Short history of the cross
Fr Antoni Tatara
The cross appeared in ancient times. We encounter it in various cultures that were never related. In ancient Near East the cross was a sign of happiness. Then it was a sign of the biggest humiliation and disgrace. It was due to the fact that criminals and killers were crucified. That death was used in Assyria, Mesopotamia and Persia. During the times of Alexander the Great that method came to Europe. At first, the cross was not the symbol of Christianity. Its symbol was the sign of fish, in Greek ‘ichthys’ (the anagram of the call in Polish: Jesus Christ of God Son Saviour). The cross has become the symbol of Christians since the first half of the fourth century. It was defined by the vision of Emperor Constantine I who saw the X-shaped cross in the background of ‘P’ before the battle with Maxentius in 312 AD and the inscription, ‘In hoc signo vinces” – In this sign conquer. And Constantine won. One year later he made the religion of Christians equal with other religions. Moreover, his mother Saint Helena, making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, miraculously found Christ’s true cross (a man who touched the cross was healed) and she worshipped the cross. One can say that thanks to her the cult of the cross spread all over the world and has become the main symbol of Christianity. Since that time St Helena began the cult of the Holy Cross that developed in the whole Christian world. She decided to divide the cross of Christ into three parts. She offered them to the main centres of Christianity: Jerusalem, Rome and Constantinople. With time the cross was divided into further parts. Today its large fragments are found in the Church of St Gudula in Brussels, in the Santa Cross Basilica in Rome and Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. In Poland parts of the relic are in the Dominican Church in Lublin, in the Shrine of the Holy Cross at Lysa Gora in the Swietokrzyskie Mountains, in the Wawel Cathedral in Krakow and in the Church of the Holy Cross in Warsaw. Today the instrument of the passion and death of the Saviour is in focus in churches and Christian homes.