Crucifix

Last updated

Crucifixion of Christ at the winged triptych at the Church of the Teutonic Order in Vienna, Austria. Woodcarvings by an anonymous master; polychromy by Jan van Wavere, Mechelen, signed 1520. This altarpiece was originally made for St. Mary's Church, Gdansk, and came to Vienna in 1864. Wien Deutschordenskirche Flugelaltar Kreuzigung 01.jpg
Crucifixion of Christ at the winged triptych at the Church of the Teutonic Order in Vienna, Austria. Woodcarvings by an anonymous master; polychromy by Jan van Wavere, Mechelen, signed 1520. This altarpiece was originally made for St. Mary's Church, Gdańsk, and came to Vienna in 1864.

A crucifix (from Latin cruci fixus meaning "(one) fixed to a cross") is an image of Jesus on the cross, as distinct from a bare cross. The representation of Jesus himself on the cross is referred to in English as the corpus (Latin for "body"). [1] [2]

Contents

The crucifix is a principal symbol for many groups of Christians, and one of the most common forms of the Crucifixion in the arts. It is especially important in the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, but is also used in the Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Churches (except the Armenian Church), Assyrian Church, and the Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as by the Lutheran and Anglican Churches. [3] [4] The symbol is less common in churches of other Protestant denominations, and in the Armenian Apostolic Church, which prefer to use a cross without the figure of Jesus (the corpus). [5] The crucifix emphasizes Jesus' sacrifice—his death by crucifixion, which Christians believe brought about the redemption of mankind. Most crucifixes portray Jesus on a Latin cross, rather than any other shape, such as a Tau cross or a Coptic cross.

Western crucifixes usually have a three-dimensional corpus, but in Eastern Orthodoxy Jesus' body is normally painted on the cross, or in low relief. Strictly speaking, to be a crucifix, the cross must be three-dimensional, but this distinction is not always observed. An entire painting of the Crucifixion of Jesus including a landscape background and other figures is not a crucifix either.

Large crucifixes high across the central axis of a church are known by the Old English term rood. By the late Middle Ages these were a near-universal feature of Western churches, but are now very rare. Modern Roman Catholic churches often have a crucifix above the altar on the wall; for the celebration of Mass, the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church requires that "on or close to the altar there is to be a cross with a figure of Christ crucified". [6]

Description

A crucifix in the chancel of a Lutheran church. Chancel of Trinity Lutheran Church on Holy Saturday.jpg
A crucifix in the chancel of a Lutheran church.

The standard, four-pointed Latin crucifix consists of an upright post or stipes and a single crosspiece to which the sufferer's arms were nailed. There may also be a short projecting nameplate, showing the letters INRI (Greek: INBI). The Russian Orthodox crucifix usually has an additional third crossbar, to which the feet are nailed, and which is angled upward toward the penitent thief Saint Dismas (to the viewer's left) and downward toward the impenitent thief Gestas (to the viewer's right). The corpus of Eastern crucifixes is normally a two-dimensional or low relief icon that shows Jesus as already dead, his face peaceful and somber. They are rarely three-dimensional figures as in the Western tradition, although these may be found where Western influences are strong, but are more typically icons painted on a piece of wood shaped to include the double-barred cross and perhaps the edge of Christ's hips and halo, and no background. More sculptural small crucifixes in metal relief are also used in Orthodoxy (see gallery examples), including as pectoral crosses and blessing crosses.

