What does this cross mean?
It probably only took you half a second to recognize this as a Chi-Rho symbol and we are hoping it won't take you much longer to explain to us why it is reversed.
And what is the lower curve? A crescent moon, representing the Virgin Mary? A chalice? an oil lamp? or what we feel is the best sugestion to date; it might be the hull of a boat (plus a mast, sail, flag, keel and anchor).
This is not the first reversed Chi-Rho we've seen and this orientation has been interpreted as illustrating the dual nature of Christ, the human and the Divine.
On this particular pendant there are seven possibilities for the reason of its orientation:
- A copy of an old Byzantine coin. The Chi-Rho is reputed to have been a standard carried by Constantine's troops. Soldiers marching behind the standard would have seen the reversed symbol. It could, therefore, be used by Christian soldiers following Christ. But that does not explain the lower curve, nor the reversed lettering.
- A souvenir from Ireland, where the Chi-Rho Stone in Drumaqueran, Co. Antrim, features a reversed symbol. But this doesn't explain the curve or reversed lettering.
- A souvenir from Rome, where a reversed Chi-Rho can be found in a fresco on a ceiling in the Crypt of St. Caecilia in the catacombs. But as above, this doesn't explain the curve or the reversed lettering.
- A souvenir from another part of Rome, where a reversed Chi-Rho can be found on one of the eight columns in the oldest baptistery in Rome. But yet again, this doesn't explain the curve or the reversed lettering.
- A die. If so, probably not for making communion wafers since the markings are recessed so the design on the wafer would be very thin and break off too easily.
- A 'seal matrix' for impressing a wax seal. This is our best guess to date, but if it is a stamp, what is the stamp for?
- Something else. And if you know what that is, please email us with your thoughts.
In Hoc Signo Vinces: In this sign you shall conquer.
See Crescent Cross
See Glory Cross
See Fisherman's Cross. Not only does the lower curve resemble the outline of a boat, but the symbol also inlcudes a mast, sail, flag and keel. Extending nautical thought further, the entire symbol could represent an anchor. See Anchor Cross.
See Incused Cross