Antique Icon of the Elevation of the Cross

Antique Icon of the Elevation of the Cross

The Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross is believed to be one of the main feasts within Orthodoxy. On September 14, the whole Orthodox community commemorates the finding of the Cross by the Holy Empress Helen, mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, and the recovery of the Cross from the Persians. The celebration of the Feast is held as a strict fast and repentance. In this blog post, you will learn about the antique icon of the Feast and its various iconographic variations.

The history of the feast of the Elevation of the Cross

Until the Cross was salvaged through the efforts of the Emperor Constantine the Great and his mother, it was buried in obscurity for nearly three hundred years. It was the Emperor who saw a vision of the words “en touto Nika” (“In this Sign Conquer”) in the sky, which contributed to his victory over the enemies, as all the shields of his army were bearing the sign of the Cross.

After months of searching, St. Helena found the spot where the Cross was discovered. In that place, there was an incredibly beautiful unknown flower, which was named “Vasiliko” or Basil, pointing to the symbol of royalty. Thus, for the celebration of the Feast, the Cross is placed on a tray surrounded by the flowers of basil that is now considered the official flower of the Orthodox Christian Church.

The second related event that marks the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross was the recovery of the Cross by the emperor Heraclius after its theft by the Persian Empire. 

Antique icon of the Elevation of the Cross

Almost any antique icon of the Feast traditionally depicts Saint Macarius of Jerusalem elevating the Cross, along with Saint Helena, other saints, and church deacons beholding the elevation. The icon features an Orthodox-style domed cathedral in the background, representing the Church. Some of the later Christian icons of this type depict events inside the church.

It is important to note that the antique icon of the Feast is not meant to be an accurate depiction of the historical event itself but to present the significance of the Holy Cross and its veneration by all Orthodox believers.

The meaning of the Cross to every believer

Jesus Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice for the salvation of all people. Those who believe in Him wear a cross on their chest as a protection and a sign of Christ’s victory over death. Every Christian also carries a personal cross that is sometimes not easy to accept because it brings suffering. However, the cross on the chest empowers the believers and gives them hope for salvation.