Western crucifixes may show Christ dead or alive, the presence of the spear wound in his ribs traditionally indicating that he is dead. In either case his face very often shows his suffering. In Orthodoxy he has normally been shown as dead since around the end of the period of Byzantine Iconoclasm. [7] Eastern crucifixes have Jesus' two feet nailed side by side, rather than crossed one above the other, as Western crucifixes have shown them since around the 13th century. The crown of thorns is also generally absent in Eastern crucifixes, since the emphasis is not on Christ's suffering, but on his triumph over sin and death. The "S"-shaped position of Jesus' body on the cross is a Byzantine innovation of the late 10th century, [8] though also found in the German Gero Cross of the same date. Probably more from Byzantine influence, it spread elsewhere in the West, especially to Italy, by the Romanesque period, though it was more usual in painting than sculpted crucifixes. It's in Italy that the emphasis was put on Jesus' suffering and realistic details, during a process of general humanization of Christ favored by the Franciscan order. During the 13th century the suffering Italian model (Christus patiens) triumphed over the traditional Byzantine one (Christus gloriosus) anywhere in Europe also due to the works of artists such as Giunta Pisano and Cimabue. Since the Renaissance the "S"-shape is generally much less pronounced. Eastern Christian blessing crosses will often have the Crucifixion depicted on one side, and the Resurrection on the other, illustrating the understanding of Orthodox theology that the Crucifixion and Resurrection are two intimately related aspects of the same act of salvation.

Another, symbolic, depiction shows a triumphant Christ (Latin : Christus triumphans), clothed in robes, rather than stripped as for His execution, with arms raised, appearing to rise up from the cross, sometimes accompanied by "rays of light", or an aureole encircling His Body. He may be robed as a prophet, crowned as a king, and vested in a stole as Great High Priest.

On some crucifixes a skull and crossbones are shown below the corpus, referring to Golgotha (Calvary), the site at which Jesus was crucified, which the Gospels say means in Hebrew "the place of the skull." [9] Medieval tradition held that it was the burial-place of Adam and Eve, and that the cross of Christ was raised directly over Adam's skull, so many crucifixes manufactured in Catholic countries still show the skull and crossbones below the corpus.

Very large crucifixes have been built, the largest being the Cross in the Woods in Michigan, with a 31 feet (9.4 m) high statue. [10]

Usage

Prayer in front of a crucifix, which is seen as a sacramental, is often part of devotion for Christians, especially those worshipping in a church, also privately. The person may sit, stand, or kneel in front of the crucifix, sometimes looking at it in contemplation, or merely in front of it with head bowed or eyes closed. During the Middle Ages small crucifixes, generally hung on a wall, became normal in the personal cells or living quarters first of monks, then all clergy, followed by the homes of the laity, spreading down from the top of society as these became cheap enough for the average person to afford. Most towns had a large crucifix erected as a monument, or some other shrine at the crossroads of the town. By the 19th century displaying a crucifix somewhere in the general reception areas of a house became typical of Catholic homes. Richer Catholics could afford a room set aside for a chapel.

Catholic (both Eastern and Western), Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican and Lutheran Christians generally use the crucifix in public religious services. They believe use of the crucifix is in keeping with the statement by Saint Paul in Scripture, "we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God". [11]

In the West altar crosses and processional crosses began to be crucifixes in the 11th century, which became general around the 14th century, as they became cheaper. The Roman Rite requires that "either on the altar or near it, there is to be a cross, with the figure of Christ crucified upon it, a cross clearly visible to the assembled people. It is desirable that such a cross should remain near the altar even outside of liturgical celebrations, so as to call to mind for the faithful the saving Passion of the Lord." [12] The requirement of the altar cross was also mentioned in pre-1970 editions of the Roman Missal, [13] though not in the original 1570 Roman Missal of Pope Pius V. [14] The Rite of Funerals says that the Gospel Book, the Bible, or a cross (which will generally be in crucifix form) may be placed on the coffin for a Requiem Mass, but a second standing cross is not to be placed near the coffin if the altar cross can be easily seen from the body of the church. [15]

Eastern Christian liturgical processions called crucessions [ citation needed ] include a cross or crucifix at their head. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the crucifix is often placed above the iconostasis in the church. In the Russian Orthodox Church a large crucifix ("Golgotha") is placed behind the Holy Table (altar). During Matins of Good Friday, a large crucifix is taken in procession to the centre of the church, where it is venerated by the faithful. Sometimes the soma (corpus) is removable and is taken off the crucifix at Vespers that evening during the Gospel lesson describing the Descent from the Cross. The empty cross may then remain in the centre of the church until the Paschal vigil (local practices vary). The blessing cross which the priest uses to bless the faithful at the dismissal will often have the crucifix on one side and an icon of the Resurrection of Jesus on the other, the side with the Resurrection being used on Sundays and during Paschaltide, and the crucifix on other days.

