Today the cross is recognized world over as a symbol of Jesus’s acceptance of his crucifixion and ultimately his love for mankind. The cross, however, was not the original symbol used to memorialize his death. Originally the cross was commonly seen as a representation of torture and death. It wasn’t until crucifixion was abolished under the reign of Emperor Constantine in the 4th century that this symbolism became more acceptable.
4 Common Forms of the Cross
Crux Immissa †
Today the crux immissa is the most common symbol used to depict the crucifixion of Jesus, although no one knows for sure that cross’s actual shape. The crux immissa has a horizontal beam inserted at right angles to the upright post. Immissa means “inserted”. Also known as Crux Capitata which means “with a head.”
Crux Commissa Τ
The crux commissa is a T-shaped cross. Commissa means “joined” or “attached”. It is also known as the Tau Cross (St. Anthony’s cross) and the Forked Cross (Y-Shaped cross). It can be argued that a form of this cross was used for the crucifixion. As Matthew 27:37 notes, “And set up over his head his accusation written, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews”. If a victim was crucified on this type of cross, their head would fall forward revealing a message positioned on the top bar as described by Matthew’s passage.
Crux Simplex ⊥
The crux simplex represents a simple upright post and has no transverse beam. This form was commonly used for crucifixions until the Phoenicians added a cross beam. Also known as a Stipe. A common method was to bind the person’s wrists to a beam and then attach the beam to a tree or stipe (forming the cross typically depicted).
Crux Decussata Χ
Crux decussate come from decus, Latin for “distinction, honor, grace”. Also known as St. Andrew’s cross.