Student Question

In Christian iconography, what did the Latin cross represent?

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The Latin cross consists of what's called a stipe, or an upright post, and a patibulum, which is a horizontal beam inserted at right angles. The cross symbolizes the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, whom Christians believe to be the Son of God. The Latin cross is also known as the Western cross, to distinguish it from the representation of the cross in Eastern Orthodox iconography, where the cross typically consists of three horizontal beams, the lowest one of which is slanted.

As with all crosses in Christian iconography, the Latin cross symbolizes Christ's suffering and sacrifice, which provides meaning to his death and subsequent resurrection. Most Christian denominations, whatever their differences, display crosses in their places of worship. However, some of the stricter Protestant churches, in keeping with their much simpler forms of worship, prefer to use simple crosses without the adornment of Christ's body. (Such crosses are known as crucifixes). This is to ensure that the focus of the worshipper remains firmly fixed on the crucifixion and its meaning rather than any ornamental frills.

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