Here is a blessing cross in silver, made by the noted Russian firm and maker of ecclesiastical implements Olovyanishnikov (П. И. Оловянишникова сыновья/P. I. Olovyanishnikov’s Sons) It once had a handle at the base.
The central painted icon contained within the silver casing is the “Not Made by Hands” image of Jesus, which was very popular with the Russian military. Two angels — hands covered as a sign of veneration — are at the sides.
The cross has a partly-abbreviated engraved inscription taken from Matthew 22:37:
Бога твоего всемъ
сердцемъ твоимъ и
всею душею твоею
и всею мыслию твоею
Vozliubishi Gospoda Boga tvoego vsem” serdtsem” tvoim” i vseiu dusheiu tvoeiu i vseiu muisliu tvoeiu
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind.”
The Olovyanishnikovs began their gradual rise as a Russian peasant family on an estate belonging to the Yaroslavl Spaso-Preobrazhensky Monastery (“Savior-Transfiguration Monastery”). Over generations their circumstances improved. Porfiriy Ivanovich (1822-1881) moved his family to Moscow and through the business of casting bells made the family name famous.
Porfiriy was succeeded by his sons Ivan Porfirievich (1844-1898) and Sergey Porfirevich (1856-1890). In 1882 they founded the firm П. И. Оловянишникова сыновья — “P. I. Olovyanishnikov’s Sons, which again began with the casting of bells, but later they opened a factory for the making of Church implements such as clerical vestments, icons, banners, crosses, etc. Objects in precious metals were often created in the then-fashionable Neo-Russian style.
After the death of Ivan Porfierievich in 1898, management of the company came into the hands of his widow Evpraksia Georgievna (1851-1925), with the board remaining in Moscow, and offices in St. Petersburg, Tula, and Yaroslavl.
As a result of the Revolution of October, 1917, the factory of Church utensils was closed; the bell factory was destroyed after the 1918 Yaroslavl uprising. The family fell on hard times; some were exiled or emigrated, and at least one was killed by the Bolsheviks.
Here is a photo of the family in better times, at the beginning of the 20th century:
They are, from left:
Ivan Ivanovich with wife Vera Nikolaevna; Georgiy Ivanovich; Porfiriy Ivanovich; Evpraksiya Georgievna; Nikolay Ivanovich; Tat’yana Ivanovna;
Standing from left to right:
Vladimir Ivanovich; Mariya Ivanovna; Ekaterina Nikolaevna,with husband Viktor Ivanovich
Here is the reverse of the cross, ornamented with engraved floral designs:
How to tell a male from a female? Well, you probably already know how to do that with humans, so that is not my topic today. Instead it is how to tell a “Male” cross from a “Female” cross.
This applies specifically to what is called a нательный крест/natel’nuiy krest — literally an “on-body” cross, so named because it is worn around the neck and under the clothes and against the skin. This is the cross that every Russian Orthodox believer is expected to wear on a cord around the neck for life. It is never supposed to be removed, but if for some extenuating circumstance one must remove it, then a special prayer must be said.
When we speak of “Male” and “Female” crosses, we are speaking of terminology that was used among the Old Believers — that group from which the State Orthodox Church separated in the middle of the 17th century. Before that time ALL Russians were “Old Believers,” but with the changes instituted by Patriarch Nikon, the Russian Orthodox Church split into two main factions — those who kept the old ways, and so were called “Old Believers” or “Old Ritualists,” and those who accepted Nikon’s changes and became the majority State Russian Orthodox Church.
It is important to keep in mind that while in this discussion I am speaking primarily of the practices among the Old Believers, research has shown that the on-body crosses of the Old Believers were widely used by ordinary members of the State Church between the 17th and 19th centuries as well, perhaps due largely to their availability. So while one may speak of an Old Believer-style cross, one cannot always be certain that any particular cross was worn by an Old Believer and not by a member of the State Church. One can be more certain of making that distinction in the case of pectoral crosses worn by State Church clergy, which were more likely to follow the accepted revisionist State Church iconography.
