The Caravaca Cross shows a Corpus on a Patriarchal Cross, often flanked by two Angels. The upper of the two bars on the Patriarchal Cross normally represents a titulus; the Caravaca Cross is unusual in that the arms of the corpus are nailed to the upper bar.
In the early 8th century, Arabs and Berbers invaded the Iberian peninsula and occupied the territory. It took almost 800 years for Christians to reconquest the land.
In about the middle of that period, in the year 1231 (or 1232 by some accounts), a miracle occurred in the southeastern Spanish town of Caravaca de la Cruz. The town is set among the rugged sierras of Murcia, which at that time was still a Moorish kingdom under Zeyt-Abuzeyt. Being several generations away from the initial invaders, he was from a line of well-established monarchs and one of his duties was to protect the region from invasion by the Christians. The Christian Reconquesta took various forms; from fighting to gradual infiltration through missionaries (pretty much the same as today).
One such Christian missionary was Don Gínes Pérez Chirinos de Cuenca. He was captured and taken before the Muslim king who was curious about certain aspects of the Christian faith. In particular, he was interested in the Christian celebration of the Last Supper and asked the missionary to demonstrate the procedure. One can imagine the priest would be reluctant to do this - in those days only believers were present during the sacrament. Nevertheless, he agreed and the king arranged for the necessary apparatus: an altar draped with a pall cloth, bread and wine, and some candles. One important element, however, was missing: the cross.
The missionary explained that the presence of a cross was critical to the Eucharist and he could not continue without one. The king exclaimed: "So what is that?" (but in Iberian, of course), pointing to something at the window. From the heavens, two angels appeared carrying a cross, which they placed on the altar and then disappeared.
The priest continued with the Mass.
In the Catholic Church, when the bread and wine are consecrated during Mass, they cease to be bread and wine, and become instead the body and blood of Christ. The empirical appearances are not changed, but the reality is. When missionary Don reached the consecration stage, the king saw a beautiful baby instead of the bread (Host). The king was so taken aback by this miraculous image that he, and his family, converted to Christianity and asked to be baptized into the Christian faith. Many believe that the cross delivered by the angels included a piece of the True Cross.
The miracles didn't stop there.
Eventually, the town passed to the Knights Templar who, in the 15th century, built the castle that still dominates the town today. At one time, the Knights Templar and townsfolk were under siege by the Muslim army and took refuge in the castle. It wasn't long before the water stored in the castle became unpotable and several of the refugees became ill. Scouts crept out of the castle at night to look for water but found the neighbouring wells had been poisoned. In desperation, the scouts raced out of the castle on horses to find a safe source of water. They found some wine, loaded the wineskins on their horses and raced back to the castle.
The wine was blessed in the presence the Caravaca Cross and served to those who had been debilitated by the bad water. They recovered immediately and the blessed wine was mixed with the toxic water in the storage tanks. (This reminds us of the miracle by Jesus when he turned water into wine.) The water became fresh and as a result, the Christians were able to resist the enemy.
Today, an annual fiesta is held in the town to remember those events, which includes a ceremony to bless the irrigation water used by Caravaca farmers.
Because of these miracles and the relic of the True Cross, in 1998 Caravaca de la Cruz became the fifth holy town (along with Santiago de Compostela, Santo Toribio de Liébana, Rome and Jerusalem) celebrating the Perpetual Jubilee in the Vera Cruz Sanctuary (Sanctuario de la Vera Cruz) where the Caravaca Cross is kept.
Centuries later, after Christopher Columbus set sail on his voyage of discovery (1492) Franciscan monks travelled to the Americas, taking copies of the Caravaca cross with them. The design is still commonly seen in Central and South American churches and monasteries. Houses and business premises also have copies pinned to the wall, like lucky charms, and may be surrounded by a lucky horseshoe.