The cross: archetypal symbol
The cross is a simple geometric figure, made of two perpendicular lines at right angles. This shape, known to different civilizations, is an archetypal symbol that has always been interpreted as a “passage,” a mediation between Earth and sky, the finite and the infinite, contingent and eternal. The intersection of the two axes, the fifth “point” of the cross is considered at the same time the center of the circle and the center of the square, which allows communication between two worlds: Heaven and Earth, the finite and the infinite. That point is the center of the cosmos, the omphalos, as it were.
Known in ancient cultures to indicate life and the divine – in the Egyptian world, for example, the pharaoh held in his hands the ansata cross, which alludes to the gift of rebirth and immortality – the cross has become the Christian symbol par excellence, taking on, from the early centuries, multiple anthropological and cosmological values. The Fathers of the Church have elaborated countless reflections on the Cross.
Thus, if for Justin Martyr (110-163/167) man differs from other animals in that he is upright and can stretch out his hands, thus indicating the shape of the cross, for Bishop Maximus of Turin (380-420) man walking and raising his arms, as well as the vault of heaven itself, is in the shape of a cross. It becomes the seal of creation, the secret that lives at the heart of the cosmos, so much sought after by Greek philosophy and now finally recognized. Christian faith can thus give a name to what was sought by Greek philosophers, beginning with the pre-Socratics and then Plato.