Now, on to how to distinguish a “Male” on-body cross from a “Female” cross:
A “Male” cross (мужской крест/muzhskoy krest) — also known as a “straight” (прямой/pryamoy) cross — is an eight-pointed “Golgotha” cross with sharp corners. It is traditionally worn by a male. Here is an example:
Note that even though the “outer” cross may be four-pointed (one vertical and one horizontal beam), an Old Believer casting will always have the “true” cross depicted inside it, which in the Old Belief is the eight-pointed cross (one vertical beam, one large horizontal beam, one small “titulus” horizontal beam, and one angled “footrest” beam). They believe this was the form of the supposed “true” cross said to have been discovered in Jerusalem by St. Helena/Elena.
It is also important to note that an on-body cross in the Old Believer tradition will never show the body of Jesus on the cross. The cross will be bare. The reason is that it was believed when one depicted the body of Jesus on it, that made the cross an icon, and the on-body cross without the body of Jesus is not considered an icon, but rather a symbol. It was thought that to wear an icon under the clothing was wrong because it was like wearing a “pagan” amulet. The Old Believers could quote the words of St. Basil, who said that anyone who wore an icon like an amulet must be forbidden communion for three years (Всякий, носящий на себе в качестве паданки какую-либо икону, подвергаться должен отлучению от причастия на три года).
Further, a traditional Old Believer on-body cross will have the ЦАРЬ СЛАВЫ/TSAR SLAVUI inscription at the top, and not the IНЦI, / I N TS I — which abbreviates the Church Slavic words for “Jesus (I) of Nazareth (N), King (TS) of the Jews (I) — Iisus Nazoryanin’ Tsar Iudeiskiy, which was adopted into State Church Orthodoxy in the 17th century. The omission of that inscription is apparently due to the Pomortsui/ Поморцы Old Believers — a “priestless” group — who held that the use of Pilate’s mocking title for Jesus was one of the “novelties” introduced by Patriarch Nikon, whom they considered a heretic. Similarly, they refused the use of the dove to represent the Holy Spirit. The Feodosiyevtsui/феодосиевцы Old Believers also used the Tsar Slavui inscription up into the 19th century.
An Old Believer on-body cross will also have the IC XC abbreviation for “Jesus Christ,” and may have the СЫНБ БОЖИЙ/SUIN BOZHIY abbreviation as well. You can see that the above example is typical in showing the so-called “Golgotha Cross,” represented as on Mount Golgotha, and we see by the spear the letter K, abbreviating КОПИЕ — KOPIE, meaning “lance,” “spear.” And by the sponge is the letter T, abbreviating ТРОСТЬ — TROST’, meaning the reed/rod. Note also the NIKA — “He conquers” inscription. The skull of Adam is visible at the base in this example. This example also has — just above the main crossbeam — the abbreviations for КРЕСТЪ ХРАНИТЕЛЬ / KREST KHRANITEL’ — “The Cross is the Protector ….”, the beginning words of a common inscription on the reverse of countless large cast metal “icon” crosses:
Krest’ Khranitel’ Vsei Vselennei — [The] Cross [is] Protector of All the World Krest’ Krasota Tserkovnaya — [The] Cross [is the] Beauty of the Church Krest’ Tsarem’ Derzhava — [The] Cross [is the] Might of Kings Krest’ Vyernuim’ Utyverzhdenie [The] Cross [is the] Comfort of the Believers Krest’ Angelom Slava — [The] Cross [is the] Glory of Angels Krest’ Besyom Yasva — [The] Cross [is the] Plague of Demons
Also important is the inscription on the reverse side of Old Believer on-body crosses, which in the case of most will be the “Let God arise…” text:
ДА ВОСКРЕСЕНЕТЪ БОГЪ И РАЗЫДУТСЯ ВРАЗИ ЕГО И ДА БЕЖАТЪ ОТЪ ЛИЦА ЕГО ВСИ НЕНАВИДЯЩЕЙ ЕГО…
Da Voskresenet’ Bog’ i Razuidyutsya Vrazi Ego, I da Byezhat’ Ot’ Litsa Ego Vsi Nenavidashchey ego…
“Let God Arise, and Let his enemies be scattered. Let them also that hate him, flee before him.” On some crosses it continues: “As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.” The whole inscription comes from Psalm 67:1-2 in the Old Testament (68:1-2 in the King James Version). The beginning portion — with additions — is commonly referred to in Russian Orthodoxy as the Молитва Честному Кресту — Molitva Chestnomy Krestu — “The Prayer of the Honorable Cross.”
So that is the “Male” cross.
