1902 Encyclopedia > Cross


CROSS (Latin, crux ; Greek, _____). In its simplest aspect, a figure produced by the intersection of two lines at right angles, the cross in its primary signification ia understood to denote an instrument for inflicting capital punishment, or a gibbet formed of two pieces of wood fixed together cross-wise without any reference to their relative proportions. Metaphorically, the term cross implies death thus inflicted, and so it becomes synonymous with crucifixion, and is often used to denote any exceptionally severe pain or heavy trial. The manner in which Christ suffered has caused the cross, as the instrument for crucifixion, either to be associated directly or indirectly with His death, or to be regarded as having a reference to that fundamental fact of Christian history. And the same fact may be assumed to be symbolized by the cross in every modification of form and variety of adornment in use. for whatsoever purpose, throughout Christendom.
The ancient practice of execution by hanging criminals on trees apparently led to the adoption of crosses con-structed for a similar purpose. Hence, hanging from some part of a tree and the being fixed to a cross appear to have conveyed to the Bomans the same import ; accordingly the expressions infelix arbor and infelix lignum, each of which may consistently be rendered " the accursed tree," alike denoted crucifixion (Cicero, Pro liabir., 3; Seneca, Ep., 101; Tertull., Ap. viii. 16).
The barbarous execution by crucifixion, of which traces are to be found from remote times among the nations of the East and North, was carried into effect in two forms —(1) when the sufferer was left to perish bound to a tree or an upright stake, sometimes after being impaled ; and (2) when by nails driven through his hands and feet, his limbs also sometimes further secured by cords, the sufferer was fixed with outstretched arms to a cross having a horizon-tal bar as well as a vertical stake. The terms employed in the Gospel narratives render it certain that Christ thus was crucified. According to Lipsius (De Cruce, i. 5-9) and Gretser (De Cruce Christi, vol. i. c. 1), a single upright stake was distinguished as crux simplex, while to the actual cross, formed of two pieces of wood, the name crux composita or compacta was applied. The crux composita, compound cross, or " cross " properly so called, appears under the following modifications of form :—Crux immissa or capilata, formed as in this figure f ; crux commissa or ansata, thus formed, J; and crux decussata, when the cruciform figure is set diagonally after the manner of the Roman letter X. It was upon a crux immissa that Christ is generally believed to have died. This cross is a " Latin cross," when the shaft below the transverse bar is longer than that part which rises above the transverse bar, as "j" ; and when the four limbs are of equal length, as in +, it is a " Greek cross." The X, or crux decussata is further distinguished as the " St Andrew's cross," in consequence of the apostle Andrew, according to a tradition, having been crucified on a cross of this form. The crux commissa, J, is also entitled the " Cross Tau," from the Greek capital T ; and in the Middle Ages it was distinguished as the " cross of St Anthony."
The gratuitous barbarity of scourging as a prelude to crucifixion, and of compelling the condemned sufferer to carry his cross, or one of the parts of it, to the place of execution, were but too strictly in keeping with the cruel character of the Romans. Crucifixion with the head downwards, of which Seneca speaks (Consolat. ad Marc, c. xx.), the mode in which St Peter is said to have chosen to suffer, was a refinement on the barbarity of the cross no less consistent with Boman cruelty.
The well-known legend of the " Invention of the Cross" (commemorated on the 3d of May), or the finding the actual cross on which Christ had suffered, by the Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, rests on the

