What is a Crucifix?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
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  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2019
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A crucifix is a cross with a figure of Christ attached to it. It is a symbol much used in Catholic and Eastern Orthodox religions. Some sects of Christianity do not use the crucifix, but may symbolize the crucifixion by wearing or displaying a simple cross. The main difference between the two is that the crucifix will always have a Christ figure attached, while the cross merely resembles a lower case alphabetic “t.”

In Catholic Mass, the procession of the priest down the aisle at the beginning of Mass usually features the priest or one of the altar servers holding the crucifix. In recent times, someone who is serving in the church will hold the large crucifix while the priest who will give the sermon holds the text of the Bible above his head.

Certain Catholic ceremonies, such as those held on Good Friday, also offer people the opportunity to kiss the church’s large crucifix. Members of the church approach it and place a light kiss on the feet of Christ. Many Catholics and other Christians have small crucifixes in their homes to remind them of both the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ.


There is no single style of crucifix. Many Roman Catholic ones feature the letters, "INRI" above Christ’s head. This stands for the "IESVS NAZERENVS REX IVDAEORVM" which translates to "Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews." This symbol was thought to have been written and possibly affixed to the cross by Pontius Pilate. Some styles are rather graphic, showing blood markings at the feet and hands, and at the wound on Jesus’ side. Others are more metaphoric.

In Eastern Christian religions, the crucifix tends to look slightly different. Instead of the simple “t” formation as seen on many Western crucifixes, the Eastern version has two bars or pieces that reach up from the ends of each “t” point to the top of the vertical portion. While the four-point crucifix is traditional among Western Christians, there is nothing wrong with owning one with the additional bars. In fact, in homes, any crucifix of any style, provided it is not sacrilegious, is considered appropriate for those Christian sects from the West.

One style of crucifix that has become popular is called the resifix or resurrection cross. Instead of featuring Christ dying on the cross, it depicts a triumphant resurrected Jesus. Some people prefer the resifix to the more traditional crucifix since emphasis in the symbol shifts away from Christ’s death to his resurrection.

A crucifix in a church or home is considered an object of meditation. In churches, people often pray before it. At homes, people may affix crucifixes to walls where they will be seen frequently. They may either pray at their crucifix or simply use it in an obvious location to be reminded often of Christ’s sacrifice, his love for humanity and his resurrection.


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Post 2

to anon 16841: i'm 11 years old and i understand it perfectly. my teacher asked me to find the difference between a cross and a crucifix and this site was perfect. thanks for helping me with my homework from the girl you will never know.

Post 1

What could be a explanation of the crucifix for a 10 year old to understand?

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