Early Christian Carved Bone Cross
Eastern Roman/Byzantine - 12th – 14th Century AD
(65 x 33 mm – 2.5" Tall)
Front: Full-length figure of Christ with arms extended, wearing a loincloth. Haloed heads of Saints are at each terminal of the cross. Back: undecorated
A scarce design in this medium, in fine condition.
By the 5th and 6th centuries, the Cross had replaced the Chi-Rho as the standard emblem of Christian religious devotion. Its meaning transcended that of the simple monogram to visually recall the crucifixion. Crosses were worn by individuals from every social stratum, from the elaborate bejeweled golden cross of the patriarch to the simple crosses of the common man. The word crusade, which is derived from the Latin crux (cross), is a reference to the biblical injunction that Christians carry their cross. Crusaders wore a red cross sewn on their tunics to indicate they had assumed the cross and were soldiers of Christ. Many also wore a pectoral cross around their neck.
Byzantine depictions of Christ wearing a robe (colobium) are usually earlier than those with a loincloth. For a robed example see British Museum “Byzantium” Catalog #144.