Titulus Crucis

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Titulus Crucis (Latin for "Title of the Cross") is a piece of wood claimed to be a relic of the True Cross, kept in the church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome. Christian tradition holds that the relic is part of the cross's titulus (inscription).[1] It is generally either ignored by scholars[2] or considered to be a medieval forgery.[3]

The board is made of walnut wood, 25 × 14 × 2.6 cm (10 × 4½ × 1 in) and has a weight of 687 grams (1.515 lb). It is inscribed on one side with three lines, of which the first one is mostly destroyed. The second line is written in Greek letters and reversed script, the third in Latin letters, also with reversed script.[4]


Saint Roman Empress Helena, the mother of Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, erected the Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in circa AD 325 after her pilgrimage to the Holy Land, during which she reportedly discovered the True Cross and many other relics, which she donated to the new church. The Titulus Crucis is alleged to have been one of these relics. At the time the pilgrimage of Egeria to the city in 383, a titulus was displayed as one of the relics in Jerusalem: "A silver-gilt casket is brought in which is the holy wood of the Cross. The casket is opened and (the wood) is taken out, and both the wood of the Cross and the title are placed upon the table."[5] The 6th-century pilgrim Antoninus of Piacenza described a titulus in Jerusalem made of "nut" wood with the inscription "Hic est rex Iudaeorum" ("Here is the king of the Jews"), while the Roman Titulus Crucis reads "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum" ("Jesus the Nazarene King of the Jews").[6]

Sometime before 1145 the relic was deposited in a box that bears the seal of Cardinal Gherardo Caccianemici dal Orso, who was elevated to the cardinalate in 1124 as cardinal priest of this church, and elected Pope in 1144 as Lucius II, which permits his seal to be dated.[7] It was apparently forgotten until 1 February 1492, when workers discovered it hidden behind a brick that was inscribed Titulus Crucis while restoring a mosaic.[7]


In 1997, the German author and historian Michael Hesemann performed an investigation of the relic. Hesemann presented the inscription of the title to seven experts on Hebrew, Greek and Latin palaeography: Gabriel Barkay of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Hanan Eshel, Ester Eshel and Leah Di Segni of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel Roll and Benjamin Isaac of the University of Tel Aviv and Carsten Peter Thiede of Paderborn/Germany and the University of Beer Sheva, Israel. According to Hesemann, none of the consulted experts found any indication of a mediaeval or late antique forgery. They all dated it in the timeframe between the 1st and the 3rd–4th century AD, with a majority of experts preferring, and none of them excluding, the 1st century. Hesemann concluded that it is very well possible that the Titulus Crucis is indeed the authentic relic.[8]

Carsten Peter Thiede suggested that the Titulus Crucis is likely to be a genuine part of the Cross, written by a Jewish scribe. He cites that the order of the languages match what is historically plausible rather than the order shown in the canonical New Testament because had it been a counterfeit, the forger would surely have remained faithful to the biblical text.[4] Joe Nickell refers to this argument as "trying to psychoanalyze the dead," saying that "Forgers—particularly of another era—may do something cleverer or dumber or simply different from what we would expect."[7]

In 2002, the Roma Tre University conducted radiocarbon dating tests on the artifact, and it was shown to have been made between 980 and 1146 AD. The uncalibrated radio-carbon date was 1020 ± 30 BP, calibrated as AD 996–1023 (1σ) and AD 980–1146 (2σ), using INTCAL98. These results were published in the peer-reviewed journal Radiocarbon.[9] The Titulus Crucis recovered from the residence of Helena is therefore most likely a medieval artifact; an Italian classical scholar Maria Rigato discussed a possibility that it is a copy of the now-lost original [10].

Titulus Crucis was featured in episode 13 of the first season of American Heroes Channel's show "Myth Hunters", titled "The Quest for the True Cross".[11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Marijan Dović, Jón Karl Helgason (2016). National Poets, Cultural Saints: Canonization and Commemorative Cults of Writers in Europe National Cultivation of Culture. BRILL. p. 30. ISBN 9004335404. Retrieved 28 January 2017.
  2. ^ Morris, Colin The sepulchre of Christ and the medieval West: from the beginning to 1600 OUP Oxford (17 Mar 2005) ISBN 978-0-19-826928-1 p.32 [1]
  3. ^ Byrne, Ryan; McNary-Zak, Bernadette Resurrecting the Brother of Jesus: The James Ossuary Controversy and the Quest for Religious Relics The University of North Carolina Press (15 Aug 2009) ISBN 978-0-8078-3298-1 p.87 [2]
  4. ^ a b 'TITULUS CRUCIS'..Evidence that the Actual Sign Posted Above The Lord on The Cross Has Been Located?
  5. ^ Latin original: "et affertur loculus argenteus deauratus, in quo est lignum sanctum crucis, aperitur et profertur, ponitur in mensa tam lignum crucis quam titulus." (Itinerarium Egeriae, 37, 1)
  6. ^ Antoninii Placentini Itinerarium, in Corpus Christianorum, Series Latina, Vol. 175, 130.
  7. ^ a b c Joe Nickell, Relics of the Christ (The University Press of Kentucky, 1 March 2007) ISBN 978-0-8131-2425-4, pp. 87–8. [3]
  8. ^ Titulus Crucis -The title of the cross of Jesus Christ? By Michael Hesemann
  9. ^ Francesco Bella; Carlo Azzi (2002). "14C Dating of the Titulus Crucis". Radiocarbon. University of Arizona. 44 (3): 685–689. ISSN 0033-8222. Archived from the original on 2010-07-17.
  10. ^ {Rigato ML. 2002. Il Titolo della Croce di Gesù. Confronto tra i Vangeli e la Tavoletta – Reliquia della Basilica Eleniana a Rome. Dottorato nella Facoltà di Teologia. Pontificia Università Gregoriana. Roma.}
  11. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E85o-f_Idbc
  12. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2764096/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl

External links[edit]