The “Female” cross (женский крест/zhenskiy krest) — also called a “leaf” (листик) cross — is recognized by its rounded outlines in contrast to the sharp corners of the “Male” cross. It is traditionally worn by a female. Here is an example.
First, the front:
Notice the twining foliage around the edges. In the Old Belief, that is considered symbolic of the traditional role of women as expressed in Psalm 127:3 (128:3 KJV):
Жена твоя, яко лоза плодовита в странах дому твоего
Zhena tvoya, yako loza plodovita v stranakh domu tvoego
“Your wife is as a fruitful vine at the sides of your house…”
As you can see, the face has a number of abbreviations.
At the top we find:
Ц С for Царь Славы/Tsar Slavui — “King of Glory”
IС ХС for Исус Христос/Isus Khristos — “Jesus Christ”
С Б for Сын[ъ] Божий/Suin Bozhiy — “Son of God”
In many antique Old Believer crosses, that is the extent of the inscriptions on the face. However, some have an additional inscription, like the one illustrated. Above the crossbeam is:
РАСПЯТ БЫСТЬ/Raspyat Buist’ — “[He] was crucified …
And below the crossbeam we find a date in Cyrillic letter numbers. It may be given as:
[҂]ЄФЛД ЛЕТО МАРТА Л
In that case the significance of the joined crossbeam inscriptions is:
РАСПЯТ БЫСТЬ [҂]ЄФЛД ЛЕТО МАРТА Л
[He] was crucified 5534 Year March 30
There was an old system of dating held by Julius Africanus and supported by Hippolytus of Rome. In it, the Creation of the World supposedly took place 5,500 years before the birth of Jesus, on March 30. By one old view, Jesus lived 33 years and was crucified also on March 30, making the date of his crucifixion 5533 (҂ЄФЛГ) in that chronology, but here it is given as 5534 (ЄФЛД), making him — one would think — 34 years old (in this inscription Є (5) was apparently used in place of the correct А to signify the number 5,000). However some hold that Jesus was born in December of 5500, and given that one ancient chronology began the year on March 1, Jesus would have died on March 30 in the year 5534. There is much uncertainty involving date variations on old on-body crosses, and the reasons for these varying dates on Old Believer crosses are still not fully understood. It is best in translating to just go with what is on the cross, recognizing that odd variations may reflect errors and misunderstandings or differences of opinion in early chronologies.
One example is that we sometimes we find “Female” Old Believer on-body crosses with this inscription below the crossbeam in place of the [҂]ЄФЛД year date:
КД ЛЕТО МАРТА Л
24 Year March 30
There is a lot of controversy about it, because the “24 year” part is thought to make no sense. The general consensus of opinion at present seems to be that at some point this incorrect year date was mistakenly used on a cast on-body cross, and then the same pattern was copied uncritically and repeatedly, resulting in quite a number of old crosses bearing that confusing date.
As mentioned previously, further odd variations in the date letters are sometimes found, and given the confusion surrounding them, it is not surprising that a great many Old Believer female crosses eliminate the Crucifixion date inscriptions entirely, and instead have above the crossbeam:
IC XC for “Jesus Christ”
And below it:
СНЪ БЖIЙ for Сынъ Божий/Suin Bozhiy — “Son of God”
Instead of the common “Let God arise…” text, this example uses the text:
Господи, Iсусе Христе, Сыне Божий, благослови, и освяти, и сохрани мя силою Живоноснаго Креста Твоего. Gospodi, Isuse Khriste, Suine bozhiy, blagoslovi i osvyati i sokhrani mya siloiu [zhivonosnago kresta tvoego].
The version actually written on this cross reverses two of the last three words, writing instead:
… креста живоноснаго т[воего]
…kresta zhivonosnago tvoego.
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, bless and sanctify and protect me through the power of your life-giving cross.”
Now as for the matter of dating Old Believer on-body crosses, it is often very difficult, because the same styles were used in the 18th and 19th centuries — some even from the 17th century onward. The State Orthodox Church, by contrast, is at present much more variable in the styles of crosses being worn, with some obviously showing western European influence and using iconographic variants that would not at all be acceptable to traditional Old Believers.
Now you know how to distinguish a “Male” Old Believer on-body cross from a “Female” on-body cross. Will it change your life, or get you a date on Friday night? Probably not, but you can be certain to bore your friends and relations with this esoteric knowledge.
