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The CROSS OF JUSTIN II or CRUX VATICANA ( Latin
Latin
for VATICAN CROSS) in the Treasury of Saint Peter's in St. Peter\'s Basilica , is a processional cross and also a reliquary of the True Cross , one of the oldest surviving, if not the oldest. It is a crux gemmata or jewelled cross, silver-gilt and adorned with jewels in gold settings, dating from the sixth century, given to the people of Rome by the Roman Emperor Justin II
Justin II
, who reigned from 565 to 578, and his co-ruler and wife, the Empress Sophia . The cross bears a Latin
Latin
inscription reading: "ligno quo Christus humanum subdidit hostem dat Romae Iustinus opem et socia decorem" which is commonly mistranslated as "For the wood with which human Christ
Christ
was overcome by the enemy, Justin give Rome this wealth and decoration" A more accurate reading is: "With the wood with which Christ
Christ
conquered man's enemy, Justin gives his help to Rome and his wife offers the ornamentation." To mark the end of restoration and conservation work on the cross, it was placed on display in the main Basilica of Saint Peter\'s from November 2009 to April 12, 2010. A different, and far humbler, small cross of gold foil, with rubbings of coins of Justin II
Justin II
and holes for nails or thread, Italian, 6th century

The original portion of the cross, which is now mounted on a much later stand, is 15.75 inches high and 11.81 inches wide, excluding the spike at the bottom for fitting into its stand. The cross was restored in 2009; it has been altered and restored at several points in its history, including reducing its size. The front of the cross has no figurative images: in the centre is a medallion containing the relic, which is itself displayed as cross-shaped. The centres of the arms carry the inscriptions, and the edges of the arms jewels in set in gold, with four jewels hanging from the arms as pendilia . The reverse side is decorated in repoussé silver, and shows an interesting transitional stage in the decoration of the cross. At the period the church was starting to encourage representation of the human figure of Christ
Christ
on the cross, making a crucifix , which had previously not been usual . The central medallion shows the Lamb of God
Lamb of God
, a common older formula. Above and below this are images in medallions of Christ
Christ
(the lower one may be John the Baptist
John the Baptist
instead). The upper one shows Christ holding a book, representing the Gospels , which was to become a standard feature of the image of Christ
Christ
Pantocrator ; in the lower one Christ
Christ
or John has a blessing gesture. At the ends of the arms, where the Virgin Mary
Virgin Mary
and Saint John the Evangelist
John the Evangelist
would often be found in later crucifixes, are instead portraits in medallions of Justin and his empress Sophia. Between the medallions there are decorative foliage scrolling motifs, on the upright centred on onion-like plants probably intended as palm-trees.

In 569, Justin and Sophia together reportedly sent a relic of the True Cross to the Frankish princess Radegund
Radegund
, who founded a monastery at Poitiers
Poitiers
to house it. The event was commemorated in Vexilla Regis by Venantius Fortunatus
Venantius Fortunatus
. They are also recorded as sending relics to Pope John III (reigned 561-574) in an attempt to improve relations – the Crux Vaticana very likely dates from John's reign, perhaps around 568 or 569. Older scholars thought, mainly on the basis of imperial head-dress, that Justin I
Justin I
(r. 518-27) and his empress Euphemia were the donors, but this view seems now rejected.

NOTES

* ^ Vatican/Associated Press, November 2009 * ^ Vatican Museums * ^ McClanan, 166 * ^ Vatican/Associated Press, November 2009 * ^ Vatican/Associated Press, November 2009 * ^ Vatican/Associated Press, November 2009 * ^ Vatican Museums * ^ McClanan, 167-8 * ^ Illustrated Cotsonis, 58 * ^ McClanan, 167 * ^ See J. B. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire, Macmillan ;background:none transparent;border:none;-moz-box-shadow:none;-webkit-box-shadow:none;box-shadow:none;">v

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Crux gemmata
Crux gemmata

Form of cross typical of Early Christian and Early Medieval art, where the cross, or at least its front side,