Lewis, Bonnie, et. al. "Christian Symbols - The Cross." Faithology.com. Faithology, 18 January 2013. Web. 11 March 2014.
Lewis, B., et. al. (2013, Jan 18). Christian Symbols - The Cross. Faithology.
Lewis, Bonnie, et. al. "Christian Symbols - The Cross" Faithology, LLC. Last modified January 18, 2013.
Faithology, LLC, 2012. (Accessed Mar 11, 2014).. Christian Symbols - The Cross.
- Last Updated: January 18, 2013
- Originally Published: July 24, 2012
The most famous and arguably the most important symbol of Christianity is the cross. It represents the sacrificial death of Jesus for the redemption of the world. There are over four hundred common depictions of the cross, of which, some fifty are used in representing Christ's death. The cross is used in paintings, statues, artifacts, modern jewelry, and more. Some Christians even use the cross in physical gestures, referred to as making the sign of the cross, for dedication or prayerful purposes.
The cross has dual meaning in both suffering and triumph. The Gospel accounts explain how Jesus carried his cross before he was nailed upon it. The details of hishave fashioned the cross into a symbol of suffering. However, Christians hold that Jesus's death on the cross was the essential component in the sacrifice and redemption of sins.
Therefore, the cross is also a common representation of Jesus's triumph over death. In the ancient church, the cross was used as a victorious symbol, as the "turning point" of the battle of humanity and. It also serves as a reminder to the community of the pattern of death, victory, and in their lives, as first demonstrated by Jesus.
The earliest use of the cross was in the Egyptian community, even before the Christian era, but the symbol was later adopted by Christians after the crucifixion of Jesus, and used for religious meaning. A cross-like symbol known as the ankh is the Egyptian symbol for life. It is a cross with a loop above the crossbeam and is now known within Catholicism as the handled cross. It was adopted by theChristians as part of the "Coptic Cross."
During the reign of Constantine, Christians were afraid to promote the symbol of the cross for fear of persecution. However, after Constantine's conversion to Christianity, he removed crucifixion as a means of execution, and crosses began to become popular as Christian symbols. With an emphasis on victory, the earliest images created by Christians to represent Jesus’ execution were crucifixes—crosses containing the image of Jesus—and Jesus was portrayed fully alive as a representation of his divine nature. This representation and focus of the cross was prominent until the 9th century, when artists began to focus on the gruesome details of the crucifixion of Jesus as described in the Gospels. Western artists showed signs of the torment and anguish of the crucifixion in their works. For example, where Romanesque crosses used to show a royal crown atop Christ's head, Western artists used a crown of thorns. The crown of thorns, placed atop Jesus’ head while on the cross, was a tool used by the Roman guards to humiliate Jesus and mock his claims of kingship. It not only represents physical pain, but also the pain of mocking and the alleged misunderstanding over the identity of Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
Today, there are many different types of crosses, each with a different meaning. Here are a few of the most popular:
The Latin Cross
Perhaps the most recognized depiction of the crucifix is the Latin Cross. This simple representation of the cross has been used for centuries as an emblem of the Christian faith. The Latin cross had a shorter horizontal arm that intersects a longer verticle arm above the center point. It is also known as “the Christian Cross.”
Cross Inside an Equilateral Triangle
The cross inside an equilateral triangle represents the Trinity's work in a person's . This symbol is often found atop pulpits in many churches, as decorations on altar fronts, and in many other places in both churches and homes. The cross at the center of this triangle can be very elaborate with floriated ends. A gold circle representing eternity is often added for additional decorative effect as well as an emphasis on the Christian doctrine of God’s unending nature, and the eternal effects of Jesus’ crucifixion.
The Crucifix is a cross with the image of Jesus Christ on it. Depicted in many ways over the centuries, Jesus is often pictured physically broken with his hands and feet nailed to the cross. Atop his head is the crown of thorns and he is barely clothed. An alternate version depicts a fully clothed Jesus, awake, and fully alive. His arms are separated from the cross and form a loving gesture of embrace. Rather than focusing on the crucifixion, this variant emphasizes the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and depicts his divine nature. A symbol of the Agnus Dei (Latin, “Lamb of God”) can also be placed in the center of the cross instead of Jesus.
The Celtic Cross
The Celtic cross is a widely known Irish cross that can be traced to very early Celtic Christians.Crosses of the primitive eras of Christianity were used in cemeteries as decorations and during funerals for burial purposes. The Celtic cross begins with a traditional cross figure and has a circle carved out of the center in order to represent the eternal importance and effect of the death of Jesus.