In previous postings I discussed Russian crosses and their inscriptions in considerable detail, so if you were paying attention, today’s image will present no serious problems. It is a relief-carved and painted wooden cross, probably from around the end of the 18th-early 19th century. It should give you a useful review of cross inscriptions.
Again, from the previous postings you should be able to recognize that this is a “Priested” Old Believer cross. We can tell that from the presence of “Lord Sabaoth” — God the Father — at the top of the crucifix, and also the presence (though partly hidden by the halo) of the letters ИНЦИ.
Can we further identify this cross? Again, if you were paying attention the the previous articles on crosses and their inscriptions, that should be possible. A major clue is not only the traditional painting style used on the figure of Jesus, but also what is found at the top of the cross. Let’s look more closely:
There are two important elements here: the image of “Gospod’ Savaof” — “Lord Sabaoth,” that is, God the Father, and second the presence of the ИНЦИ abbreviation (though it is partly hidden by the halo of Jesus). These together tell us that this is a “Priested” Old Believer cross — that segment of the Old Belief who kept the notion of the priesthood. You will recall that when Lord Sabaoth is replaced by the “Not Made by Hands” image, and the inscription is also absent on such a cross, it is likely to be a “Priestless” Old Believer cross.
Though you should know the inscriptions on the cross by now if you are a regular reader here, we will go through them again just to make sure:
At the top of the cross, we see the carved inscription:
KRESTOU TVOEMOU POKLONAEMSYA VLADIKO I SVYATOE VOSKRESENIE TVOE SLAVIM
“We bow before your cross, Master, and praise your holy resurrection.”
We see the usual Gospod’ Savaof inscription by God the Father, and with him we see the darkened sun and the moon that has become red as blood, identified like this:
Each of the two flying angels has the abbreviation АГ — AG — abbreviating Ангел Господен –Angel Gospoden — “Angel of the Lord.”
Just below them, we see the abbreviated superscription on the cross, the I. N. TS. I inscription that abbreviates Pilate’s text “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (Исус Назорянин, Царь Иудейский ).
Along the upper part of the main crossbeam, we find the partially-abbreviated inscription that is really the title of the type:
РАСПЯТИЕ ГОСПОДА БОГА НАШЕГО ИСУСА ХРИСТА RASPYATIE GOSPODA BOGA NASHEGO ISUSA KHRISTA
“CRUCIFIXION OF OUR LORD GOD JESUS CHRIST.”
You can easily recognize the large carved abbreviation IC XC abbreviation for “Jesus Christ,” Remember that while the Old Believers use the Ісусъ [Isus] spelling, the Russian State Church uses Іисусъ [Iisus]; “Christ” is Христос — Khristos.
Now let’s look at the lower portion:
We see divided from left to right the painted inscription:
С[Ы]НЪ Б[О]ЖIЙ SUIN” BOZHIY
“Son of God.”
And carved in large letters, again jumping left to right, is the Greek word НИКА — NIKA — Greek for “He Conquers.”
With the carved images of spear and sponge on a reed, we see we see by the spear the letter K, abbreviating КОПИЕ — KOPIE, meaning “lance,” “spear.” And by the sponge is the letter T, abbreviating ТРОСТЬ — TROST’, meaning the reed/rod.
Below that are the two letters:
ГОРА ГОЛГОФА GORA GOLGOFA
“Hill [of] Golgotha”
By the skull — traditionally that of Adam, the mythical first man, buried on the site of the crucifixion, we see the identifying letters:
abbreviating ГОЛОВА АДАМА GOLOVA ADAMA
[the] SKULL (literally “head”) [of] ADAM
And finally, right at the bottom, we find these carved letters:
МЕСТО ЛОБНОЕ РАЙ БЫСТЬ MESTO LOBNOE RAI BUIST’
“The Place of the Skull Became Paradise.”
It is finding little variations on the usual common themes that helps to make the study of icons enjoyable, so it is interesting to see this wooden cross with its rosy pink background and the two very folkish plants sprouting at the sides of the cross.
There is a standard iconography in Russian Crucifixion icons, and it is important for the student to understand it, because the Crucifixion is one of the most common types one will encounter.
The Crucifixion is often found both in painted icons on wooden panels and in brass castings such as the one depicted here — a “blessing” cross.
