The Jerusalem Cross Necklace
When I first moved to Jerusalem to study, I would look up at the night sky out of habit, searching the blackness for a particular constellation. In Australia, the cluster of stars known as ‘Crux’ or ‘the Southern Cross’ can be found in various positions across the sky and I always love trying to locate its distinctive pattern. That familiar cross is not visible in the Northern Hemisphere, but my stay in Jerusalem was full of other crosses.
The Cross is the most well-known Christian symbol, representing the pivotal moment in the story of Jesus: his crucifixion. More importantly, the Cross reminds believers all around the world that “it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:24).
This important symbol is typically depicted as a short horizontal bar resting towards the top of a longer vertical bar, similar to the English letter ‘t’, like this 6th century Byzantine Cross. However, throughout history and among the various branches of the Christian Church, the Cross can be found with slight variations. This 7th century Byzantine Cross is closer to a + sign, while even the ‘Star of Bethlehem’ is a cross, giving us a foretaste of the Resurrection from the opening moments of the Nativity story.
I own a necklace from Zak’s Jerusalem Necklace in the form of a cross known as “the Jerusalem Cross.” Although I recognized that it was a cross, in my upbringing as a Protestant Christian in Australia, I had never seen the figure depicted this way, so it sparked my curiosity.
The Jerusalem Cross (a variation of the Cross potent) consists of one large even cross (like a + sign) with four smaller crosses in each corner. There are a number of theories about what the five crosses represent:
• the five nations that took part in the Crusades (Italy, Spain, Germany, France and England),
• the four corners of the world with Jerusalem at the center,
• Jesus and the four Gospels,
• the five wounds inflicted on Jesus (one in each wrist and foot, and in his side).
The design was brought to Jerusalem by the Crusaders in the 12th century, though its exact origins are unknown, and gained increasing popularity, such as on this testoon of Mary Queen of Scots dating from the 16th century. These days, you might recognize it from the Flag of Georgia and the coat of arms of Puerto Rico, or on Franciscan churches around the Holy Land.
My Jerusalem Cross necklace is significant to me in several ways. Firstly, it is a conversation starter. Although the symbol has become familiar to me from my time in Jerusalem, it is unique for many of the people I encounter back home in Sydney. Their curiosity gives me the opportunity to speak about my experiences in the Holy Land. Secondly, it reminds me of the amazing experience of studying in Jerusalem, and of my good friend Zak. The necklace acts almost as a portal, transporting me to Zak’s Antiquities, Christian Quarter Rd. And most importantly of all, I am reminded about the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ, who willingly gave up his life upon it to give us the greatest gift of eternal life (John 3:14-16).