AxiosOrthodoxal news and traditionsTypes of crosses and their purpose

Types of crosses and their purpose

In the Orthodox Church, the cross of Christ is one of the most used objects and symbols, which is present both in the private life of every Christian and in the decoration of churches, clothes of clergy, etc. The sign of the cross, as an instrument of salvation for all mankind, with which we cross ourselves during worship, is also an integral part of the Orthodox cult. In the Church, there are different types of crosses, according to their purpose. We will tell you about these types of crosses and their features in our material.


Pectoral cross

In our time, every Christian has a pectoral cross. But the tradition of wearing such a cross did not appear immediately, but approximately in the 4th century, since Saint John Chrysostom mentions this in his sermons, where he condemned his flock for putting various amulets on baptized babies instead of the cross. Until 313, when Christianity was sometimes a religion persecuted by the authorities, believers generally did not wear special signs. Although there are references to Christians wearing a fish symbol (a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ), as well as drawing a cross on their foreheads. On the territory of Kievan Rus, body crosses appeared before official baptism in 988, which already speaks of the spread of Christianity among our ancestors. Symbolically, the pectoral cross reminds believers of the importance of carrying the life cross in its pursuit of Christ for salvation. Also, Orthodox Christians daily read the prayer to the Holy Cross, asking the Lord through the cross to protect them from all evil and demonic attack.


Cross-Golgotha (Calvary)

The cross-Golgotha ​​meets us in every Orthodox church on a funeral table, as well as in the very center of the church during Lent. This type of cross is a composition that consists of: directly crucifiction with the depicted figure of the Lord Jesus Christ, the figure of the Mother of God and the Apostle John the Theologian on the sides of the cross, the stone foundation of Calvary and the skull and bones of the forefather Adam directly under the cross. The purpose of such a cross is to show believers realistically and figuratively, at the cost of any suffering and agony, they were redeemed from sin, in accordance with the words of the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 6:20). Awareness of the greatness of the work of the Cross of Christ should keep the faithful from the sins with which they crucify their Creator and Savior again and again. Therefore, during the reading of the passions of Lent, the cross-Golgotha ​​is brought to the middle of the temple as a symbol of the atoning sacrifice of Christ.

Priest’s pectoral cross

A modern priest can no longer be imagined without a priest’s pectoral cross, which, as an obligatory element of the image of the priest, has already firmly entered the popular consciousness. However, the mandatory wearing and the type of pectoral cross for the priests was approved only in 1896 on the occasion of the coronation of Emperor Nicholas II. In general, until the 17th century, only bishops wore similar crosses in Ukraine, decorated with paintings and stones. But already at the time of Metropolitan Peter Mogila, archimandrites of large monasteries received the right to wear priest’s pectoral crosses. This tradition in its time was very surprised by the Russians, who had no such custom. During the XVIII-XIX centuries, only a few married clergymen received pectoral crosses as a reward. The prototypes of the priestly crosses were large crosses-encolpion, popular in Byzantium, in which believers kept their relics or some sacred relics. The designation of a pectoral cross is to remind the priest of the responsibility of his ministry to parishioners, because on the reverse of the cross there is a quotation from the letter of the Apostle Paul to Timothy: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity (1 Tim. 4, 12)”.



Altar cross

The altar cross is constantly located in the altar of each temple on the holy altar. With this cross, the priest blesses the believers and gives them to them for kissing at the end of each liturgy. Also, this cross on the decorated tray is taken out to the middle of the temple three times a year: on the Cross Week of Great Lent, on the Holiday of the Wearing of the Cross (August 14) and the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 27).

Cross with candlestick

The cross with candlestick is used during the Easter service and for forty days after Easter instead of the usual altar cross. In front of such a cross is a candlestick with three candles. The priest uses the cross with candlestick during censing, as well as for the blessing of parishioners, with the exclamation: "Christ is Risen!".


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