concurrent testimony of four Byzantine ecclesiastical historians (Bufinus, i. 7 ; Socrates, i. 13 ; Theodoret, i. 18 ; and Sozomen, ii. 1), who all wrote between 75 and 100 years after the incidents related, and whose story was accepted and supported by Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose, andChrysostom (seealso Tillemont, Mem. Eccles., the chapter on Helena, and Jortin's Remarks, vol. iii.). The story is to the effect that the empress, when visiting the scenes hallowed by the Saviour's ministry and sufferings, in the seventy-ninth year of her age (326), was guided to the site of Calvary by an aged Jew who had treasured those local traditions which the anti-Christian animosity of the heathen conquerors of Jerusalem had not been able to obliterate. On excavation at a considerable depth three crosses were fouud ; and with them was the title placed by Pilate's command on the cross of Christ, lying apart by itself. The cross of Christ was identified by a miracle, one only of the three crosses found having proved to be endowed with the power of instantaneous healing conveyed by a touch. This test by miracle was applied at the suggestion of Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem ; and its result, of course, was held to be con-clusive. Having built a church over the site of the " Invention," where she deposited the greater part of the supposed real cross, Helena took the remainder to Byzan-tium, whence a portion of it was sent by Constantine to Bome, where it was placed in the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, built expressly to receive so precious a relic. A festival to commemorate the discovery of this relic soon was established ; pilgrimages, undertaken in order to obtain a sight of it, next followed ; then fragments of the sacred wood were sold at high prices to wealthy votaries ; and, after a while, in order to meet the exigencies of the case, the Roman ecclesiastical authorities assured the increasing crowds of anxious purchasers that the wood, if no longer working miracles of healing, exercised a power of miraculous self-multiplication, ut detrimenta non sentiret, et quasi intacta permaneret (Paulinus, Ep. xi. ad Lev.). In the 13th century, what remained of the portion of the cross taken by Helena to Constantinople is said to have been removed, during the reign of St Louis, to Paris, and to be still preserved in the Sainte Chapelle.
After the capture of Jerusalem by the Persians, in 614, the remains of the cross were taken to his capital by Chosroes If.; but, having been recovered by Heraclius (628), they were brought by him to Constantinople, and after-wards to their former resting-place in Jerusalem, where their re-appearance was said to be hailed with a miraculous welcome. In after times this restoration was comme-morated by the festival of the " Exaltation of the Cross," held on the 14th of September. The transient revival of the Christian power in Jerusalem was speedily followed (637) by the conquest of the Holy City by the Saracens, by whom the cross relic may be assumed to have been destroyed; at all events, after the Saracen conquest nothing more is heard of that relic in connection with Jerusalem. A subterranean chapel, however, said to have been built upon the site of Helena's church, and which bears the title of the " Chapel of the Invention of the Cross," still exists, and is connected by a flight of steps with the so-called Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The piece of wood supposed to have been inscribed with the title placed upon the cross or Christ, and found with the three crosses by Helena, and retaining traces of Hebrew and Roman letters, is said to be still preserved at Rome, whither it was sent by Constantine. After having been long lost to sight and apparently to remembrance also, this relic—so goes its history—was accidentally discovered in the leaden chest in which it had been deposited by Constantine ; and both the fact of its discovery and the genuineness of the relic itself were attested by a Bull of Pope Alexander III. The earliest writers are silent as to the kind of wood .of which the title-board and also the three crosses were made ; but a tradition, which notwith-standing its extreme improbability may be traced to a very early era, represents the true cross to have been formed either of cypress, pine, and cedar, or of cedar, cypress, palm and olive. (See facsimile reproduction, 1863, 4to, by J. P. Berjeau, of the History of the Holy Cross, originally printed by J. Veldeuer in 1483.)
In connection with the discovery of the cross itself and its attendant title, the nails used at the crucifixion, and asserted to have been included in the " Invention" by Helena, have a legendary history of their own. One of the original four is declared to have been thrown by the empress herself into the Adriatic when agitated by a violent storm, with the effect of producing an instanta-neous calm. A second nail after having been placed either in his crown or in his helm by Constantine, is said to have been found in a mutilated state in the church of Santa Croce. The Duomo of Milan claims the possession of the third nail, and Treves that of the fourth. It must be added that some early traditions limit the number of the nails to three; while, on the other hand, certain writers have raised the number of the nails as high as fourteen, for the safe keeping of each one of which places have been found. In the illustrations of the crucifixion given by Lady Eastlake (History of our Lord, vol. ii.), sometimes we find a single nail, and at other times two nails, used for the feet. That accomplished lady seems to consider the separa-tion of the feet with a nail for each to be characteristic of the earlier conceptions of the crucifixion, which present Christ after He had been nailed on the cross as still " alive and erect, and apparently elate; His feet always separate, and with two nails upon the footboard, or sup-pedaneum (a Greek feature), to which they were attached ; the arms at right angles with the body, the hands straight, the eyes open." The suppedaneum is supposed to have been a piece of wood projecting slightly from the shaft of the cross beneath the feet of the sufferer, with a view to afford some support to his body. It is in the later representations that one of Christ's feet appear placed over the other, the ankles being crossed, when a single nail pierces both the feet, or both the ankles. For many curious particulars concerning representations of the crucifixion and its attendant incidents in early and medieval art, readers are referred to Lady Eastlake's volume ; also to Mrs Jameson's Legends of the Madonna, and Sacred and Legendary Art. Early writers all incline to the more probable opinion that Christ was attached to the cross while it lay on the ground; Bonaventura. however (born 1221), states that he ascended a ladder, and was nailed to the cross standing, after the cross itself had been erected and fixed in its position. " The impress of each opinion is seen in art," writes Lady Eastlake (Hist, of our Lord, ii. pp. 130-133), " that of our Lord ascending the ladder on the cross being the earliest, that of His extending himself on the ground being the most frequent." A remarkable example of the latter opinion occurs in the sculpture of one of the bosses in the vaulting of the twelfth bay of the nave of Norwich Cathedral, where the figure of Christ is further represented as having the extremities of the limbs drawn by cords to the shaft and the ends of the transverse beam of the cross, as a preliminary to the driving the nails. The cross, when raised and fixed erect, doubt-less elevated the sufferer to no unnecessary height, his feet' then probably being not more than 18 or 20 inches above the surface of the ground. In comparatively late mediaeval heraldry the cross, with the other instruments connected with crucifixion—as the hammer, nails, ladder crown of

