The Orthodox, Byzantine or Russian (Orthodox) Cross, also known as the Suppedaneum cross, 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 Gestas. 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'.
One variation of the Orthodox Cross is the 'Cross over 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)." This 'Cross over Crescent' is sometimes accompanied by "Gabriel perched on the top of the Cross blowing his trumpet."
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; 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.
Coat of arms of Russia from the seal of Fyodor I, 1589
A rider with the banner from an icon Blessed Be the Host of the King of Heaven (Church Militant), 1550s
A 17th century miniature of the Battle of Kulikovo (1380). A warrior bears a red banner with a cross
A copper cross typical for Old believers
A cross of a Russian Orthodox priest
Russian depiction in which the traditional INRI plank is instead marked with "ЦР҃Ь СЛ҃ВЫ", standing for "King of Glory"
Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery, the resting place of many eminent Russian émigrés.
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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.
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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).
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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.
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