|In the course of my research on clerical headdresses, I frequently came across pictures of prelates (abbots, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, patriarchs, popes,…) displaying a
pectoral cross, pectorale (lat. crux pectroralis)
panagia, panaghia, panayia
on their chests.
I was interested in these names and their mode of fixation. What did the chain look like, what kind of hooks were used to hold the cross in place? How were relics being kept inside the cross?
For a detailed account of the history and significance of the pectoral cross, please consult:
Nussbaum, Otto: Das Brustkreuz des Bischofs – Zur Geschichte seiner Entstehung und Gestaltung, Matthias Grünwald Verlag, Mainz 1964
The following websites may serve as a concise introduction as well:
Wikipedia – Pectoral cross
P. W. Hartmann Kunstlexikon – Brustkreuz
P. W. Hartmann Kunstlexikon – Amulett
P. W. Hartmann Kunstlexikon – Apotropäum
P. W. Hartmann Kunstlexikon – Bulle
P. W. Hartmann Kunstlexikon – Panagia
The pectoral cross of orthodox bishops is called stavrion (stavros). In general, they are more sumptuous (ornaments, jewellery) than those of Catholic bishops. On some pectoral crosses, Jesus is depicted in an image or drawing.
Orthodox bishops carry a cross in their hands as well. The hand cross is used to bless the believers.
Panagia or panaghia:
Panhagia: “of the most holy one” [Mother Mary]
A medallion depicting Mother Mary displayed by orthodox bishops on their chests.
Amulet worn in ancient times which was supposed to deter the evil. [Enkolpion > Greek kolpos, “bosom”, “worn at the chest”.]
Orthodox bishops are often seen wearing three amulets:
1. The pectoral cross (stavrion, stavros)
2. An enkolpion, the panagia depicting Mother Mary, Mother of Jesus
3. An enkolpion depicting Jesus
His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Mathews II
Karekin I. Patriarch of the Armenians
Pectoral cross with relic case
In the following three pictures, you can see the design of a pectoral cross of a Roman-Catholic bishop. By unscrewing the three screws the back plate will be released. There is a covered relic compartment underneath.
Picture of a pectoral cross with an additional hook
This hook serves for fixing the pectoral cross at a buttonhole of the robe. Some prelates also have an additional hole put in their robe in order to hold the chain and cross. Such an additional hole can be seen in the picture of the Holy Father below: The chain was passed through the hole. Two nooses of chain are thus hanging down at the right and left side of the cross.
Pectoral cross-cord made from golden brocade:
Images of the pectorales of the Holy Father, Benedict XVI
The Pope wears his cross with a cord made from textile golden brocade. Only the Pope uses such a cord. Cardinals and bishops use different cords: They are made from gold or silver or metal or gold-/silver-plated metal.
Pectoral cross of the Holy Father
Manufactured by goldsmith Fausto Maria Franchi, Rome, on behalf of the CNA – Conferderazione Nazionale dell’Artigianato de della Piccola e Media Impresa. It was handed over to the Holy Father on 26 Oct 2006.
Pictures of the pectoral crosses (stavrion, stavros) of orthodox bishops:
Images of panagias (panaghias)
Images of ensembles
Images of a chain holding an enkolpion/ panagia
It is manufactured in a much more sumptuous way than that of Catholic prelates
Images of hand crosses of orthodox bishops
The Coptic cross
Bishops of the Coptic Orthodox Church wear a leathern cross. In order to gain the leather, an animal has to be slaughtered. The slaughter symbolizes the death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. There are three circles at each of the four ends, symbolizing the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There are thus 12 circles (4 x 3) altogether which are meant to be representative of the 12 apostles. The four circles at the centre stand for the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Coptic cross does not have a body. Not death is at its centre, but the good news of resurrection.