Exorcist Gabriele Amorth has stated that the crucifix is one of the most effective means of averting or opposing demons. In folklore, it is believed to ward off vampires, incubi, succubi, and other evils.

Modern iconoclasts have used an inverted (upside-down) crucifix when showing disdain for Jesus Christ or the Catholic Church which believes in his divinity. [16] According to Christian tradition, Saint Peter was martyred by being crucified upside-down. [17]

Controversies

Unlike many other Protestants, Lutherans retained the use of the crucifix, Martin Luther church in Oberwiesenthal, Germany Kirche Oberwiesenthal Kruzifixe.jpg
Unlike many other Protestants, Lutherans retained the use of the crucifix, Martin Luther church in Oberwiesenthal, Germany

Protestant Reformation

The Lutheran Churches retained the use of the crucifix, "justifying "their continued use of medieval crucifixes with the same arguments employed since the Middle Ages, as is evident from the example of the altar of the Holy Cross in the Cistercian church of Doberan." [18] Martin Luther did not object to them, and this was among his differences with Andreas Karlstadt as early as 1525. At the time of the Reformation, Luther retained the crucifix in the Lutheran Church and they remain the center of worship in Lutheran parishes across Europe. [19] In the United States, however, Lutheranism came under the influence of Calvinism, and the plain cross came to be used in many churches. [20] In contrast to the practice of the Lutheran Churches, the early Reformed Churches rejected the use of the crucifix, and indeed the unadorned cross, along with other traditional religious imagery, as idolatrous. [21] Calvin, considered to be the father of the Reformed Church, was violently opposed to both cross and crucifix. [22] In England, the Royal Chapels of Elizabeth I were most unusual among local churches in retaining crucifixes, following the Queen's conservative tastes. These disappeared under her successor, James I, and their brief re-appearance in the early 1620s when James' heir was seeking a Spanish marriage was the subject of rumour and close observation by both Catholics and Protestants; when the match fell through they disappeared. [23]

Modern

In 2005, a mother accused her daughter's school in Derby, England, of discriminating against Christians after the teenager was suspended for refusing to take off a crucifix necklace. [24]

A British prison ordered a multi-faith chapel to remove all crucifixes "in case it offends Muslims." [25]

In 2008 in Spain, a local judge ordered crucifixes removed from public schools to settle a decades-old dispute over whether crucifixes should be displayed in public buildings in a non-confessional state. [26]

On 18 March 2011, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the Lautsi v. Italy case, that the requirement in Italian law that crucifixes be displayed in classrooms of state schools does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights. [27] [28] [29] Crucifixes are common in most other Italian official buildings, including courts of law.

On 24 March 2011, the Constitutional Court of Peru ruled that the presence of crucifixes in courts of law does not violate the secular nature of the state. [30]

See also

Related Research Articles

Liturgical year Annually recurring fixed sequence of Christian feast days

The liturgical year, also known as the church year or Christian year, as well as the kalendar, consists of the cycle of liturgical seasons in Christian churches that determines when feast days, including celebrations of saints, are to be observed, and which portions of Scripture are to be read either in an annual cycle or in a cycle of several years.

Mass (liturgy) type of worship service within many Christian denomination

Mass is the main eucharistic liturgical service in many forms of Western Christianity. The term Mass is commonly used in the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church, as well as in Anglican, Methodist, Western Rite Orthodox, and Old Catholic churches.

Good Friday Christian religious holiday, the Friday before Easter

Good Friday is a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus and his death at Calvary. It is observed during Holy Week as part of the Paschal Triduum on the Friday preceding Easter Sunday, and may coincide with the Jewish observance of Passover. It is also known as Holy Friday, Great Friday, and Black Friday.

