This twelfth-century cross was originally used to lead processions at the beginning and end of the Eucharist. Its glittering metalwork and embedded jewels convey the idea that death will be transformed into a more glorious life. It also demonstrates the wealth and power of the medieval kingdom of Asturias in northern Spain where it was made.
Its True Cross relic still remains, magnified and protected by a translucent slice of rock crystal positioned above Jesus’s head, operating both as halo and as transfigured crown of thorns. The three-dimensionality of the body of Jesus, the head and shoulders of which strain outwards, contrasts with the relatively flat relief of the figures of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St John the beloved disciple on the cross’s arms.
A Latin inscription on the reverse reads: ‘In honour of the Holy Saviour: Sanccia [Sancha] Guidisalvi had me made’. Medievalists have pointed out that the feminine ending of Sanccia indicates that either the donor or the goldsmith was a woman.
The design of the cross combines antique iconography with medieval Christian elements. The gems surrounding the image of the crucifixion include an intaglio from antiquity representing Victory. This Graeco-Roman goddess has been repurposed within the splendour of the cross. Now she helps to glorify the hope of resurrection that flows from the horror of crucifixion, bearing witness to it as the Roman centurion does when he utters ‘Truly this was the Son of God’ (Mattthew 27:54).
Ephesians 2 speaks of two inclusions achieved in the Body of Christ. Those who were once ‘dead through trespasses and sins’ (v.1)—and who lived in ‘the passions of the flesh’ (v.3)—are now saved ‘by the gift of God’ (v.8). And those who were ‘strangers’ to Israel’s ‘covenants of promise’ (v.12) are now ‘members of the household of God’ (v.19).
As ‘one new humanity’, Christ’s Body defines a sacred community which has no ‘outside’ and no outsiders. All are one in a new promise that does not deny or override diversity but incorporates it into a transformatively inclusive whole.
2 And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins 2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. 3Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— 9not because of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, 15by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. 17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.