either life or substances such as air or water that are related to it. It was especially commonly held in the hands of deities, or being given by them to the pharaoh, to represent their power to sustain life and to revive human souls in the afterlife. It was one of the most common decorative motifs in ancient Egypt and was adopted by neighbouring cultures as an artistic motif. Since the late 20th century, in the Western world, the symbol has come to be used decoratively, as a symbol of African cultural identity, Neopagan belief systems, and the Goth subculture.Armenian Cross
An Armenian cross is a symbol that combines a cross with a floral postament or elements. In the Armenian Christianity it was combined with the Christian cross and this design was often used for high crosses (khachkar) – a free-standing cross made of stone and often richly decorated.Bruckless
Bruckless (Irish: an Bhroclais, meaning "badger's den") is a tiny village in southwest Donegal, Ireland, with a population of around 69. It lies on the N56 national secondary road which links it to Donegal Town 20 km east and to Killybegs 7 km west. The village overlooks McSwyne's Bay, an inlet in Donegal Bay. Bruckless is part of the Roman Catholic parish of Killaghtee and the diocese of Raphoe. In the Church of Ireland, it is covered by the parish of Inver and the diocese of Diocese of Derry and Raphoe.
The parish church, the Church of Saints Joseph and Conal, is noted for its round tower and there are numerous archaeological artifacts in the area, including early Christian cross slabs. The village pub is called Mary Murrins, and the village also has a small shop. The village is in close ties with neighbouring town Dunkineely due to the amount of Roman Catholics in the general population.Carolingian cross
The Carolingian cross, or Cross of triquetras, is a Christian cross symbol formed by triquetras, associated with Emperor Charlemagne of the Holy Roman Empire.Celtic cross
The Celtic cross is a form of Christian cross featuring a nimbus or ring that emerged in Ireland and Britain in the Early Middle Ages. A type of ringed cross, it became widespread through its use in the stone high crosses erected across the islands, especially in regions evangelized by Irish missionaries, from the 9th through the 12th centuries.
A staple of Insular art, the Celtic cross is essentially a Latin cross with a nimbus surrounding the intersection of the arms and stem. Scholars have debated its exact origins, but it is related to earlier crosses featuring rings. The form gained new popularity during the Celtic Revival of the 19th century; the name "Celtic cross" is a convention dating from that time. The shape, usually decorated with interlace and other motifs from Insular art, became popular for funerary monuments and other uses, and has remained so, spreading well beyond Ireland.Christian cross variants
This is a list of Christian cross variants. The Christian cross, with or without a figure of Christ included, is the main religious symbol of Christianity. A cross with a figure of Christ affixed to it is termed a crucifix and the figure is often referred to as the corpus (Latin for "body").
The term Greek cross designates a cross with arms of equal length, as in a plus sign, while the Latin cross designates a cross with an elongated descending arm. Numerous other variants have been developed during the medieval period.
Christian crosses are used widely in churches, on top of church buildings, on bibles, in heraldry, in personal jewelry, on hilltops, and elsewhere as an attestation or other symbol of Christianity.
Crosses are a prominent feature of Christian cemeteries, either carved on gravestones or as sculpted stelae. Because of this, planting small crosses is sometimes used in countries of Christian culture to mark the site of fatal accidents, or, such as the Zugspitze or Mount Royal, so as to be visible over the entire surrounding area.
Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran depictions of the cross are often crucifixes, in order to emphasize that it is Jesus that is important, rather than the cross in isolation. Large crucifixes are a prominent feature of some Lutheran churches, as illustrated in the article Rood. However, some other Protestant traditions depict the cross without the corpus, interpreting this form as an indication of belief in the resurrection rather than as representing the interval between the death and the resurrection of Jesus.
Several Christian cross variants are available in computer-displayed text. The Latin cross symbol ("✝") is included in the unicode character set as "271D". For others, see Religious and political symbols in Unicode.Church (building)
A church building or church house, often simply called a church, is a building used for Christian religious activities, particularly for Christian worship services. The term is often used by Christians to refer to the physical buildings where they worship, but it is sometimes used (by analogy) to refer to buildings of other religions. In traditional Christian architecture, the church is often arranged in the shape of a Christian cross. When viewed from plan view the longest part of a cross is represented by the aisle and the junction of the cross is located at the altar area.
Towers or domes are often added with the intention of directing the eye of the viewer towards the heavens and inspiring visitors. Modern church buildings have a variety of architectural styles and layouts; many buildings that were designed for other purposes have now been converted for church use, and, conversely, many original church buildings have been put to other uses.
