May 09 2016
“The Cross is the eternal expression of the length to which God will go to in order to restore broken community.”
Recently, as you may know I have been making decorated Christian Crosses using the words from the Bible to help me create designs. I was inspired by the Bible, the British landscape and its animals. But it occurred to me that although my designs might be new, the tradition of decorating a cross goes way back.
Ancient Knot-work, Interlace and Figurative Relief Carving!
In early Medieval times the Celtic people carved out stone crosses with relief designs which were usually set into the landscape. These designs incorporated a beautiful mixture of religious figures as well knot-work and interlaced patterns, which I loved to draw as a teenager. The crosses were also probably painted bright colours and were known as a 'High Cross' or Standing Cross', more commonly found in Ireland and Wales.
Rich Materials and Outstanding Craftsmanship!
On looking further in to the subject of decorated crosses, I began to find lots of fascinating examples. This one (below) measures just 37.4 × 25.6 cm and was made at the workshop of Godefroid of Huy, a goldsmith in 1160-60. The craftsmanship is just amazing and so detailed!
The reliquary crosses I found from the British Museum collection look absolutely breathtaking in both detail and beauty! Reliquary means a container of relics such as bones, pieces clothing or some object related to saints or religious figures. This cross is made from wonderfully rich materials including copper alloy, enamel , rock crystal on silver backing, lapis lazuli, garnet and amethyst! Apart from these diverse materials I think what is so great is how it shows five Old Testament scenes.
The shape of the cross obviously symbolises Christ on the cross, but crosses often tell other stories too. The times in which these crosses were made, the background of the people who made them or commissioned them, and the materials can tell their own stories too.
The Tree of Life Sprouts in the Midst of Destruction!
This brings us forward in time to a different story about crosses which were born out of great tragedy.
El Salvador is known for its really powerful earth quakes off the coast of the country. On November 27th, 2015 an earth quake of 5.4 on the Richter Scale struck and threatened to cause a tsunami to strike the coast. This had already happened once earlier in the year during May.
Many times the earth trembles and streets are left in ruins and buildings are destroyed. The country and its people's lives need to be constantly re-built. But despite the loss of life and homes they stay hopeful.
From the ruins families search for materials which they use to build their next home and with the smaller pieces of wood they make crosses! These crosses are painted with bright colours, showing plants, animals and people.
The Salvadorenhas people say, " We believe in life; it is stronger than death. We will rise again and again!".
Wow, what spirit and grit!
“Let the ruins come to life In the beauty of Your name Rising up from the ashes God forever You reign” ― Hillsong
So, the cross is clearly a great symbol of hope today, around the world. When people need to process the events of life, creativity and faith have provided the means to process and heal life itself.
The crosses I make are for both happy times and when friends need reassurance. Some crosses were made for weddings, and one was made as a gift for a ladies husband who is ill. Others are used to pray with or simply as an expression of faith. But regardless of whether a person is religious or not the presence of this symbol can be a candle that lights up darker times or celebrates the happy ones.
To see more of my crosses please visit my Etsy Shop!