July 13, 2013

The History of the Cross of the Apostle Andrew

Theodora Avagianou
July 9, 2013

Saint Andrew, patron of the city of Patras, is directly connected with the city, since the sacred church dedicated to him there contains his Tomb, his Holy Relics, his Honorable Skull, and the Cross on which he was martyred.

The history of the Cross of the Saint is not particularly well known to the general public. Where was it guarded before it was permanently transferred to Patras? From what material was it made? Did the Apostle Andrew actually give up his last breath on this particular Cross?

It is considered a very important relic to the entire Christian world, and on Thursday morning it will depart for Russia, led by Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Patras.

The Cross is expected to be venerated by thousands of believers in Russia and in the Russia Church, and a brilliant reception is prepared. It is to be noted that this is the first time the Cross is "leaving" Patras from the day it was brought over from France on January 19, 1980.

The History of the Cross Until 1980

From the day the Apostle was crucified until the period of the Frankish occupation when it was siezed, the Cross was kept in Patras. This period is considered a dark period for many treasures of the Church that were siezed and brought to the West. One of them unfortunately was the Cross of the Apostle Andrew.

According to the records of the Duchy of Burgundy, the Cross was originally placed in the Monastery of Weaume in Marseilles, and later it was transferred to the Monastery of Saint Victor in the same city.

During the French Revolution there was an attempt to steal the Cross, which ultimately was not achieved. Its remains were rescued and placed in a case in the shape of a normal Cross.

The Return of the Cross to Patras

On October 9, 1979 the then Metropolitan Nikodemos of Patras met with the president of the French Hierarchy and the entire Roman Catholic Hierarchy of Western Europe, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, in Marseille to discuss the return of the Cross to Patras.

After consultations were held between Catholics and Orthodox, the Cardinal said to the Metropolitan of Patras: "Since the Cross was brought here from Patras, it belongs to Patras."

Soon contacts and discussions between the two sides began in order to return the Cross to Patras.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, were informed about the issue.

On January 18, 1980 an Air Force plane with the delegation of the Holy Metropolis of Patras departed for France to receive and transfer the Cross to Patras.

Having arrived in Marseilles, the Cross was surrendered to the Greek delegation through an "informal" ceremony.

The next day, January 19th, the airplane carrying the Cross arrived at the airport in Araxos, and the two delegations, the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic, then had an official reception.

The Material

Regarding the type of wood of the Cross, there are different reports. Hippolytus of Rome mentions olive wood, Epiphanios speaks of a Cross without mentioning the wood, Arsenios of Kerkyra refers to a tree which he does not identify, while the historian Stephanos Thomopoulos also talks about an olive tree.

According to studies of the relic itself, however, it has been shown that it is indeed olive wood and it has been dated to the first century.

The Method of the Crucifixion

As for how the crucifixion took place, there is not unanimity. There are reports of being "nailed" and not "tied". On the right foot of Saint Andrew, there is a scar from the nail by which he was nailed to the wood on which he died.

The hymnographers of the Church speak of him being "nailed to the Cross", and early Christian documents speak of "the nailing of the Apostle to the Cross".

The Shape of the Cross

There are different views on the shape of the Cross. Frescoes and icons in churches depict the Apostle Andrew on a Cross with two vertical pieces of wood, while others portray him on the Cross with his head down.

However, the prevailing view is that which says the Cross was in the shape of an X. This view is so widespread that it is customary to call crosses in the shape of an X the "Cross of Saint Andrew".

During the transfer to Patras in 1980 it was encased in the shape of a normal Cross, but this was replaced by a larger and more imposing case, this time in the shape of an X.

A feature of the dynamic of the Cross of Saint Andrew is that the X is the symbolic shape of the Russian Navy which has the Apostle Andrew as its patron.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos