The Russian Cross


The Russian Cross, marking the grave of Michael Boyer 1867 – 1953 in the Lakeside Cemetery at Erie, Pennsylvania, is also known as the Orthodox Cross, the Byzantine Cross, and the Suppedaneum Cross. The features that distinguish the Russian Cross from the Latin Cross are that it has three horizontal crossbeams instead of one.

The top crossbeam originated from the Greek tradition that says that Pontius Pilate nailed it to the top of the cross above Jesus Christ’s head with the message, “King of the Jews.”

Jesus was nailed to the second crossbeam.

The third crossbeam which is pitched upward to the right by tradition is where those hanging on a cross would have rested their feet. In this representation of the cross, however, the crossbeam rises to the right. There are two competing theories about why that is. One theory suggests that it points upward toward Heaven, while the left side points downward toward Hell. Most believe that the footrest points to the right to where St. Dismas, the thief hanging next to Christ was, who confessed and asked for forgiveness. On the left side was the unrepentant Gestas.

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2 Responses to The Russian Cross

  1. Sarah McKinzie says:

    Very neat! Might I make one correction – this should read: “King of the Jews.” (not Jesus)

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