Altar structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes

An altar is a structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes. Altars are found at shrines, temples, churches and other places of worship. They are used particularly in Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Modern Paganism. Many historical faiths also made use of them, including Roman, Greek and Norse religion.

Passion of Jesus final period in the life of Jesus

In Christianity, the Passion (from the Latin verb: patior, passus sum is the short final period in the life of Jesus.

Maundy Thursday Christian holiday commemorating the Last Supper

Maundy Thursday is the Christian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Washing of the Feet (Maundy) and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles, as described in the canonical gospels.

Holy Week Calendar date

In Christianity, Holy Week is the week immediately preceding Easter. It is also the last week of Lent, in the West, – Palm Sunday, Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday – are all included. However, Easter Day, which begins the season of Eastertide, is not.

Acolyte profession

An acolyte is an assistant or follower assisting the celebrant in a religious service or procession. In many Christian denominations, an acolyte is anyone performing ceremonial duties such as lighting altar candles. In others, the term is used for one who has been inducted into a particular liturgical ministry, even when not performing those duties.

Paschal Triduum Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday

The Paschal Triduum, Holy Triduum, or Easter Triduum, or the Three Days, is the period of three days that begins with the liturgy on the evening of Maundy Thursday, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. It recalls the Passion, Crucifixion, Death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus, as portrayed in the canonical Gospels.

Sign of the cross ritual blessing

The sign of the cross, or blessing oneself or crossing oneself, is a ritual blessing made by members of some branches of Christianity. This blessing is made by the tracing of an upright cross or + across the body with the right hand, often accompanied by spoken or mental recitation of the trinitarian formula: "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Five Holy Wounds the five piercing wounds Jesus suffered during the crucifixion, i.e. those in his hands and feet and the lance wound on his side

In Christian tradition, the Five Holy Wounds also known as the Five Sacred Wounds or the Five Precious Wounds are the five piercing wounds Jesus Christ suffered during the crucifixion. The wounds have been the focus of particular devotions, especially in the late Middle Ages, and have often been reflected in church music and art.

Christian liturgy is a pattern for worship used by a Christian congregation or denomination on a regular basis. Although the term liturgy is used to mean public worship in general, the Byzantine Rite uses the term "Divine Liturgy" to denote the Eucharistic service.

The Memorial Acclamation is an acclamation sung or recited by the people after the institution narrative of the Eucharist. They were common in ancient eastern liturgies and have more recently been introduced into Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Methodist liturgies.

Roman Rite Most widespread liturgical rite in the Latin Church

The Roman Rite is the main liturgical rite of the Latin Church, the main particular church sui iuris of the Catholic Church. It is the most widespread liturgical rite in Christianity as a whole. The Roman Rite gradually became the predominant rite used by the Western Church, developed out of many local variants from Early Christianity on, not amounting to distinctive rites, that existed in the medieval manuscripts, but have been progressively reduced since the invention of printing, most notably since the reform of liturgical law in the 16th century at the behest of the Council of Trent (1545–63) and more recently following the Second Vatican Council (1962–65).

Processional cross Cross or crucifix held during a Christian procession

A processional cross is a crucifix or cross which is carried in Christian processions. Such crosses have a long history: the Gregorian mission of Saint Augustine of Canterbury to England carried one before them "like a standard", according to Bede. Other sources suggest that all churches were expected to possess one. They became detachable from their staffs, so that the earliest altar crosses were processional crosses placed on a stand at the end of the procession. In large churches the "crux gemmata", or richly jewelled cross in precious metal, was the preferred style. Notable early examples include the Cross of Justin II, Cross of Lothair, and Cross of Cong.

Lent Christian observance

Lent is a solemn religious observance in the Christian liturgical calendar that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday. The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer for Easter through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial. This event is observed in the Anglican, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Moravian, Presbyterian, Oriental Orthodox, Reformed, and Roman Catholic Churches. Some Anabaptist and evangelical churches also observe the Lenten season.