The earliest identified Christian church building was a house church founded between 233 and 256. From the 11th through the 14th centuries, a wave of building of cathedrals and smaller parish churches were erected across Western Europe. A cathedral is a church building, usually Roman Catholic, Protestant (including Anglican), Eastern Orthodox, or Oriental Orthodox, housing a cathedra, the formal name for the seat or throne of a presiding bishop.Coptic cross
The term Coptic cross may refer to a number of Christian cross variants associated in some way with Coptic Christians.
"Coptic crosses" are often shown with arms dividing into three points each (also called "Ethiopian cross" or "Axum cross";
Liungman (2004) shows a symmetrical cross fleury. Bertran de la Farge (in La Croix occitane) identifies a cross crosslet as "croix copte (4ème siècle)" and cites it as a predecessor of the Occitan cross somewhere in the marquisate of Provence, probably Venasque. Old Coptic crosses often incorporate a circle, as in the form called a "Coptic cross" by Rudolf Koch in his The Book of Signs (1933). Sometimes the arms of the cross extend through the circle (dividing it into four quadrants), as in the "Celtic cross".Cross
A cross is a geometrical figure consisting of two intersecting lines or bars, usually perpendicular to each other. The lines usually run vertically and horizontally.
A cross of oblique lines, in the shape of the Latin letter X, is also termed a saltire in heraldic terminology.Cross Rhythms (magazine)
Cross Rhythms was the eponymously titled music magazine produced by the Christian media organisation of the same name. It was founded under the name Cross Rhythms Magazine by editor Tony Cummings and printer Mark Golding in April 1989, with the first issue being made available in May 1990. Two years later, publication of the magazine was taken over by Cornerstone House, a publishing company owned by Chris Cole. After partnering with Christian radio station United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) in 1995, the magazine was given more financial stability. Around this time, Cross Rhythms had a circulation of approximately 15,000. Around 2000 Cross Rhythms's official website was launched, which continued online after the paper magazine ceased publication in the summer of 2005 with its 85th issue. As of August 2009, the website is the sixth most viewed Christian website in the UK.Cross Rhythms centred almost exclusively on contemporary Christian music, with only the occasional review of more mainstream music. Each issue included interviews with musicians and bands, reviews of various albums and compilations, and features on music festivals or productions. Each issue also included a CD, narrated by Mike Rimmer, containing a selection of the songs featured in the magazine. Later issues featured Edges, a series of commentaries on major issues by communicator Mal Fletcher, and That Mysterious Cross, a series on the Christian cross by Chip Kendall of thebandwithnoname.Cross moline
The cross moline (also cross anchory, French croix ancrée "anchor cross") is a Christian cross, constituting a kind of heraldic cross.Cross pattée
A cross pattée (or "cross patty" or "cross Pate", known also as "cross formée/formy" or croix pattée) is a type of Christian cross which has arms narrow at the centre, and often flared in a curve or straight line shape, to be broader at the perimeter. The form appears very early in medieval art, for example in a metalwork treasure binding given to Monza Cathedral by Queen Theodelinda (d. 628), and the 8th century lower cover of the Lindau Gospels in the Morgan Library. An early English example from the start of the age of heraldry proper (i.e. about 1200) is found in the arms of Baron Berkeley.Cruciform
Cruciform means having the shape of a cross or Christian cross.Knezha
Knezha (Bulgarian: Кнежа, pronounced [knɛˈʒa]) is a town in Pleven Province, Northern Bulgaria. It is the administrative center of the homonymous Knezha Municipality. As of December 2009, the town has a population of 11,191 inhabitants.The town's name is most probably derived from the Slavic word knyaz ("prince, duke"), most likely after a local ruler that defended the population in the area during the Ottoman rule of Bulgaria. Knezha is the third-largest town in the province, after Pleven and Cherven Bryag, and is the administrative centre of a municipality. The town was located in Vratsa province until 2001, when a boundary change shifted the town into Pleven province.
A local landmark is the 17-metre (56 ft) steel Christian cross constructed on a hill overlooking the town. The cross' construction was financed entirely by donations. It has luminescent lighting bodies attached to it and is illuminated in blue at night. The cross is similar to the larger Millennium Cross above Skopje. Knezha also has a historical museum and an amateur theatre performing in the local community centre (chitalishte). The Institute on Maize of the Agricultural Academy is based in Knezha; it was founded in 1924.
