18th / 19th C. Russian Bronze Three-Bar Cross, Hand Gilded, Enameled & Painted
Russia, ca. 18th – Early 19th century | A beautiful detailed enameled cast bronze three bar cross, with the crucified Christ taking central place, with smaller scenes in low relief detail surrounding him and creating the detailed, ornate effect that is so common to Orthodox religious art.
About: Russian (Orthodox) cross (Russian: Русский православный крест), also known as Orthodox or Byzantine or Suppedaneum cross, is a variation of the Christian cross, a symbol of the Russian Orthodox Church. The cross has three horizontal crossbeams and the lower one is slanted.According to some sources the Russian Orthodox cross has only two horizontal crossbeams and the lower one is slanted. Some Russian sources distinguish the Russian Orthodox cross and the Orthodox cross. In Unicode the symbol (☦) is denoted as Orthodox cross.
The cross has three horizontal crossbeams — the top one represents the plate which in the older Greek tradition is inscribed with a phrase based on John’s Gospel “The King of Glory”, but in later images it represents INRI, and the bottom one, a footrest. In many depictions, the side to Christ’s right is higher. This is because the footrest slants upward toward the penitent thief St. Dismas, who was (according to tradition) crucified on Jesus’ right, and downward toward impenitent thief Gestas. It is also a common perception that the foot-rest points up, toward Heaven, on Christ’s right hand-side, and downward, to Hades, on Christ’s left. One of the Orthodox Church’s Friday prayers clearly explains the meaning: “In the midst, between two thieves, was Your Cross found as the balance-beam of righteousness; For while one was led down to hell by the burden of his blaspheming, the other was lightened of his sins unto the knowledge of things divine, O Christ God glory to You.” Though commonly associated with the Russian Orthodox Church, this version is found also in the Byzantine frescos of churches, which now belong to Greek and Serbian Orthodox churches, although other varieties are also common, including slanted footstool in the opposite direction. Common variations include the “Cross over Crescent” and the “Calvary cross”.
According to many sources the name of the three beam slanted cross is Russian (Orthodox) cross (Russian: Русский православный крест). Sometimes it is also called just Orthodox cross.
The Byzantine cross is also the name for a Latin cross with outwardly spreading ends. It was the most common cruciform in the Byzantine Empire. Other crosses (patriarchal cross, Russian Orthodox cross, etc.) are sometimes misunderstood as “Byzantine cross” when they are from the Byzantine culture.
The Russian (Orthodox) cross is traditionally widely used by Russian Orthodox Church. Now it’s also widely used by Polish Orthodox Church and Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church, which received their autocephaly from Patriarch of Moscow in 1948 and 1951 respectively. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Serbian Orthodox Church sometimes also use this cross.
The Russian (Orthodox) cross is depicted on emblems of several Russian ultra-nationalist organizations such as Brotherhood of Russian Truth and Russian National Unity.
One variation of the Orthodox Cross is the ‘Cross over Crescent’, which is sometimes accompanied by “Gabriel perched on the top of the Cross blowing his trumpet.”Didier Chaudet, in the academic journal China and Eurasia Forum Quarterly, writes that an “emblem of the Orthodox Church is a cross on top on a crescent. It is said that this symbol was devised by Ivan the Terrible, after the conquest of the city of Kazan, as a symbol of the victory of Christianity over Islam through his soldiers”; the Orthodox World Encyclopaedia concurs with this view. However, B.A. Uspensky offers another view, stating that in pre-Christian times, the ‘Cross over Crescent’ symbolized the sun and the moon, and that in the Christian Era, the cross is a symbol of Christ and the moon is a symbol of the Virgin Mary.
In Russia, the top crossbeam can be absent; however, in the Russian North it can be attached on top of the vertical beam.
A variation is a monastic “Calvary Cross”, in which the cross is situated atop the hill of Calvary, its slopes symbolized by steps. To the viewer’s left is the Holy Lance, with which Jesus was wounded in his side, and to the right, a pole topped by a vinegared hyssop sponge. Under Calvary are Adam’s skull and bones; the right-arm bone is usually above the left one, and believers fold their arms across their chests in this way during Orthodox communion. Around the cross are abbreviations in Church Slavonic. This type of cross is usually embroidered on a schema-monk’s robe.
Between 1577–1625, the Russian Orthodox Cross was depicted between the heads of a double-headed eagle in the coat of arms of Russia. It was drawn on military banners until the end of the 17th century.
18th Century, 19th Century