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Differences between Orthodox and Non-Orthodox Crosses

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Differences between Orthodox and Non-Orthodox Crosses

Crosses are recognized universally as the symbol of Christianity
Orthodox Crosses differ in meaning from non-Orthodox Crosses
Society at large feels stagnate about the cross

Symbols throughout history have been used for various reasons. For some it is a unifying force for identification and for others an artistic picture of their ideology, or set of beliefs. The cross has been identified for centuries as the symbolic representation of Christianity.
In 2006, the Center for Church Communication conducted a survey on church symbols. The question was "What's the most overused symbol in church logos?" The Cross won by an overwhelming 57%. It would appear that the world, and perhaps even Christians themselves, have lost touch with the heritage and meaning of the pictorial symbol of the cross.
In Christianity there are three main categories of crosses: Orthodox Crosses, Catholic Crosses and Contemporary Crosses. Of these, the oldest is the Orthodox Crosses that date back to the Byzantine Empire. The Eastern Orthodox Cross (which is also known as the Russian Orthodox Cross and the Byzantine Cross) resembles the Standard Latin Cross with two additional side beams. The top side beam is shorter in length, and the lower side beam is placed at a slant. Another traditional Orthodox Cross that dates back to the 14th century is the Cross of St. Nicholas. It is a Greco-Romanesque cross that can be described as one of the best examples of Religious Medieval art. The cross is in the center of a circle and positioned on a wide octagonal base. On one side of the cross is the image of Christ crucified with the Madonna, St. John, and a skull. The skull is in reference to Adam. On the other side is Christ arisen and surrounded by the Four Evangelists. This gives the reference to the victorious Christ, and the Four Evangelists represent the spreading of Christianity. One of the most photographed Orthodox Crosses is that of the Patriarchal Cross that resides at the top of St. Basil's Cathedral which is located in the Red Square in Moscow. The Patriarchal Cross differs from the Eastern Orthodox Cross in that it doesn't have the lower slant beam.
The two main crosses that are traditionally used by the Catholic Church, other than the Latin Cross, is the Papal Cross and the Cross of St. Peter. The Papal Cross is the official symbol of the Pope. It has three side bars that represent the Pope's authority; the Church, the World, and Heaven. The Cross of St. Peter is an inverted cross representing how St. Pester was crucified. This cross is traditionally placed on the Papal throne, and Papal tombs.
Out of all three categories, the Contemporary Cross as had the most artistic freedom. It is normally based upon the Latin Cross, although it has been redesigned into various formats. The Cross of Calvary, is a Latin Cross with three steps at the base. The steps represent faith, hope and love. Numerous other crosses have been invented for artistic value. There are crosses made out of nails, crosses with a dove, and crosses with lilies. There are literally hundreds of thousands of Contemporary Crosses obtainable.
The difficulty with symbols is that each image represents something different to every individual. To the Orthodox Church the pride of ancient Byzantine Crosses, and the intense meaning of every symbol are more than a mere picture. It is the story of their faith and heritage. For the heart of a Catholic the Papal Cross is the ultimate visible honor to the head of their Church, and as such, the Contemporary Crosses are revered in the hearts of many Christians around the world. It is ironic that such an icon of the Christian faith, that represents the death of Christ, is viewed as overused. The Cross was designed with the intent to glorify Christ. That spark of emotion is what the Christian Community as a whole needs to connect with the symbolic image of the cross as it is carried into future generations regardless of who adorns it.

1. "July 24, 2006 Church Symbols Poll." (2004-2009). Church Marketing Sucks. Retrieved May 21st, 2009 From Center for Church Communication
2. "Eastern Orthodox Cross." Seiyaku. Retrieved May 21st, 2009 from Seiyaku
3. "Patriarchal Cross." Seiyaku. Retrieved May 21st, 2009 from Seiyaku
4. Abiuso, Salvatore, Palmiro Di Maria. (1999). The Cross of St. Nicholas. Retrieved May 21st, 2009
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