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The Pope's Cross & St. Nino's Cross

also known as the Bent (or Bendy) Cross

Why is this cross design is one of the pope's favourites?



The Pope's Cross

The Pope's Cross

Bent Cross

Pope Benedict XVI with a Bent Cross

The pope uses several designs of cross, including the standard Latin Cross, fabulous jewelled crosses, and this odd looking crucifix with a bent cross-beam, which seems to be one of his favourites.

This is a relatively recent design, created by the Italian artist Lello Scorzelli for Pope Paul VI in the mid-1960s. The curves have no heraldic or theological meaning, although the agrestic image reminds us of the virtue of humility and that Jesus was crucified on a rough wooden structure (see The Old Rugged Cross). This rustic cross is in stark contrast to the pope's conventional splendor.

St. Nino's Cross
St. Nino's Cross
(Click photo to enlarge)

Dr Roman points out that some Georgian priests wear this as a pectoral cross. The style is based on the 4th century St. Nino's Cross, much older than the 1966 papal version described above. The original is enshrined in Sioni Cathedral, Tbilisi, Georgia, and is a prized national and miracle-working relic.

Georgian Orthodox Church logo
Georgian Orthodox Church logo features two St. Nino's crosses
(Click image to enlarge)

St. Nino is credited with bringing Christianity to Georgia, performed many miracles, and consequently is one of the most venerated saints of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

The arms of her cross, bent with moisture over time, is made from the wood of grape-vine, tied together with strands of her own hair (some say the hair of the Mother of Jesus).

Notes:

  • The Bent Cross is used by the pope rather like an archbishop uses his crozier1 and may also be compared to the Orthodox bishop's paterissa, which terminates in a pair of snakes. It is also referred to as a Pastoral Cross, although the correct term is Ferula2.
  • 'Pope's Cross' is also used to describe other designs, such as the Crossed Keys or the Papal Cross, which used for extraordinary ceremonial occasions.
  • 'Bent Cross' is sometimes applied to the Swastika Cross. Other crosses with bends include the Twisted Cross and the Curved Cross

1: Sean M. Wright adds: The pope does not carry a crozier curved like a Shepherd's Crook, since the curve of the crook indicates limited authority, Therefore, the pope carries a cross.
2: ferula: Latin for 'staff' or 'rod', and also the term used for the sovereign's sceptre in the Byzantine or Eastern Empire.