Byzantine Cross Pendant

The Byzantine Cross dates back to the fourth century when the Roman influence was spreading. Emperor St. Constantine was in charge of Christianizing the citizens of the Roman Empire. He began his mission by making Constantinople a capital city. It was from this location that Byzantine art was born. The era was a time of great development in the areas of art and architecture for the Roman Empire and Christians. Byzantine art is meant to bring a balance to the human realm and the spiritual world through art.

The Cross
During the Byzantine era, the cross was already an established religious symbol. This era was the beginning of a new kind of decoration for the popular religious iconography of the time. The shape of the Byzantine cross varies but is comprised of the original basic shape and three additional bars. The top bar represents the sign that was placed above Christ Jesus’ head during his crucifixion. It reads “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” In Orthodox versions of the cross this may be replaced with “King of Glory.” The center bar is representative of the place where Christ’s arms were placed and nailed to the cross. Where his feet were placed is represented by the bottom bar on the Byzantine cross. There are many variations of these basic design elements. Most of the variation is decoration, which was called “diatrita” in Greek and “Opis Interrasile” in Latin. Decorating religious objects was popular during the era and ranged from simple to ornate.

Canterbury Cross
The Canterbury cross was discovered in 1867. It was found on St. George’s Street in the city of Canterbury, England. The cross was named after the first Archbishop of Canterbury, Theodore from Tarsus. It has triangular forms on the cross arms which are representative of a more modern design.

Christine Cross
This cross design originates in the 11th century. It was named after Queen of Denmark, Christine (1545-1590) in whose tomb it was found. The design features a prominent top bar like other Byzantine designs. On the back of the cross is an image of the Virgin Mary with “Mother of God” written in Greek letters. The front of the cross has Greek lettering also, it reads “Jesus Christ, King of Glory, and Conquers.” It also includes small circles.

Dagmar Cross
The Dagmar cross was found around the 11th century. It was named for Queen Dagmar of Denmark who was born in 1189 ad. She was married to Vladimir II the Victorious for a short period of time. One of the legends about Vladimir says that after a battle victory, a red cloth with a white cross fell from the sky. This symbol later became part of the Denmark national flag. The Dagmar Cross was found on the Queen when her grave was opened in 1690. The main difference in this design is the five faces on the front that are each surrounded by circles. These faces are; Virgin Mary, St. Basil, St. John the Baptist, St. John Chrystostom, and in the center Jesus Christ. On the back of the cross there is an image of Christ crucified. It is now commonly thought to be a Scandinavian Lutheran cross.

Golgotha Cross
This cross was named for the area called Golgotha. It is believed to be the burial site of Adam from the Bible. The skull at the bottom of the cross represents him. The direction that the bars are pointing also holds meaning in this design. One is pointed to the top, towards the good thief and the other is pointing down towards the bad thief. There are also Greek letters meaning “JC” on either side of the middle bar.

Irene Cross
Saint Irene is a beloved saint in the Orthodox Church. It is told that Irene was chosen to wed the twelve year old Emperor Michael of Constantinople. Before she could make her way to the palace, another wedding was being held. When she heard the news, she was overjoyed. A hermit had told her that she would be spending her life serving God in a monastery. Irene sold all her belongings and joined the Chrysovolantou convent where she later became Abbess and lived to be 102 years old. During her lifetime man healings were attributed to her, some even after her death. The cross has a raised image of Jesus who is surrounded by a decorative curved cross shaped background.

Russian Orthodox Cross
This cross does not have the three bars that are characteristic of other Byzantine gold crosses. Instead it is a simple design of a cross within a cross. Each end of the cross is a trio of curves. On the front are the Greek letters meaning “Jesus Conquers.”

St. Olga Cross
St. Olga was the first Russian saint. She was born in the late ninth century and married Grand Duke Igor in 903 ad. Olga was baptized Christian in 937 ad and tried to convince her son to Christianize Russia. The attempts failed but her Grandson Vladimir eventually did. This cross is a dark and simple cross placed against a curved background.

Caring for Your Gold Byzantine Cross
Pure gold is not able to withstand abrasions. Therefore it is mixed with other metals to add strength such as; nickel, copper, silver, and zinc alloys. The percentage of pure gold used is what allows for variations in shade. Gold will not rust or corrode and can be easily cleaned with soapy water. A toothbrush may be used to remove dirt from intricate designs. A lint free cloth may be used to improve the shine of your gold cross. Keeping your gold Byzantine cross away from moisture will prevent the clasp from weakening over time. The best way to store your cross is in a velvet lined jewelry box where it can be kept separate from gems that it may cause damage to.

Post a Response