thorns, spear, hyssop, scourge, seamless coat, and dice —were often blazoned on shields introduced in Gothic edifices and upon monumental memorials, as " Symbols of the Passion."
The name crucifix is applied to a Latin cross, in size either small or large, to which a human figure, designed to represent the body of Christ when suffering crucifixion, is affixed.
As a symbol of the Christian faith at once pre-eminently characteristic and significant, the cross in various modifications of its form would naturally be adopted on very many occasions, and used in a diversity of ways throughout the Christian world. Scarcely less natural also was it that from an early era Christian writers should have treated the symbolism of the cross with fanciful and even extravagant refinement, and endowed it with mysterious attributes ; while superstition, which as time advanced threw so baneful a shadow over Christianity itself, would not fail to deal after its own fashion with the sign of the cross. It is curious, on the other hand, that a cruciform device having diverse significations should have occupied a prominent position among the many sacred and mystic figures and symbols connected with the mythologies of heathen antiquity. Such certainly was the case in Egypt, Assyria, Persia, and India, and also among the Scandinavian races of the North. Possibly the cross figure sometimes may have found its way among heathen symbols in early Christian times ; and, again, the presence of the great symbol of Christianity in such an alliance on other occasions may have suggested an early Christian influence that never had any real existence. In the Middle Ages the cross sign was universally held to be the special and distinctive symbol of Christianity, as, to the present day, the cross and the crescent are symbols which distinguish the faith of the Christian from that of the Moslem.
In the great art of Christian architecture, and throughout the entire range of mediaeval decorative art, the cross sign has exercised a most powerful influence. The ground on which the grandest churches, as well as many others of a less aspiring order were erected, was made to assume a cruciform plan, so that the very walls from their foundations upwards might carry with them, as they rose, the image of the sacred sign, to receive its crowning figure displayed in the ridge-lines of their roofs. Crosses, exhibiting an endless variety of form, proportion, and adornment, surmounted the loftiest and most important architectural members of cathedrals and churches ; and here and there upon the masonry they attested the consecration for Christian wor-ship of the buildings which bore them; five crosses, in like manner (their number determined by the five wounds of the crucified Christ) gave similar witness to the consecra-tion of every altar slab ; and monumental stones of every kind in the pavements of the churches repeated the same great sign, to proclaim that each one of the dead who rested there had died in the faith. With the triumph of Christianity, the cross at once was recognized as a universal symbol of the highest dignity and honour. It was made of the most precious materials, enriched with the most costly gems, and adorned with most exquisite art. The cross became the proudest ensign upon royal diadems ; and it gave both their form and their name to the noblest insignia of knightly rank. The cross crowned the sceptres of princes ; and the greatest warriors were proud to see the cross as well in the hilts of their swords as in the banners under which they fought. In private life also the cross was held in corresponding estimation ; and, accordingly, the most beautiful and most highly prized personal orna-ments appeared in some cruciform type. Thus was art taught to aid in realizing the enthusiastic sentiment of Justin Martyr, when he said (Apol. i. 72)—" The sign of the cross is impressed upon the whole of nature. There is hardly a handicraftsman, also, but uses the figure of it among the implements of his industry. It forms a part of man himself, as may be seen when he raises his hands in prayer."
The simplest treatment of the plain rectangular cross (fig. 1), with a view to its enrichment, may be assumed to have consisted either in expanding each limb from the point of their common intersection, and so forming a " Maltese