Notable natives include weightlifter and Sydney 2000 Olympic gold medalist Galabin Boevski (b. 1974), Bulgaria international footballer Valentin Iliev (b. 1980) and Bulgarian Army general and long-time Chairman of the National Assembly of Bulgaria Ferdinand Kozovski (1892–1965).Latin cross
A Latin cross or Crux immissa is a type of cross in which the vertical beam sticks above the crossbeam. This is the main representation of the cross by which Jesus Christ was crucified. The Latin cross began as a Roman Catholic emblem but later became a universal symbol of Christianity. If displayed upside down it is called St. Peter's Cross because he was reputedly executed on this type of cross. When displayed sideways it is called St. Philip's cross for the same reason.A Latin cross plan is a floor plan found in many cathedrals and churches. When looked at from above or in plan view it takes the shape of a Latin cross (crux immissa). The Latin cross plans have a nave with aisles or chapels, or both and a transept that forms the arms of the cross. It also has at least one apse that traditionally faces east. Many also have a narthex at the entry.Papal cross
The papal cross is a Christian cross, which serves as an emblem for the office of the Pope in ecclesiastical heraldry. It is depicted as a staff with three horizontal bars near the top, in diminishing order of length as the top is approached. The cross is thus analogous to the two-barred archiepiscopal cross used in heraldry to indicate an archbishop, and seems to have been used precisely to indicate an ecclesiastical rank still higher than that of archbishop. In the past, this design of the cross was often used in ecclesiastical heraldry as a distinctive mark of his office. It was often merely an artistic device, as use of a staff or crosier was not part of the traditional papal insignia. However, at least one staff surmounted with a papal cross does exist.
Symbolism connected with the papal powers have been attached to the three crossbars, similar to the symbolism attached to the three bands on the papal tiara.Patriarchal cross
The Patriarchal cross (☨) is a variant of the Christian cross, the religious symbol of Christianity. Similar to the familiar Latin cross, the patriarchal cross possesses a smaller crossbar placed above the main one so that both crossbars are near the top. Sometimes the patriarchal cross has a short, slanted crosspiece near its foot (Russian Orthodox cross). This slanted, lower crosspiece often appears in Byzantine Greek and Eastern European iconography, as well as in other Eastern Orthodox churches.
The Byzantine Christianization came to the Morava Empire in the year 863, provided at the request of Rastislav sent Byzantine Emperor Michael III. The symbol, often referred to as the patriarchal cross, appeared in the Byzantine Empire in large numbers in the 10th century.
For a long time, it was thought to have been given to Saint Stephen by the pope as the symbol of the apostolic Kingdom of Hungary.
The two-barred cross has been one of the main elements in the coat of arms of Hungary since 1190. It appeared during the reign of King Béla III, who was raised in the Byzantine court. Béla was the son of Russian princess Eufrosina Mstislavovna. The cross appears floating in the coat of arms and on the coins from this era. In medieval Kingdom of Hungary was extended Byzantine Cyril-Methodian and western Latin church was expanded later.The two-barred cross in the Hungarian coat of arms comes from the same source of Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire in the 12th century. Unlike the ordinary Christian cross, the symbolism and meaning of the double cross is not well understood.
In most renditions of the Cross of Lorraine, the horizontal bars are "graded" with the upper bar being the shorter, though variations with the bars of equal length are also seen.Russian Orthodox cross
Russian Orthodox cross or Orthodox cross, is a variation of the Christian cross known from the 6th century in the Byzantine Empire. The cross has three horizontal crossbeams and the lower one is slanted. Nowadays it is a symbol of the Russian Orthodox Church and a distinctive feature of the cultural landscape of Russia. Other names: Byzantine, Russian, Slavonic or Suppedaneum cross.
It was introduced in the 6th century before the break between Catholic and Orthodox churches. It was used in Byzantine frescoes, arts and crafts. In 1551 during the canonical isolation of the Russian Orthodox Church the Grand Prince of Moscow Ivan the Terrible for the first time in history started to use this cross on the domes of churches. In addition from this time it started to be depicted on Russian state coat of arms and military banners. In the second half of 19th century this cross was promoted by the government of Russian Empire in the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania as a part of Russification politics.
The Russian Orthodox cross of the Russian origin has only two horizontal crossbeams and the lower one is slanted. Some Russian sources distinguish the Russian Orthodox cross and the Orthodox cross. In Unicode the symbol (☦) is denoted as Orthodox cross. The same USVA headstone emblem is called Russian Orthodox cross.Saint Thomas Christian cross
Saint Thomas Christian crosses are ancient crosses that belonged to the ancient community of Saint Thomas Christians of India, who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of St Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. It is thus one of the oldest Christian communities of the world. Saint Thomas Christian crosses are broadly classified as Mar Thoma Sleeva (Saint Thomas Cross), Persian Cross, and Nasrani Sthambam.
Mar Thoma Sleeva are found at Kadamattom, Muttuchira, Kothanalloor, Kottayam and Alangad in the South Indian state of Kerala. Outside Kerala, they are found in Goa and Tamil Nadu in India, Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka and Taxila in Pakistan. Flowery Persian Crosses are found at Kottakkavu, Pallipuram and Niranam. The large open air rock crosses known as Nasrani Sthambams are found at the frontage of many Saint Thomas Christian churches in Kerala. It is recorded that before the arrival of Portuguese explorers there were more than 150 Syrian churches in Kerala.
Christian cross variants