Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Catholic Religious Jewelry

Catholic jewelry has a long and rich history. It has taken on many forms and many meanings over the millennia. From the hidden meanings of anchors and Ichthys, to the development of the crucifix in the 5th century A.D., Catholic jewelry has played a large part in the faith of millions. The cross is one of the earliest and most widely recognized Christian symbols. The use of the cross as a Christian symbol starts with Christ Himself. Since, through His death, Christ sanctified the very implement of His torture, the cross has come to signify His victory over death and sin.

Early Catholic Jewelry
While the cross has always been the most important Christian symbol, it was not openly used as such until the 4th century A.D. Early Christians feared persecution for their faith, and so developed several symbols that were not easily recognized as Catholic jewelry in order to recognize each other. The two most prevalent of these symbols were the anchor and the Ichthys. The Ichthys, two intersecting arcs resembling the profile of a fish, was probably used in Catholic jewelry as a reference to Christ as “the fisher of men”. The anchor, or mariners cross, was used in Catholic jewelry as a symbol of hope based in the faith in Christ. By using these forms of Catholic jewelry early Christians were able to avoid persecution.

The cross did not become openly used in Catholic religious jewelry until around the 3rd century A.D., when the emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of Rome. Since then the cross has become the most significant of Christian symbols, and has been widely used in art and Catholic religious jewelry.

The Cross and The Crucifix
It was not until the Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the 4th century A.D. that the cross became openly and widely used in Catholic jewelry. More than fifty variants of the cross would later develop, but the four most important were: The Latin Cross, The Greek Cross, The Tau Cross & The Saint Andrews Cross.
The Latin cross is a cross with a long vertical bar intersected slightly above center by a shorter horizontal bar. The Latin cross with the body of Christ, or crucifix, is used by the Catholic Church as a representation of Christ’s sacrifice, while the Latin cross left blank is used by the Protestants as a representation of Christ’s resurrection; The Greek cross, a cross with equilateral arms; The Tau cross, a cross in the shape of the letter T and The Saint Andrews cross, a cross shaped like the letter X. The crucifix, a Latin cross with the body of Christ (corpus) and the inscription INRI or “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” upon it, did not become prevalent in Catholic jewelry until the 5th century A.D. Whereas the Protestant churches use a Latin cross left blank to symbolize the Resurrection, the Catholic Church uses the crucifix to symbolize the sacrifice of Jesus.

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