We will examine it from top to bottom:
At the very top is the image of Gospod’ Savaof — Lord Sabaoth — which is God the Father depicted as an old man with a white beard. Here he is shown raising his right hand in blessing. Immediately below Lord Sabaoth is the Dukh Svyatuiy — the Holy Spirit shown in the form of a dove. On the crosses of one sect of “priestless” Old Believers, the image of Lord Sabaoth is replaced by the Image “Not Made by Hands” — the Obraz Nerukotvornnuiy — the Image of Christ on a cloth, with the inscription Svyatuiy Ubrus‘ — “The Holy Cloth.”
On both sides of the Holy Spirit, but slightly lower, is an angel. They bear the inscription Angeli Gospodi — Angels of the Lord. Each has his hands covered with a cloth, a practice that shows reverence.
Then one often finds the inscription Tsar Slavui — “King of Glory” — referring to Christ.
On a sign at the center of the crossbeam just above Christ’s head, we see the superscription borrowed from the biblical account: I N TS I — which abbreviates the Church Slavic words for “Jesus (I) of Nazareth (N), King (TS) of the Jews (I) — Isus Nazoryanin’ Tsar Iudeiskiy.
Just below that, the halo of Christ has the standard three bars of the cross visible in it, with the inscription HO ON — “The One Who Is” — the equivalent of the King James Old Testament title of God, “I Am That I Am.”
Just above the crossbeam of the cross we usually see the stretched-out inscription IC SN’ B ZH I XC. The IC and XC are read first, followed by the rest. All together it reads Isous Khristos Suin Bozhiy — “Jesus Christ [the] Son of God.”
At the left end of the crossbeam is a round circle with a human face. This is the Sun (Solntse). It is commonly depicted as dark in color on painted icons. On the opposite end of the crossbeam is another circle with a face, colored red in painted icons. This is the Moon (Luna). On painted icons, one often finds the explanatory description of these two: “The Sun darkens, the Moon Becomes as Blood.” That is an apocalyptic image from the Bible, taken from Acts 2:20: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come” (King James version). The same image is found in the Apocalypse of John (Revelation 6:12): “And I beheld when he opened the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood.” Both excerpts are inspired by the words of the Book of Joel in the Old Testament (Joel 2:31): “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.”
Below the outstretched arms of Christ is another long inscription, taken from the Russian Orthodox liturgy: “We Honor Your Cross, Lord, and Praise Your Holy Resurrection (Krestou Tvoemu Poklonyaemsya Vladuiko i Svyatoe Voskresenie Tvoe Slavim). I have loosely translated ПОКЛОНЯЕМСЯ — “poklonyaemsya” here as “honor,” but it literally means “bow before.” In modern Cyrillic letters the inscription looks like this:
КРЕСТУ ТВОЕМУ ПОКЛОНЯЕМСЯ ВЛАДЫКО И СВЯТОЕ ВОСКРЕСЕНИЕ ТВОЕ СЛАВИМ
Next, we must notice that there are two long lines ascending, one on each side of the lower body of Christ. The one on the left has a point at its top. It is the spear with which the body of Christ was pierced. It is identified by the single letter K, for Kopie — “spear.” The other is a long reed bearing a sponge at its top. This is the sponge with which Christ was given vinegar to drink. It is identified by the single letter T for Trost’— “reed.”
Just above the slanted short beam to which Christ’s feet are nailed is the inscription NI KA. This forms the Greek word NIKA, meaning “He [Christ] Conquers.” Some Old Believers have their own interpretation, making the inscription Slavic rather than Greek: N I K A – Nas Iskupi Kroviu Adamova — “Save Us with the Blood of Adam.”
The slanted footbeam itself is notable because of the traditional folk interpretation that it slants up toward Christ’s right hand, indicating the ascent of believers to heaven, and it slants down from his left hand, indicating the descent of non-believers to Hell.
