In the Spotlight: The St. Michael Cross

Gallery Byzantium’s St. Michael Cross is based on an original cross designed by an unknown artisan.  There are numerous misspellings in the wording, leading researchers to believe that the artisan was an uneducated commoner, making the translations quite difficult.  We do know, however, that the cross is Slavic as it features the Russian Orthodox three-bar cross on the reverse side.

Interestingly, no two resources seem to agree on who this cross depicts or what (exactly) it reads.  We do know that St. Michael is obviously in the center, wielding a sword.  While we aren’t 100% sure about the three figures around him, we believe that St. Alexander Nevsky is depicted on the left and that the person on the right is either Prince Demetri or St. Leonid.  On the bottom, we feel confident St. Panteleimon is depicted.  The back of the cross is generally believed to represent the crucifixion.

The Defender of the Faith

Via Wikimedia Commons.

“The Holy Archangel Michael is one of the most celebrated of the Angels and bodiless powers; he is called the Archistrategos, or chief commander, of all the bodiless powers.”  The name “Michael” means “like unto God,” a fitting name for one who serves as the Defender of the Faith.

“Over all the Nine Ranks of the Heavenly Powers, the Lord appointed the Holy Archangel Michael […] the faithful servitor of God, as Chief Commander.”  Though not mentioned by name, the Archangel first appears in the Old Testament when Joshua recalls the fall of Jericho.  “[I]t is said that Joshua “looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand.””  This image of Michael holding a drawn sword is replicated in many recollections of the Archangel and depictions in icons (as well as on our St. Michael Cross).

Many miracles have been attributed to the Archangel.  Once, he showed his power when he saved a young man who had been thrown into the sea near Mt. Athos with a stone tied to his neck.  Other stories tell of Michael appearing before Constantine the Great and intervening in many battles to the benefit of the Emperor and Constantinople.  Michael was also made the patron saint of warriors and of the Holy Roman Empire.

Most famously, Michael saved the church at Colossae which had been threatened by pagans.  The attackers diverted two rivers directly into the path of the church, hoping to level it.  The Archangel, however, appeared carrying across and made it so the rivers flowed underground, sparing the small church.  “The spring which came forth after this event is said to have special healing powers” (it is no wonder, then, that Michael was named the patron saint of the sick and suffering).

St. Michael is celebrated on November 8th.

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