Thursday, December 5, 2013
A Brief History of the Cross
The cross has been used by many religions, but most notably in Christianity. It is a representation of the division of the world into four elements (also called cardinal points) or the union of the concepts of divinity (the vertical line) and the world (the horizontal line). The word derives from the Latin word "crux" a Roman torture device used for crucifixion. The word was introduced to the English in the 10th century - in the execution of Jesus.
It is not known when the first cross image was made. Many cross-shaped cave drawings have been discovered, dating back to the earliest times of human development. Their use can be traced throughout Celtic and Germanic cultures in Europe. Celtic coins minted many centuries before the Christian era had an entire side showing the cross symbol, sometimes with the cardinal points marked by concave depressions. Other coins depicted the cross with a fern leaf, held by a rider on a horse, often referred to as a Tree of Life symbol.
During the first two centuries of Christianity, the cross was rarely seen, as it depicted a 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. The extensive adoption of the cross as Christian iconographic symbol began to arise again towards the 4th century. Interestingly enough, the symbol of the crucifix, a cross upon which an image of Christ is present, is not known to have been used until the 6th century AD.
In contemporary Christianity, the cross is a symbol of the atonement and reminds Christians of God's love in sacrificing his own son for humanity. It represents Jesus' victory over sin and death, since it is believed that through his death and resurrection he conquered death itself. Throughout the centuries, other symbolic carvings and patterns have been added as embellishments to the cross itself.