Just beyond both sides of the footbeam we usually see towers and other buildings, representing the walled city of Jerusalem. Sometimes, in place of or in addition to these, we see representations of Mary, mother of Jesus at the left, with her standard title MP ΘΥ (Meter Theou — “Mother of God” — a Greek title — and on the right Svyatuiy Apostol Ioann — “The Holy Apostle John.” In painted icons these two are generally shown full-figure, along with other saints such as “Holy Longinus the Centurion” (Svyatuiy Login Sotnik/Святый Логин Сотник), whose name comes from apocryphal and pseudepigraphal works such as the Gospel of Nicodemus rather than from the Bible. Login appears to have been a completely fictional saint created from the Greek word λόγχῃ (longkhē) — meaning “spear” — used in the Gospel attributed to John for the spear used by an anonymous soldier to pierce the side of Jesus at the crucifixion. The soldier became combined with mentions of a centurion from other Gospels, and the legend developed until the anonymous soldier was transformed into a centurion and given the name Loginos/Λογινος or Longinos/Λογγίνος in Greek. The Old Believers prefer the Login/Логин spelling, while the Russian Orthodox State Church prefers the spelling Лонгин/Longin.
At the very base of the central crossbeam we find these letters:
They abbreviate the words Mesto Lobnoe Rai Buist, meaning “The Place of the Skull Became Paradise.” Some Old Believers give the letters R B a different interpretation: Rab Bozhiy — “Servant of God.”
Just under the base of the cross is a little opening in the ground containing a skull and bones (often a skull with two bones that form a sideways X). This skull is identified by the letters G A as Golova Adama — “The skull of Adam.” In icon tradition, Adam — the first-created man — was buried precisely on the site where the Crucifixion later took place. And when Christ was crucified there was an earthquake, and the ground opened just below the cross, revealing Adam’s skull.
The very last thing one needs to know about the standard inscriptions is that usually at the bottom of the cross one will also find the letters G G for Gora Golgofui — “The Hill of Golgotha” — identifying the place where Christ was crucified.
However, brass crosses such as the one in the photo often have an inscription on the reverse side, though some have only ornamentation. The most common inscription is part or all of the Exapostilarion of the Elevation of the Cross:
Krest’ Khranitel’ Vsei Vselennei — [The] Cross [is] Protector of All the World Krest’ Krasota Tserkovnaya — [The] Cross [is the] Beauty of the Church Krest’ Tsarem’ Derzhava — [The] Cross [is the] Might of Kings Krest’ Vyernuim’ Utyverzhdenie [The] Cross [is the] Comfort of the Believers
This has variations, one of which changes the last two lines to:
Some examples merely add those last to lines to what came before, like this (in Cyrillic letters):
КРЕСТЪ ХРАНИТЕЛЬ ВСЕЙ ВСЕЛЕННЕЙ
КРЕСТЪ КРАСОТА ЦЕРКОВНАЯ
КРЕСТЪ ЦАРЕМЪ ДЕРЖАВА
КРЕСТЪ ВЕРНЫМЪ УТВЕРЖДЕНIЕ
КРЕСТЪ АНГЕЛОМЪ СЛАВА
КРЕСТЪ БЕСОМЪ ЯЗВА
On the reverse of some crosses, there is sometimes a long additional inscription either following the Krest’ Khranitel’ Vsei Vselennei text, or else found on its own. It begins “The Lord said,” and what follows that is taken from the Account of the Second Coming, by Palladios the Monk — a document popular among the Old Believers. It may also have the longer title Слово о втором Пришествии Христове о Страшном суде и будущей муке и о умилеии души. It reads: ‘For I suffered, waiting for your repentance and turning to me from your evil; before my Terrible Judgment I have shown you many ways to salvation…'” and it continues, saying, “For your sake I suffered…” and goes on to detail how “for your sake” he took on flesh, labored, was cursed and spat upon, was crucified, placed in the tomb, descended to Hades, rose from the dead, ascended to Heaven, sent the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and finishes up with a caution about the place “prepared for the Devil and his angels.” This brief summary of the longer text, along with the text itself in Church Slavic, should enable you to recognize it. Look for the words Рече Господь — Reche Gospod’ — “The Lord said…” at the beginning, and for the repetition throughout it of the phrase Вас ради — Vas radi — “For your sake…” Here is the Slavic text:
Рече Господь Аз же терпя, ожидах покаяния вашего и обращения ко мне от зол ваших, зане прежде моего суда страшного многи показах вам пути ко спасению, и образ дах вам собою, милуя вас добре. Вас ради в плоть облекохся, и вас ради труждахся, вас ради алчен бых, желая вашего спасения, вас ради связан от беззаконных, бых, вас ради поруган бых, вас ради заплеван бых, вас ради заланиту ударен бых, вас ради на крест вознесен бых, вас ради гвоздия приях в руку и в ногу мою, вас ради тростию биен бых, вас ради оцта и желчи вкусих, и вас ради копием прободен бых вребра моя, вас ради смерть приях, вас ради во гроб положен бых, вас ради в ад снидох и изведох вы оттуду от тьмы на свет и паки воскресох, показуя вам воскресение от мертвых, и на небеса вознесохся, и вас ради послах Дух Святый в мир на апостолы моя, и послах я проповедати царствие мое, и дах Дух Святый в сердца ваша и поставих вам учители великие, и премудрые книжники, и нарекох вас сынове моя и братию, вы же не тако послушаете Мене, но сотвористе волю диаволю и ангел его, и ныне от идите от Мене, злии делатели неправды, в место, уготованное диаволу и ангелом его, не хощу же вас видети николиже.