The Passion Cross
The Passion Cross is used in church services in the Christian community to draw attention to what is known as the "Passion of Christ", or the crucifixion. This is a traditional cross, except that each end comes to a point. It is also known as the "Cross Urdee", the "Cross Champain", the "Cross Pointed" or the "Cross of Suffering." This cross can be used to in reference to Christ's agony in the Garden of chalice, or in reference to Good Friday.if it appears above a
The Cross in Glory
Also called the Rayed Cross, this is a traditional cross, but has "rays of brilliance" coming from behind it. These rays are said to be from the sun shining behind it; they serve as a reminder to Christians of the victory Christ had over the death of the cross. Always white to depict the purity of Jesus, this cross is usually used in the Easter season only.
The Easter Cross:
Much like the Cross in Glory, the Easter Cross is a white Latin cross adorned with flowers, usually lilies, and is used for Easter celebrations. It is a reminder to Christians that Jesus Christ defeated the cross and rose on the third day.
The Cross of Triumph
This small Latin cross appears on a globe or orb. It depicts the reign that Christ has over all the earth. It is only used in reference to the triumph and victory of the crucifixion, not when referencing the pain and agony that Jesus endured. The Cross of Triumph is also called the Cross of Victory, the Cross of Conquest, and the Cross Triumphant.
The Cross in Tribulation
The Cross in Tribulation is used in reference to the end times and the triumph that Jesus will have over the earth. There is a large circle at the base of the cross that appears to magnify the bottom portion of the cross. This bottom portion does not come to an end, but instead, it extends to the right and the left. The circle represents the eternal significance and reign Jesus, and the base that is extended in both directions emphasizes that the reign of Christ has no beginning and no end.
The Cross and the Thorny Crown
The cross and the thorny crown is a small Latin cross that is used for Good Friday purposes in reference to the agony of the crucifixion. It is adorned with a crown of thorns, signifying the pain that Jesus felt, the mocking of the soldiers, and the kingship of Jesus.
The Cross of Iona
Much like the Celtic cross, the Cross of Iona has the circle of eternity cut out in the middle, and the ends of the cross come to a dramatic flat after being drawn outward.
The Cross Patee
One of the most famous and decorative forms of the cross, the Cross Patee, is a thick, short cross in which the sides arc out into a dramatic edge before becoming flat on each end. This cross is used mainly for decorative purposes, and many additions can be made to this cross in order to give it a more decorative and dramatic effect. Depending on the curvature of the sides of the cross, the name of this cross can be altered to describe it more accurately, like the Cross Patee Concave or the Cross Patee Invected.
The Cross and Banner of Victory
The Cross and Banner of Victory does not stand on its own, but instead is usually paired with the Agnus Dei (Latin, “Lamb of God”) or with a depiction of John the Baptist. It is a small Latin cross with a white banner draped across the top. The white banner depicts the purity of Jesus and the victory over death. The banner has three points and on it is a red Latin cross carried by the Lamb or the Baptist. It symbolizes both Jesus as the Lamb of God and also the proclamation of John the Baptist that Jesus was the Lamb of God or "Ecce Agnus Dei."
There are many Latin crosses that are used mostly for decorative purposes but are widely known: the Latin Cross Adorned, the Latin Cross Fimbriated, Latin Cross Botonnee, Latin Cross Fleuree, and the Latin Cross Clechee. These crosses are thin Latin crosses in which the ends resemble thewith the exception of the Latin Cross Fimbriated, which has traditional ends. The Cross Adorned has ends that are black while the Cross Boutonnee and the Cross Clechee are a lighter color. The Latin Cross Fimbriated and the Latin Cross Fleuree are a darker color.
Since the Middle Ages, the symbol of the cross is often paired with other Christian symbols including the Agnus Dei and the Greek letters A and Ω (alpha and omega, respectively). They are symbolic of the beginning and the end of the world.angels are depicted bearing a cross with the Greek letters ? and ? (chi and rho, respectively), also known as the monogram of Christ. Occasionally, crosses are adorned with precious stones and jewels, which are symbols for the Trinity.In early examples of the cross,
A second bar may be added to the top of any cross to signify the plaque nailed to the cross, upon which was inscribed INRI Latin letters which are the first letters of the phrase, Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum (Latin, "Jesus, King of the Jews"). Themes have always been added to the cross, including additional beams totaling three to signify the Trinity, and in the late medieval period, branches were added to signify the Tree of Life.