What is the meaning behind the cross

The cross - symbol of Christianity

The story of the cross as a Christian symbol

Anyone who knows the medieval images of crucifixion scenes and crucifixes can certainly think that the cross has been the central symbol of this religion since the origins of Christianity. In the early days of Christianity, however, the so-called "staurogram" and the Christ monogram "XP" played a much larger role.

The custom of crossing oneself with one's fingers goes back to the 3rd century. The veneration of the cross as a symbol, which is still common today, is not documented until the 4th century, the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great. The cross, which is still in use today, is also known as the "crux immissa".

Every Christian and connoisseur of the Christian religion is familiar with the origin of the symbol of faith: The cross refers to the crucifixion scene depicted in the New Testament. According to tradition, Jesus himself had to carry the cross on which he was to die to the place of execution.

When Emperor Constantine confessed to the Christian faith and his successor Theodosius even made the Christian religion the state religion, Christians began to confess that Jesus was crucified. The crucifixion was henceforth removed from the catalog of punishments, the symbol of the cross lost its disreputable image as a tool of execution.

But the cross was not an unknown symbol even to the heathen. Crosses and cross-like symbols were an integral part of pagan belief. In this context, the "sun wheel" is still known today.

Isolated finds such as an Italian ivory box from around 420 show that the biblical crucifixion scene was only gradually started to be depicted. In the early Middle Ages, when the cross was included in illustrations of Biblical narratives, it seemed a logical consequence to depict not only the symbol of the execution of Jesus, but also a group of grieving women rallying around the cross.

In the European High Middle Ages it became a tradition to show the cross with the suffering Jesus. Crosses with the figure of Jesus are also known as "crucifixes". With the growing popularity of the cross, the cult of relics also grew: Crusaders and explorers kept saying that they had found nails or even splinters of wood from the cross of Jesus. The representation of the crosses became more and more differentiated.

In the course of the Middle Ages, the groups of people who were arranged around the cross became increasingly diverse. Suddenly it mattered in which direction Jesus bowed his crown of thorns head. If Mary, Mary Magdalene, a group of women and John are depicted on the left of the crucified Christ and on the right Longinus, Stephaton and men mocking Jesus, one speaks of "populous Calvaries" in art history.

Last but not least, the traditional art of wood carving made the cross into an object in modern times that plays an important role in many churches and houses. Despite all the debates about state neutrality in matters of faith and religious symbols in public spaces, crosses are still ubiquitous in countries with a Christian character.

What the cross really means

Crucifixion symbols

Fierce theological disputes have broken out over the meaning of the cross, which are still regularly causing a stir today. It can hardly be answered conclusively what significance the symbol of the cross actually has in the Christian faith. In the Bible, the cross appears in the Gospel of John, the Acts of the Apostles, and the letters of the Apostle Paul. Whether the crucifixion of Jesus really took place on a cross or a stake cannot be determined with certainty, since the translation from the Greek can mean both "wood" and "cross". It is only since the translation of the New Testament into Latin that the "cross" and the "crucifixion" have been clearly spoken of.

With the crucifixion of Jesus a connection was established between earthly existence and heaven. The horizontal axis of the cross usually stands for the earthly and the connection with people. The vertical axis is assigned the meaning of the divine. Other interpretations see the masculine and the feminine, spirit and matter or soul and body in the axes.

Theologians see the crucifixion of Jesus as an intervention by God, which should serve to restore the covenant between God and man, which has been torn since the fall of man. The cross can be interpreted as a sign of hope, which stands for the forgiveness of sins and God's reconciliation with human beings. Believing Christians also understand the symbol as a sign of victory: with the crucifixion and the resurrection that followed the atrocity, death was finally overcome. The former Pope Benedict XVI. 1969 underlined the modern interpretation that the direction of movement of the cross shows that God in Christ reconciled the world in himself.

According to the reading of the church, the crucifixion scene refers to the ecclesiastical sacraments of the Eucharist and baptism, which is why the cross can often be found on baptismal candles.
There is something utterly monstrous about the idea that God let his Son die on the cross so that people could be delivered from all sins. Indeed, the symbol of the cross is full of contradictions, messages that are difficult to bear and ambiguities. It is also and precisely for this reason that an intensive examination of the most important symbol of Christianity is definitely worthwhile.

The cross in everyday life

The cross has an important meaning of its own for every believer. In the cemetery it gives comfort and nourishes the hope of a victory of life over the darkness. High up on the summit, it proves that God is above everything. As a wooden cross on the wall of a school or town hall, it is a strong commitment to Christian culture.

If you want to hang a cross in the room, you will find the right crucifix for your own taste in the traditional art of wood carving. In the house, the wooden cross is a reminder that encourages you to deal with your faith on a daily basis. But it can also represent a request to let God's good spirit enter the house. Anyone who sees a hand-carved wooden cross will inevitably want to look more closely at it. A cross always makes you think and also brings non-religious people to grapple with the elementary questions of life.

Crosses made of wood are available as classic symbols or artistically carved crucifixes. In some regions, the carved wooden cross can be found in almost every house. Wall crosses made of wood, silver, slate, bronze (as they are available from vivat.de, for example) or another natural material look traditional and are still modern. As a tattoo or as a pendant, the cross is also worn with self-confidence by young people. It is due to the shape, the spiritual meaning and the ambivalence of the cross that this symbol is likely to remain relevant forever.