Tuesday, March 27, 2007


On some crucifixes a skull and crossbones are shown below the corpus, referring to Golgotha (Calvary), the site at which Jesus was crucified--"the place of the skull." It was probably called "Golgotha" because it was a burial-place, or possibly because of a legend that the place of Jesus' crucifixion was also the burial place of Adam.

The standard, four-pointed Latin crucifix consists of an upright stand and a crosspiece to which the sufferer's arms were nailed. The Eastern Orthodox crucifix includes two additional crossbars: the shorter nameplate, to which INRI was affixed; and the shorter stipes, to which the feet were nailed, which is angled upward toward penitent thief St. Dismas (to the viewer's left) and downward toward impenitent thief Gestas (to the viewer's right). It is thus eight-pointed. The corpora of Eastern Orthodox crucifixes tend to be two-dimensional icons that show Jesus as already dead, as opposed to the depictions of the still-suffering Jesus that can be found in some other Churches.

Some denominations of Christianity prefer to depict the cross without the corpus. This may be to emphasize the resurrection, or because the image of Christ's death is too intense, or because they believe that its inclusion would constitute idolatry. Some portray the body of Jesus on the cross to illustrate that Jesus has not yet risen.

A third type of depiction of the body on the cross is what might be called a "resurrection cross" or "resifix" depicting a triumphant risen Christ (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."

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