FIGS. 1-6.—Varieties of Cross.
cross " (fig. 2), or by giving some ornamentation to each limb at its extremity (fig. 3). The expanded cross, when of Greek proportions (fig. 2), would readily suggest having its extremities bounded by curved lines, and then the inclosure of such a cross within a circle would naturally follow (fig. 4). The next step would be either to place a circular disc upon the cross, as at Iona (fig. 5), or to extend the limbs of the cross beyond the circle, as in fig. 10, the west gable cross of Washburn Church in Worcestershire, or in fig. 6,

also at Iona. In any of these cases the addition of a shaft would produce a Latin cross. The circular band, again, thus associated with a cross would naturally lead to the introduction of decorative accessories specially connected with itself, as in fig. 11, from the gable cross of the nave of the church at Castle-acre, Norfolk. The combination of an erect cross with a diagonal one would be another modification, producing a cross of eight points, easy of attainment, and one that in its turn would suggest and lead to a variety of further modifications of construc-tion, with many diversified enrichments. From known examples still in existence, and in fair if not perfect preservation, it is evident that the mediaeval artists delighted to expatiate in the wide field opened out before them for designing the cross sign under fresh conditions of both form and decoration. They wrought leaves and flowers into cruciform figures, and adorned their crosses with foliage in every degree of richness. They made the cross both simple and compound ; they introduced it in combination with other figures and devices; and they composed it from figures and devices, each one of them having some definite motive or significance of its own.
Market and other Crosses.— In addition to acting as a finial to gables, as in figs. 10 and 11, and in fig. 12 from the east gable of the nave of Hethersett Church in Norfolk, and also to various other architectural members of edifices, the symbol which surmounted them gave its name in the Middle Ages to certain structures well known a3 " crosses." These include market-place crosses, open arched and vaulted structures, sometimes of considerable size; churchyard crosses, usually consisting of a tall shaft raised on steps and often much enriched, and either surmounted by a bold cruciform figure, or having a canopied head with statuettes and a cross finial; and wayside crosses, in their general character resembling those erected in churchyards, designed to commemorate some memorable incident on the spot where it took place. Many of these crosses still exist in

different parts of England, and some are of very early date; the Irish crosses, also, are eminently curious and

interesting. Upright architectural crosses of memorial, erected with a view to their being expressly associated with sepulchral commemoration, may be considered to form a distinct class. Such are the beautiful and justly famous Eleanor crosses, originally nine in number,— at Lincoln, Nor-thampton, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St Alban's, Waltham, and Cheap and Charing in London. From the accounts of the executors of Queen Eleanor it appears that the whole of these crosses, designed to mark the places where the funeral procession of the first Edward's first consort halted for rest, were executed and erected between 1291 and 1294. The cross at Geddington, generally considered one of the "Eleanor" series, is not recorded in the roll ; and of the nine therein specified two only now are standing,—those at Northampton and Waltham.

Monumental crosses upon stone coffin lids or sepulchral slabs, which in England first appear at the close of the 11th century, and from that period gradually become general, are executed either in low relief or by incised lines ; in some instances the two methods of treatment are com-bined. Occasionally repeated in the same example, the cross sign, exhibiting a truly wonderful variety of design, at first appears alone, the shaft or stem almost always con-siderably elongated, and often enriched with sprouting foliage or some other ornamentation. Fig. 13, from Strad-sett church, Norfolk, and fig. 14, from Bosbury, Here-

Fig. 13. Fig. 14.
FIGS. 13 and 14,—Monumental Crosses.
fordshire, are characteristic examples of enriched monu-mental crosses. When the elongated shaft of a cross on a slab rises from two or more steps at its base, it is said to be a Calvary cross. After a while, a brief inscription is found to have been added. Then the further addition appears to have been introduced of some device or figure, which might symbolize the profession, occupation, rank, or office of the person commemorated,— such as a pastoral staff for a prelate, a chalice for a priest, a sword for a knight, a trumpet for a trumpeter, a bell for a bell-founder, a hammer and pincers with a sword for an armourer, a horse-shoe and hammer for a smith, &e. In a few instances, a knightly sword placed erect in the centre of a slab either acts as the shaft of a cross, or with its cruciform guard to the hilt the figure of the weapon itself becomes the cross symbol. There are also occasionally found early monumental stones, upon which both a cross and the head or bust and the feet of a human figure are so treated as to form a single composition. Kneeling figures, again, are sometimes introduced either at the foot of a monumental cross, or on each side of the shaft of such a cross ; and full length figures, and sometimes half figures, in other examples appear placed within the expanded floriated heads of monumental crosses. (See Walter's and Boutell's Monumental Brasses ; Boutell's Christian Monu-ments ; and Cutts's Manual of Sepulchral Slabs.)
In the heraldry of the Middle Ages the cross, its form and enrichment treated in many ways, as a charge is second to none in rank and estimation (sse HERALDRY). The English cross of St George is a plain red cross set erect on a white ground; the Scottish cross of St Andrew is a plain diagonal white cross on a blue ground; and the Irish cross of St Patrick is a plain diagonal red cross on a white ground. The "Tau"cross, which occasionally is found in English heraldry, is blazoned as in fig. 7. Another form of cross, shown in fig. 8, bears the name of " Fylfot," and is one of the most singular, as it is one of the most ancient, of the many forms and modifications of this symbol. Considered by some writers to be composed of four Greek capital " Gammas " conjoined, this mystic figure, which was in high favour with early secret societies, sometimes was called " Gammadion." In the mythology of the North, again, it was held to symbolize " Mjulnir," the formidable cross-formed hammer of Thor, and is accordingly known by the third title of " Thor's hammer." It occurs in both Scandinavian and Roman relics ; and it was in frequent use as a decorative device in the Middle Ages, especially as a mark upon bells. On the monument of Bishop Bronescomb, 1281, in Exeter Cathedral, the fylfot has its limbs alternately yellow and red.

