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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', which is sometimes accompanied by "Gabriel perched on the top of the Cross blowing his trumpet." Didier Chaudet, in the academic journal China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly, writes that an "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"; the Orthodox World Encyclopaedia concurs with this view. However, B.A. Uspensky offers another view, stating that in pre-Christian times, the 'Cross over Crescent' symbolized the sun and the moon, and that in the Christian Era, the cross is a symbol of Christ and the moon is a symbol of the Virgin Mary.
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.
15th-century Russian depiction in which the traditional INRI plank is instead marked with "ЦР҃Ь СЛ҃ВЫ", standing for "King of Glory"
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
Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois Russian Cemetery, the resting place of many eminent Russian émigrés.
- Becker, Udo (2000). The Continuum encyclopedia of symbols. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-8264-1221-8.
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- Stevens, Thomas (1891). Through Russia on a Mustang. 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.
- Chaudet, Didier (2009). "When the Bear Confronts the Crescent: Russia and the Jihadist Issue". China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly (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.
- "Russian Orthodox Church". Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (in English) 17: 4. 1993.
Finally, the Russians, under Ivan the Terrible, defeated the Tatars in 1552 and firmly established Russian rule. In celebration of this conquest, the czar built two churches in the Moscow Kremlin and on the spires of the Church installed the Orthodox Cross over an upside down crescent, the symbol of Islam.
- "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).
- Успенский, Б. А. (2006). Крест и круг: Из истории христианской символики (in Russian). М.: Языки славянских культур. pp. 225–258.
Итак, сочетание креста и полумесяца целиком вписывается в космологическую, языческую по своему происхождению символику: крест и полумесяц символизируют солнце и луну. Вполне закономерно, что сочетание креста и полумесяца встречается на русских лунницах. 232 Но вместе с тем оба символа имеют и другой, христианский смысл: крест очевидным образом выступает как символ Христа, тогда как луна в христианской традиции символизирует Богородицу. Такое толкование прямо соответствует каноническим текстам — и поддерживается ими, — текстам, где Христос называется «Солнцем правды» или «Солнцем праведным» ( «sol justitiae» — Мал. IV,2) , а Богородица может ассоциироваться с апокалиптическим образом «жены, облеченной в солнце; под ногами ее луна, и на главе ее венец из двенадцати звезд» (Откр. ХII, 1).
- Kuznetsov 1997.
- 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Orthodox crosses.|
- "Explanation of the Three-Bar Cross". Church of the Nativity: Russian Orthodox Old Rite. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- V. Rev. John Shandra. "The Skull on the "Russian" Orthodox Cross". Retrieved October 20, 2011.
- Kuznetsov, V. P. [Кузнецов В. П.] (1997). History of the development of the cross's forms. Short course of Orthodox staurography. История развития формы креста. Краткий курс православной ставрографии (in Russian). Moscow.