Crucifixion in the arts artistic theme

Crucifixions and crucifixes have appeared in the arts and popular culture from before the era of the pagan Roman Empire. The crucifixion of Jesus has been depicted in religious art since the 4th century AD. In more modern times, crucifixion has appeared in film and television as well as in fine art, and depictions of other historical crucifixions have appeared as well as the crucifixion of Christ. Modern art and culture have also seen the rise of images of crucifixion being used to make statements unconnected with Christian iconography, or even just used for shock value.

Glossary of the Catholic Church Wikipedia glossary

This is a glossary of terms used within the Catholic Church.

Christian cross Symbol of Christianity

The Christian cross, seen as a representation of the instrument of the crucifixion of Jesus, is the best-known symbol of Christianity. It is related to the crucifix and to the more general family of cross symbols, the term cross itself being detached from the original specifically Christian meaning in modern English.

Christian cross variants

This is a list of Christian cross variants. The Christian cross, with or without a figure of Christ included, is the main religious symbol of Christianity. A cross with a figure of Christ affixed to it is termed a crucifix and the figure is often referred to as the corpus.

References

  1. Rufolf Distelberger, Western Decorative Arts (National Gallery of Art 1993), p. 15
  2. Paul F. Bradshaw, The New SCM Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship (Hymns Ancient & Modern Ltd, 2002)
  3. Our Savior's Lutheran Church, "Sanctuary and Chapel"
  4. St. John's Lutheran Church of Topeka, KS, "The Altar Crucifix" Archived 19 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  5. History of St Yeghiche Church, Kensington, London
  6. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 117.
  7. Schiller, Gertrud, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. II, 1972 (English trans from German) Lund Humphries, London, ISBN   0-85331-324-5
  8. Schiller, 98-99
  9. In fact this is clearly Aramaic rather than Hebrew. 'Gûlgaltâ' is the Aramaic for 'skull'. The name appears in all of the gospels except Luke, which calls the place simply Kranion 'the Skull', with no Aramaic. See Aramaic of Jesus
  10. "Welcome to the Worlds Largest Crucifixion". Michigan Interactive. Michigan Interactive. Retrieved 30 June 2010.
  11. 1 Cor 1:23-24
  12. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 308
  13. Rubricae generales Missalis, XX
  14. Manlio Sodi, Achille Maria Triacca, Missale Romanum: Editio Princeps (1570) (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1998 ISBN   88-209-2547-8)
  15. Rite of Funerals, 38
  16. Lucifer Rising: A Book of Sin, Devil Worship and Rock n' Roll (Nemesis, 1994)
  17. Kramer, Heinrich and Sprenger, James (1486), Summers, Montague (translator - 1928), The Malleus Maleficarum
  18. Marquardt, Janet T.; Jordan, Alyce A. (14 January 2009). Medieval Art and Architecture after the Middle Ages. Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p. 71. ISBN   9781443803984.
  19. Lyons, Mary Ann; O'Connor, Thomas (2010). The Ulster Earls and Baroque Europe: Refashioning Irish Identities, 1600-1800. Four Courts Press. p. 172.
  20. "HOME". Archived from the original on 1 August 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  21. Obelkevich, James; Roper, Lyndal (5 November 2013). Disciplines of Faith: Studies in Religion, Politics and Patriarchy. Routledge. p. 548. ISBN   9781136820793. The Calvinizers sought to remove the crucifix as idolatrous. There was considerable continuity, certainly, between the Lutheran use of the crucifix and the Catholic.
  22. John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion . Retrieved 12 November 2015. Of what use, then, were the erection in churches of so many crosses of wood and stone, silver and gold,
  23. Tyacke, Nicholas in Lake, Peter and Questier, Michael C.; Conformity and orthodoxy in the English church, c. 1560-1660, Boydell & Brewer, 2000, ISBN   0-85115-797-1, ISBN   978-0-85115-797-9, pp. 29–32
  24. The Telegraph
  25. Prison chapel not to have a crucifix
  26. Monster and Critics
  27. Press release of the European Court of Human Rights
  28. Full text of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights
  29. Summary of the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights
  30. Peru court upholds presence of crucifix in public places