School of Theology and Seminary Graduate Papers/Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Graduate Paper

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Liturgical Studies


School of Theology and Seminary

First Advisor

R. KevinSeasoltz, OSB

Subject Categories

Art and Design | Christianity | Liturgy and Worship


The cross or the crucifix -which is older? Convinced that the representation and veneration of the cross itself is an older, more authentic and venerable tradition than that of the crucifix, my goal was to trace the evolution of the image of the cross in the context of early Christian art: the first examples of the cross, the early images of Christ, and the first depictions of Christ on the cross, This essay considers the historical, social, and theological contexts for such images, and several theories to explain why the cross was for so long represented without Christ upon it It begins with a consideration of early Christian communities and the terminus a quo or first manifestations of Christian iconography, and examines the three centuries before the reign of Constantine: the first two centuries of the post-Apostolic Church that leave barely an artistic trace, and the following century that reveals the first evidence of artistic development.

The early history of the cross reflects the history of the Early Church. There prove to be many reasons for the absence of representations of Christ Crucifled in the Early Church: cultural, political, social, artistic, and theological; and the subsequent history and development of the cmcifix represent major shifts in theology, religious sensibility, spirituality, and mystical language. It is the cross indeed, unadomed by his corpus, that is the more ancient symbol of Christ.



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