Holy cross

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Constantine and Helena with the Holy Cross, wall painting, Berat , Albania, 2nd half of the 16th century
Jan van Eyck : Finding of the Cross of Christ by Empress Helena, Turin-Milan Book of Hours , around 1422

Holy Cross or True Cross of Christ is the name given to the cross on which Jesus Christ died the sacrificial death . This cross was allegedly found in 325, divided into several parts and taken to different locations. There are speculations about the size of the cross and its types of wood. In the Middle Ages there were a great number of relics of the true cross of Christ; these were among the most important Christian relics of all. They were kept in valuable reliquaries, the so-called staurotheques . Numerous Holy Cross churches all over Europe were built around these relics .

Feasts of the Holy Cross are Exaltation of the Cross on September 14th and some other movable feasts. The veneration of the cross takes place on Good Friday in celebration of the suffering and death of Christ . In the Orthodox churches there are several so-called cross processions during the church year . The day of the recovery is the feast of the discovery of the cross (May 3rd, only preserved in the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, March 6th or May 7th, Orthodox).


Finding the Cross, miniature around 825, Vercelli, Biblioteca Capitolare Ms. CLXV
  • around 325: Helena , the mother of Emperor Constantine , had objects searched in the Holy Land that were directly related to the suffering and death of Christ.

Three legends reported in different versions of the discovery of the Holy Cross by the rabbi Judas Cyriacus or by Helena. In addition, the holy nails and the holy grave are said to have been found again.

“In Jerusalem, a gold-plated box is shown containing a part of the Holy Cross; it is opened, the cross wood is lifted out and placed on the table together with the cross inscription. "

  • 614, May 22nd: The Sassanid general Shahrbaraz conquered Jerusalem and transferred the relics to Ctesiphon , where they were received by the Christian "Queen of the Queens", Shirin .
  • 628: The Sassanid king Chosrau II was defeated by the Byzantine emperor Herakleios . Power struggles for the throne resulted from his death. The daughter of Chosraus II, Boran , concluded a peace treaty with Byzantium and arranged for the relics to be returned.
  • 630, March 21: solemn re-exhibition of the part of the “Holy Cross” in Jerusalem.
  • 638: Conquest of Jerusalem by the Muslims . The Byzantine cross parts have been lost since then - alleged splinters appear later in crusader circles. According to other versions, they were brought to safety from the Muslims in Constantinople, or they remained in Jerusalem.
  • 1099: After the conquest of Jerusalem, a part of the “true cross” was probably discovered in August 1099 in a silver box in a secluded corner of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. William of Tire reports that it was found by a Syrian Christian who had discovered the hiding place some time before. Since then, the cross has been carried in all important campaigns and battles against the Saracens up to the Battle of Hattin in 1187.
  • 1187: According to medieval sources, the Holy Cross - probably the one that was brought back to Jerusalem in 628 - fell into the hands of the Muslim Ayyubids at the Battle of Hattin and has been lost ever since.
  • 1204: Conquest of Constantinople . Hundreds of tiny pieces of wood that are said to have come from the cross that was supposedly cut up there were brought to Europe by crusaders . The Cologne royal chronicle , the Chronica regia Coloniensis , reports on the year 1204: “After the conquest of the city, inestimable riches were found, incomparably precious stones and also a part of the cross of the Lord, which was brought by Helena from Jerusalem and with gold and precious stones adorned, received the highest veneration there. It was divided up by the bishops present and shared among the knights with other very precious relics; later, after their return home, it was donated to churches and monasteries. "

Sacred buildings to the Holy Cross

Particles of the Holy Cross are kept and venerated in many churches and monasteries . In German-speaking countries, for example

Relics and Reliquaries

Cross particles in the Vienna treasury, part of the imperial regalia
Cross particle monstrance from the monastery treasure of the former Premonstratensian Abbey of Rüti

A cross particle was kept in the lower shaft of the Reichskreuz and was part of the Reichskleinodien .

In Byzantium and in the West, numerous reliquaries for relics of the true cross, storage archives , such as the Limburg storage archives or the reliquary of the True Cross in the Louvre, were created.

In the Pharos Palace Chapel in the Grand Palace in Constantinople , two larger pieces of the cross were kept until 1204.


Numerous places are named after Holy Cross churches or Holy Cross monasteries:

See also


  • Arnold Angenendt : Saints and Relics . Beck, Munich 1994, ISBN 3-406-38096-4 .
  • Barbara Baert: A Heritage of Holy Wood. The Legend of the True Cross in Text and Image . Brill, Leiden 2004, ISBN 90-04-13944-3 (current overview work).
  • Anatole Frolow: La relique de la vraie croix. Recherches sur le développement d'un culte (= Archives de l'Orient Chretien 78). Institut Français d'Études Byzantines, Paris 1961.
  • Anatole Frolow: Les reliquaires de la Vraie Croix (= Archives de l'Orient Chretien 8). Institut Français d'Études Byzantines, Paris 1965.
  • Michael Hesemann : The silent witnesses of Golgotha. The fascinating story of Christ's passion relics . Hugendubel, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-7205-2139-7 (popular science).
  • Holger A. Klein : Byzantium, the West and the “true” cross. The history of a relic and its artistic version in Byzantium and in the West (= Late Antiquity - Early Christianity - Byzantium. Art in the First Millennium, Series B: Studies and Perspectives, Volume 17). Reichert, Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 978-3-89500-316-5 .
  • Chiara Mercuri: La vera croce. Storia e leggenda dal Golgota a Roma . Laterza, Bari 2014, ISBN 978-88-581-1471-1 .

Web links

Commons : True Cross  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Anton Hungari (ed.): Osterglöcklein. Uplifting conversations for the Easter festival group in the Catholic church years. JD Sauerländer, Frankfurt am Main 1862, p. 333 ("The cross is said to have been fifteen shoes long, as many commentators believe, and eight shoes wide on the crossbar.") And pp. 372–374 ( The five types of wood on the cross ) .
  2. Peregrinatio Etheriae. 37, 1: […] et affertur loculus argenteus deauratus, in quo est lignum sanctum crucis, aperitur et profertur, ponitur in mensa tam lignum crucis quam titulus.
  3. Klaus Schippmann : Principles of the history of the Sasanid empire. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1990; Barbara Baert: Heraclius and Chosroes or the desire for the True Cross.
  4. ^ Adrian J. Boas: Jerusalem in the Time of the Crusades: Society, Landscape and Art in the Holy City under Frankish Rule . Routledge, London and New York 2001, ISBN 0-415-23000-4 , pp. 33 .
  5. ^ Georg Waitz : Chronica regia Coloniensis (Annales maximi Colonienses). Monumenta Germaniae Historica . Script. rer. Germ., Volume 18, Hannover 1880, pp. 1-299.
  6. ^ Translation according to Norbert Breuer: Historical image and political imagination in the Cologne royal chronicle and the Chronica S. Pantaleonis. Dissertation. Würzburg 1966, p. 57.
  7. Holy Cross of Scheyern ; Laurentius Hanser: The Scheyerer Cross .
  8. ^ Abbey Heiligenkreuz: History of the cross relic
  9. The Reichskreuz is now in the treasury in the Vienna Hofburg, the relic part is shown separately (SK Inv.-Nr. XIII 21).