While I am at it, I might as well throw in a couple of alternate inscriptions common on the backs of some large or small cast metal crosses:
Da Voskresenet’ Bog’ i Razuidyutsya Vrazi Ego, I da Byezhat’ Ot’ Litsa Ego Vsi Nenavidashchey ego…
ДА ВОСКРЕСЕНЕТЪ БОГЪ И РАЗЫДУТСЯ ВРАЗИ ЕГО И ДА БЕЖАТЪ ОТЪ ЛИЦА ЕГО ВСИ НЕНАВИДЯЩЕЙ ЕГО…
“Let God Arise, and Let his enemies be scattered. Let them also that hate him, flee before him.” On some crosses it continues: “As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.” The whole inscription comes from Psalm 67:1-2 in the Old Testament (68:1-2 in the King James Version). The beginning portion — with additions — is commonly referred to in Russian Orthodoxy as the Молитва Честному Кресту — Molitva Chestnomu Krestu — “The Prayer of the Honorable Cross.”
Such inscriptions added to the believer’s sense that the cross was a powerful “supernatural” talisman that could drive away evil — the same sense that we find in Western horror stories in which the cross wards off vampires.
An inscription sometimes found on small crosses is Спаси и сохрани — Spasi i Sokhrani – “Save and Protect.”
And finally — I promise this is the last inscription for this article — one often finds on the reverse of silver crosses worn by priests (in the latter part of the 19th century and the early 20th century) these words from I Timothy 4:12: “Be you an example to the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (Obraz budi vyernuim’ slovom’, zhitiem’, liuboviu, vyeroiu, chistotoiu“). This was good advice, because at that time there was considerable controversy over misbehavior by Russian Orthodox priests, a good number of whom were given to extorting money from the poor for religious services and/or given to drunkenness. On such crosses, one also finds this abbreviation on the back:
That stands for Nikolai II — Tsar Nicholas II. With that is “Year 1896” (in Cyrillic letter-numbers), and “May, 14[th] day.” That is the date on which Tsar Nicholas II decreed that such a silver pectoral cross was to be given to all priests.
I suppose I should not finish without telling you that some cast brass crosses intended to be displayed in the homes of believers (also sometimes in churches) — and again particularly popular among the Old Believers — had additional scenes added to them. The number of such added scenes varies, and commonly those added are representations of major church festivals, etc. In the example shown below, these added scenes are, from top left:
1. The Entry into Jerusalem; 2. The Resurrection of Christ; 3. The Ascension of Christ; 4. The Presentation [of Christ] in the Temple; 5. The Old Testament Trinity. This example also shows, as the figures standing by the cross, not only Mary, Mother of Jesus and the Apostle John, but also Mary Magdalene (Svyataya Maria Magdalini) and the Centurion Longinus. (Svyatuiy Login). Some brass examples add several rods atop the image, with images of seraphim at the upper ends.
You will note that this particular example of a brass house cross has colored enamel added to the surface. This was a common practice, and having a bit of enamel fired onto the brass during its making added just a bit to the price, both for the original buyer and often for the purchaser (the collector) of such old items today. Brass crosses and other brass icons were commonly cast in sand molds.
Well, now you know far more about crucifixion icons than practically anyone would ever want to know. You are a sudden expert in the matter, knowing what millions do not know. But it probably won’t make you a dime. It is just knowledge for the sake of knowledge, something with which the more curious among us (such as myself, and you, reader, if you have managed to get this far) are afflicted.
If you are the kind of person who wants to know even more about Russian cross inscriptions, you will want to also read this posting: