Orthodox cross

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The Orthodox, Byzantine[1][2][3] or Russian (Orthodox) Cross,[1][4][5][6] also known as the Suppedaneum cross,[7] is a variation of the Christian cross, commonly found in Eastern Orthodox Churches, as well as the Eastern Catholic Churches of Byzantine rite and the Society for Eastern Rite Anglicanism. The cross has three horizontal crossbeams—the top represents the plate inscribed with INRI, and the bottom, a footrest. In the Russian Orthodox tradition, the lower beam is slanted: the side to Christ's right is usually higher. This is because the footrest slants upward toward penitent thief St. Dismas, who was crucified on Jesus' right, and downward toward impenitent thief Gistas. The earliest version of a slanted footstool can be found in Jerusalem, but throughout the Eastern Christian world until the 17th century, the footstool is slanted the other way, pointing upwards rather than downwards, making the downward footstool a Russian innovation. In the Greek and most other Orthodox Churches, the footrest remains straight, as in earlier representations. Common variations include the 'Cross over Crescent' and 'Calvary Cross'.

Russian variations[edit]

Calvary Cross
Cross over Crescent variation of the Orthodox Cross at the Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral

One variation of the Orthodox Cross is the 'Cross over Crescent'. "[8][9] This 'Cross over Crescent' is sometimes accompanied by "Gabriel perched on the top of the Cross blowing his trumpet."[10]

In Russia, the top crossbeam can be absent; however, in the Russian North it can be attached on top of the vertical beam.[11]

A variation is a monastic "Calvary Cross", in which the cross is situated atop the hill of Calvary, its slopes symbolized by steps. To the viewer's left is the Holy Lance, with which Jesus was wounded in his side, and to the right, a pole topped by a vinegared hyssop sponge. Under Calvary are Adam's skull and bones;[2] the right-arm bone is usually above the left one, and believers fold their arms across their chests in this way during Orthodox communion. Around the cross are abbreviations in Church Slavonic. This type of cross is usually embroidered on a schema-monk's robe.

Between 1577–1625, the Russian Orthodox Cross was depicted between the heads of a double-headed eagle in the coat of arms of Russia. It was drawn on military banners until the end of the 17th century.[12]



  1. ^ a b Becker, Udo (2000). The Continuum encyclopedia of symbols. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-8264-1221-8. 
  2. ^ a b McGuckin, John Anthony (2011). "Cross". In John Anthony McGuckin. The encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity 1. John Wiley and Sons. p. 170. ISBN 978-1-4051-8539-4. 
  3. ^ Ogechukwu, Nwaocha (2009). The Secret Behind the Cross and Crucifix. Strategic Book Publishing. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-60693-367-1. 
  4. ^ Duquette, Lon Milo (2007). The Ankh: Key of Life. Weiser Books. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-57863-410-1. 
  5. ^ Liungman, Carl G. (2004). Symbols - Encyclopedia of Western Signs and Ideograms. Ionfox AB. p. 140. ISBN 978-91-972705-0-2. 
  6. ^ Thomas, Robert Murray (2007). Manitou and God: North-American Indian religions and Christian culture. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 121–122. ISBN 978-0-313-34779-5. 
  7. ^ Zielinski, Siegfried; Link, David; Wagnermaier, Silvia; Eckhard Fuerlus, Gloria Custance (2006). Variantology 2: On Deep Time Relations of Arts, Sciences and Technologies (in English). W. König. ISBN 9783865600509. Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  8. ^ Chaudet, Didier (2009). "When the Bear Confronts the Crescent: Russia and the Jihadist Issue". China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly (in English) (Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program) 7 (2): 37–58. ISSN 1653-4212. "It would be convenient to characterize the relationship between Russia and Islam by its history of conquest and tension. After all, the emblem of the Orthodox Church is a cross on top on a crescent. It is said that this symbol was devised by Ivan the Terrible, after the conquest of the city of Kazan, as a symbol of the victory of Christianity over Islam through his soldiers." 
  9. ^ "Church Building and Its Services". Orthodox World. Retrieved 28 March 2014. "Sometimes the bottoms of the Crosses found on Russian churches will be adorned with a crescent. In 1486, Tsar Ivan IV (the Terrible) conquered the city of Kazan which had been under the rule of Moslem Tatars, and in remembrance of this, he decreed that from henceforth the Islamic crescent be placed at the bottom of the Crosses to signify the victory of the Cross (Christianity) over the Crescent (Islam)." 
  10. ^ Stevens, Thomas (1891). Through Russia on a Mustang (in English). Cassell. p. 248. Retrieved 28 March 2014. "It seemed rather rough on Tartars, too, as showing scant consideration for the religious susceptibilities of a subject people, to find some of the domes of the Orthodox churches ornamented with devices proclaiming the triumph of the Cross over the Crescent. A favorite device is a Cross towering above a Crescent, with Gabriel perched on the top of the Cross blowing his trumpet." 
  11. ^ Kuznetsov 1997.
  12. ^ Shpakovsky, Viacheslav; Nicolle, David; McBride, Angus (2006). "Infantry and cavalry banners". Armies of Ivan the Terrible: Russian Troops 1505-1700. Osprey Publishing. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-84176-925-7. 

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