Initial crosses were placed in the Middle Ages at the commencement of inscriptions, and occupied a similar position in written documents of all kinds. The initial cross of the inscrip-tion to Abbot Thomas Delamere, upon his brass at St Alban's (1360), is an interesting example, since it is formed of a delicate erect cross floriated at its extremities, which surmounts a bolder diagonal cross, or cross saltire, the armorial ensign of the abbey of St Alban.
Knightly crosses.—The cross worn, as distinctive of their order, by the Knights Templars, was a red cross of eight points (fig. 9) upon white. The cross of the Knights Hospitallers, or Knights of St John, was of similar form, but white FIG . 15.—Cross of and worn on a black ground ; from the theJDannebrog. years 1278 and 1289, however, when engaged with military duties, the Knights of St John wore a plain straight white cross upon red. (For the crosses of the monastic orders, see COSTUME, p. 463). The cross of the Danish order of the Dannebrog (fig. 15), a white cross surmount-ing a red one, with the royal crown, the cipher of reigning sovereign, and the motto " For God and the King," is a

characteristic example of the use of the great Christian symbol in the insignia of the knighthood of the present day. In the highest class of British insignia, the cross appears on the circlets only of the imperial crown and of the coronets of princes and princesses of the blood royal.
A pectoral cross, formed of rich and costly materials, was worn at times by ecclesiastics of the highest rank. In the East pectoral crosses were worn, suspended about the neck and resting on the breast, as both imperial and episcopal ornaments. Characteristic examples of the pectorals occur in the effigies of Bishops Kilkenny, 1255, at Ely ; Giffard, 1301, at Worcester ; and Langton, 1321, at Lichfield. This same term " pectorale " may consis-tently be applied to all crosses, worn under similar condi-tions by personages of exalted rank. Of such crosses a specimen of singular interest and great beauty, now well known from fac-simile reproductions of it as the " Dagmar cross" (fig. 16 shows both sides of it), was found

FIG. 16.—Dagmar Cross, about 1690 (when her tomb was opened), lying on the breast of the remains of Dagmar, " the bright day," the queen of Waldemar II., king of Denmark, who died in 1213. This jewel, certainly of Byzantine design and workmanship, is of gold, enamelled, having on one side a crucifix, and on the other side portraits of Christ (in the centre), of St Basil, St John Chrysostom, St Mary the Virgin, and St John the Apostle-Evangelist.
Crosier or Crozier is the title given to the official staff of
an archbishop, which has a cross-head, and so is distinguished
from the "pastoral staff "of bishops and abbots, the head of
which is curved and resembles that of a shepherd's crook.
Examples of the crosier occur in the brasses to Archbishops
de Waldeby, 1397, in Westminster Abbey, and Cranley,
1417, in Naw College Chapel, Oxford ; the latter example
has a crucifix for its head, which is the case also in a
remarkable drawing of an archbishop in the Lambeth Psalter
(c. 1300) in the library at Lambeth. The fine effigy of
Archbishop Walter de Gray at York, 1255, has a crook-
head staff of great beauty; in his brass, too, at Chigwell,
Essex, Archbishop Harsnett, 1631, is represented, not with
a crosier, but with a pastoral staff. Instead of having
crook-heads, the crosiers of the prelates of the Greek
Church have head? of the " Tau " form, and the extremities
of the horizontal bar are curved upwards. The staff of a
patriarch has a double cross-head ; and the head of the
pontifical staff of the Pope has a triple cross. Good
examples of the pastoral staves of bishops and abbots
abound in their monumental effigies, of which one of the
most admirable is in the brass to Abbot Delamere (c. 1360),
at St Alban's. The magnificent enamelled staff of Bishop
William of Wykeham, as is well known, is still preserved
at New College, Oxford. (c. B.)

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