Friday, 1 February 2008


I've never been a fan of naked crosses in churches or homes or round necks. To me they represent the scandal of the cross and as such they can never be beautiful as crosses, even if some are beautifully fashioned. So when the ever wonderful Nicholas posted this quote from Archbishop Fulton Sheen, I felt compelled to write in further detail on this subject.

Keep you eyes on the crucifix, for Jesus without a cross is a man without a mission, and the cross without Jesus is a burden without a reliever.

A crucifix can never depict the full horrors of the crucifixion. I'm not sure anyone would claim even the horrors of the Grunewald crucifixion (below) were realistic.

Any image of Christ on the cross transfigures the horrors of the event it depicts. This is particularly true of those images where Christ wears priestly robes and his arms are simply outstretched rather than succumbing to gravity. The modern looking "Christ the King" crucifix shown below is actually the famous 8th century Lucca crucifix.

A crucifixion scene shows new life, not death, shows hope not despair. The 5th century image below appeals to me greatly in its simplicity, it shows Judas on the left and Christ on the right: despair and hope.

Over the coming weeks I will probably post some more ramblings on this theme. They will not be an art critic's musings or a historian's musings, I am not that learned. I will just be writing about what I see and what fills me with inspiration.

To date I much acknowledge 2 websites that have been most illuminating on this topic:
Augusta State University


Joe said...

I have the San Damiano crucifix on the wall of my living room. One of the little booklets I have explaining the image points out that the figure of Christ seems resplendent with the light of someone who has conquered death (contrasting witht he black of the cross itself behind the figure of Christ). It also points out tht there is no crown of thorns and that the figure seems to "float" in front of the cross rather than being attached to it by the nails.
[Thank you for your welcome to that virtual form of virtual reality that is bloggerland.]

Adrienne said...

The book Doctor at Calvary by Pierre Barbet can give you a much better idea of what Christ suffered. It is one of the only books that can make me cry.

Rita said...

I use to be in a parish where the priest could make me cry every time there was Stations of the Cross.

He also gave a slide show about the shroud of Turin that had a similar effect.

In any devotion we have, I think we must be able to capture both the suffering and redemption, even if only fleetingly. I just feel that a cross without Our Lord does neither.

I'll look out for that book!

Joe: I'm adding you to my blogroll. I've found giving myself a few simple ground rules for blogging means that it doesn't become too time consuming or addictive.

The San Damiano crucifix is wonderful. It is an incredible teaching aid from an age before educational psychologists! I particularly like "everyman" at the far right of the saints, the little guy in blue is you and me. We are part of the crucifixion, this fact cannot be ignored!

Tom in Vegas said...

I'm quite fascinated by the third pick you posted of the fifth century crucifixion scene. It tells so much using very little!

And, yes, a crucifixion is infinitely more barbaric than depicted in any art.