Crosses and crucifixes

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Crosses, crucifixes and crucifixions

There are several types of cross-shaped pendant from the early medieval period:

  • crosses invariably have equal-sized arms. Cross pendants are usually small (around an inch square) and usually relatively plain, often with simple ring-and-dot decoration.
  • crucifixes are plain, cross shaped (not equal armed, but with a long base). Pendant crucifixes are not found in the early medieval world.
  • crucifixions have a figure of Christ on the cross. They are cross shaped (not equal armed, but with a long base). The figure of Christ invariably has both feet side by side, and not crossed over, as in the later medieval period).

Anglo-Saxon cross pendants


Viking cross pendants

Christianity came to Scandinavia at different times and with the introduction of this religion we see the evidence for the use of the Christian symbol - the cross or crucifix.

Viking cross pendants

The most common type of cross (without Christ figure) is that of the pierced circle type. Several of this type appear at Birka as well as in Denmark, Norway, Russian and Ukraine and they date to the second and third quarters of the tenth century. There is one in the Slemmedal hoard from Norway that has raised central boss. There is some resemblance between this type and that of St Cuthberts Cross which has led one researcher to pose the thought that the style resulted from an English mission to Scandinavia. (Staecker. 1997). However it should be stated that there are no known crosses of this style from the western Viking world.

Viking crucifixion pendants

Several crucifixes appear in Scandinavia, examples have been found at Birka and Sigtuna. Some crucifixes show Christ bound to the cross - however at least one example from Sigtuna shows the hands clearly pierced with nails and it could be that he is wearing a tunic with wrinkled sleeves. This type of crucifix is most often made of silver.