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§ 109. Crosses and Crucifixes.
Jac. Gretser. (R.C.): De cruce Christi. 2 vols. Ingolst. 1608. Just. Lipsius: De cruce Christi. Antw. 1694. Fr. Münter: Die Sinnbilder u. Kunstvorstellungen der alten Christen. Altona, 1825. C. J. Hefele (R.C.): Alter u. älteste Form der Crucifixe (in the 2d vol. of his Beiträge zur Kirchengesch., Archäologie u. Liturgik. Tübingen, 1864, p. 265 sqq.).
The cross, as the symbol of redemption, and the signing of the cross upon the forehead, the eyes, the mouth, the breast, and even upon parts of clothing, were in universal use in this period, as they had been even in the second century, both in private Christian life and in public worship. They were also in many ways abused in the service of superstition; and the nickname cross-worshippers,11891189 Religiosi crucis. which the heathen applied to the Christians in the time of Tertullian,11901190 Tert. Apolog. c. 16. was in many cases not entirely unwarranted. Besides simple wooden crosses, now that the church had risen to the kingdom, there were many crosses of silver and gold, or sumptuously set with pearls and gems.11911191 The cross occurs in three forms: the crux decussata x(called St. Andrew’s cross, because this apostle is said to have died upon such an one); the crux commissa T; and the crux immissa, either with equal arms +(the Greek cross), or with unequal † (the Roman).
The conspicuous part which, according to the statements of Eusebius, the cross played in the life of Constantine, is well known: forming the instrument of his conversion; borne by fifty men, leading him to his victories over Maxentius and Licinius; inscribed upon his banners, upon the weapons of his soldiers in his palace, and upon public places, and lying in the right hand of his own statue. Shortly afterwards Julian accused the Christians of worshipping the wood of the cross. “The sign of universal detestation,” says Chrysostom,11921192 In the homily on the divinity of Christ, § 9, tom. i. 571. “the sign of extreme penalty, is now become the object of universal desire and love. We see it everywhere triumphant; we find it on houses, on roofs, and on walls, in cities and hamlets, on the markets, along the roads, and in the deserts, on the mountains and in the valleys, on the sea, on ships, on books and weapons, on garments, in marriage chambers, at banquets, upon gold and silver vessels, in pearls, in painting upon walls, on beds, on the bodies of very sick animals, on the bodies of the possessed [—to drive away the disease and the demon—], at the dances of the merry, and in the brotherhoods of ascetics.” Besides this, it was usual to mark the cross on windows and floors, and to wear it upon the forehead.11931193 Ἐκτυποῦν τόν σταυρὸν ἐν τῷ μετώπῳ, effingere crucem in fronte, postare in fronte, which cannot always be understood as merely making the sign with the finger on the forehead. Comp. Neander, iii. 547, note. According to Augustine this sign was to remind believers that their calling is to follow Christ in true humility, through suffering, into glory.
We might speak in the same way of the use of other Christian emblems from the sphere of nature; the representation of Christ by a good Shepherd, a lamb, a fish, and the like, which we have already observed in the period preceding.11941194 Vol. i. § 100 (p. 377 sqq.).
Towards the end of the present period we for the
first time meet with crucifixes; that is, crosses not bare, but with
the figure of the crucified Saviour upon them. The transition to the
crucifix we find in the fifth century in the figure of a lamb, or even
a bust of Christ, attached to the cross, sometimes at the top,
sometimes at the bottom.11951195 Crosses of this sort, colored red, with a white
lamb, are thus described by Paulinus of Nola in the beginning of the
fifth century, Epist. 32:
“Sub cruce sanguinea niveo stat Christus in agno.” Afterwards the whole figure of Christ was fastened to the cross, and the earlier forms gave place to this. The Trullan council of Constantinople (the Quinisextum), a.d. 692, directed in the 82d canon: “Hereafter, instead of the lamb, the human figure of Christ shall be set up on the images.”11961196 Κατὰ τὸν ἀνθρώπινον χαρακτῆρα.Hefele (l.c. 266 sq.) proves that crucifixes did not make their first appearance with this council, but that some existed before. The Venerable Bede, for example (Opp. ed. Giles, tom. iv. . p. 376), relates that a crucifix, bearing on one side the Crucified, on the other the serpent lifted up by Moses, was brought from Rome to the British cloister of Weremouth in 686. Gregory of Tours, also († 595), De gloria martyrum, lib. i. c. 23, describes a crucifix in the church of St. Genesius in Narbonne, which presented the Crucified One almost entirely naked (pictura, quae Dominum nostrum quasi praecinctum linteo indicat crucifixum). But this crucifix gave offence, and was veiled, by order of the bishop, with a curtain, and only at times exposed to the people. But subsequently the orthodox church of the East prohibited all plastic images, crucifixes among them, and it tolerates only pictures of Christ and the saints. The earlier Latin crucifixes offend the taste and disturb devotion; but the Catholic art in its flourishing period succeeded in combining, in the figure of the suffering and dying Redeemer, the expression of the deepest and holiest anguish with that of supreme dignity. In the middle age there was frequently added to the crucifix a group of Mary, John, a soldier, and the penitent Magdalene, who on her knees embraced the post of the cross.
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