Crucifix

Crucifixion of Christ at the winged triptych at the Church of the Teutonic Order in Vienna, Austria. Woodcarvings by an anonymous master; polychromy by Jan van Wavere, Mechelen, signed 1520. This altarpiece was originally made for St. Mary's Church, Gdańsk, and came to Vienna in 1864.

A crucifix (from Latin cruci fixus meaning "(one) fixed to a cross") is an image of Jesus on the cross, as distinct from a bare cross. The representation of Jesus himself on the cross is referred to in English as the corpus (Latin for "body").[1][2]

The crucifix is a principal symbol for many groups of Christians, and one of the most common forms of the Crucifixion in the arts. It is especially important in the Latin Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, but is also used in the Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian, and Eastern Catholic Churches, as well as by the Lutheran and Anglican Churches.[3][4] The symbol is less common in churches of other Protestant denominations, which prefer to use a cross without the figure of Jesus (the corpus). The crucifix emphasizes Jesus' sacrifice — his death by crucifixion, which Christians believe brought about the redemption of mankind. Most crucifixes portray Jesus on a Latin cross, rather than any other shape, such as a Tau cross or a Coptic cross.

Western crucifixes usually have a three-dimensional corpus, but in Eastern Orthodoxy Jesus' body is normally painted on the cross, or in low relief. Strictly speaking, to be a crucifix, the cross must be three-dimensional, but this distinction is not always observed. An entire painting of the Crucifixion of Jesus including a landscape background and other figures is not a crucifix either.

Large crucifixes high across the central axis of a church are known by the Old English term rood. By the late Middle Ages these were a near-universal feature of Western churches, but are now very rare. Modern Roman Catholic churches often have a crucifix above the altar on the wall; for the celebration of Mass, the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church requires that, "on or close to the altar there is to be a cross with a figure of Christ crucified".[5]

Description

A crucifix in the chancel of a Lutheran church.

The standard, four-pointed Latin crucifix consists of an upright post or stipes and a single crosspiece to which the sufferer's arms were nailed. There may also be a short projecting nameplate, showing the letters INRI (Greek: INBI). The Russian Orthodox crucifix usually has an additional third crossbar, to which the feet are nailed, and which is angled upward toward the penitent thief Saint Dismas (to the viewer's left) and downward toward the impenitent thief Gestas (to the viewer's right). The corpus of Eastern crucifixes is normally a two-dimensional or low relief icon that shows Jesus as already dead, his face peaceful and somber. They are rarely three-dimensional figures as in the Western tradition, although these may be found where Western influences are strong, but are more typically icons painted on a piece of wood shaped to include the double-barred cross and perhaps the edge of Christ's hips and halo, and no background. More sculptural small crucifixes in metal relief are also used in Orthodoxy (see gallery examples), including as pectoral crosses and blessing crosses.

Western crucifixes may show Christ dead or alive, the presence of the spear wound in his ribs traditionally indicating that he is dead. In either case his face very often shows his suffering. In Orthodoxy he has normally been shown as dead since around the end of the period of Byzantine Iconoclasm.[6] Eastern crucifixes have Jesus' two feet nailed side by side, rather than crossed one above the other, as Western crucifixes have shown them since around the 13th century. The crown of thorns is also generally absent in Eastern crucifixes, since the emphasis is not on Christ's suffering, but on his triumph over sin and death. The "S"-shaped position of Jesus' body on the cross is a Byzantine innovation of the late 10th century,[7] though also found in the German Gero Cross of the same date. Probably more from Byzantine influence, it spread elsewhere in the West, especially to Italy, by the Romanesque period, though it was more usual in painting than sculpted crucifixes. It's in Italy that the emphasis was put on Jesus' suffering and realistic details, during a process of general humanization of Christ favored by the Franciscan order. During the 13th century the suffering Italian model (Christus patiens) triumphed over the traditional Byzantine one (Christus gloriosus) anywhere in Europe also due to the works of artists such as Giunta Pisano and Cimabue. Since the Renaissance the "S"-shape is generally much less pronounced. Eastern Christian blessing crosses will often have the Crucifixion depicted on one side, and the Resurrection on the other, illustrating the understanding of Orthodox theology that the Crucifixion and Resurrection are two intimately related aspects of the same act of salvation.

Another, symbolic, depiction shows a triumphant Christ (Latin: Christus triumphans), clothed in robes, rather than stripped as for His execution, with arms raised, appearing to rise up from the cross, sometimes accompanied by "rays of light", or an aureole encircling His Body. He may be robed as a prophet, crowned as a king, and vested in a stole as Great High Priest.

On some crucifixes a skull and crossbones are shown below the corpus, referring to Golgotha (Calvary), the site at which Jesus was crucified, which the Gospels say means in Hebrew "the place of the skull."[8] Medieval tradition held that it was the burial-place of Adam and Eve, and that the cross of Christ was raised directly over Adam's skull, so many crucifixes manufactured in Catholic countries still show the skull and crossbones below the corpus.

Very large crucifixes have been built, the largest being the Cross in the Woods in Michigan, with a 31 feet (9.4 m) high statue.[9]

Other Languages
català: Crucifix
čeština: Krucifix
dansk: Krucifiks
Deutsch: Kruzifix
eesti: Krutsifiks
español: Crucifijo
Esperanto: Krucifikso
euskara: Gurutzefika
français: Crucifix
한국어: 십자고상
hrvatski: Raspelo
Bahasa Indonesia: Crucifix
íslenska: Róðukross
italiano: Crocifisso
עברית: קרוסיפיקס
Latina: Crucifixum
latviešu: Krucifikss
lietuvių: Krucifiksas
Limburgs: Kruusbeeld
Nederlands: Crucifix
norsk: Krusifiks
norsk nynorsk: Krusifiks
Nouormand: Cruchefis
polski: Krucyfiks
português: Crucifixo
română: Crucifix
slovenčina: Krucifix
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Raspelo
suomi: Krusifiksi
svenska: Krucifix
українська: Розп'яття
中文: 十架苦像