The cross stirs intense feelings among Christians as well as non-Christians. Robin Jensen takes readers on an intellectual and spiritual journey through the two-thousand-year evolution of the cross as an idea and an artifact, illuminating the controversies - along with the forms of devotion - this central symbol of Christianity inspires.
Jesus’s death on the cross posed a dilemma for Saint Paul and the early Church fathers. Crucifixion was a humiliating form of execution reserved for slaves and criminals. How could their messiah and savior have been subjected to such an ignominious death? Wrestling with this paradox, they reimagined the cross as a triumphant expression of Christ’s sacrificial love and miraculous resurrection. Over time, the symbol’s transformation raised myriad doctrinal questions, particularly about the crucifix - the cross with the figure of Christ - and whether it should emphasize Jesus’s suffering or his glorification. How should Jesus’s body be depicted: alive or dead, naked or dressed? Should it be shown at all?
Jensen’s wide-ranging study focuses on the cross in painting and literature, the quest for the “true cross” in Jerusalem, and the symbol’s role in conflicts from the Crusades to wars of colonial conquest. The Cross also reveals how Jews and Muslims viewed the most sacred of all Christian emblems and explains its role in public life in the West today.
About the Author
Trained in both the history of art and the history of Christian doctrine and liturgy, Jensen’s teaching and research explores the intersections among Christian theology, liturgical practice, and material/visual culture. She is particularly attentive to the interpretation of Christian art and architecture in light of its ritual function and religious significance. Her numerous books, articles, and essays in collected works reflect these interests, including her most recent volume, Christianity in Roman Africa: The Development of Its Practices and Beliefs (2014), which was co-written with her husband, J. Patout Burns and examines the lived practice of ancient Christianity as reflected in both material and documentary evidence. Currently, she is editing both The Routledge Companion to Early Christian Art and The Cambridge History of Late Antique Archaeology.
'In Robin Jensen’s powerful, wide-ranging presentation, the central image of Christianity turns out to be an image of almost unimaginable complexity: a cosmic abstraction, a grim portrait of cruel suffering, a gem-studded token of triumphant authority, an idol to be smashed, a relic to be kissed, a charm to emboss on a Crusader’s shield, a tree of life, a paradoxical mystery. Jensen has searched out a vast and beautifully chosen variety of crosses, from Golgotha to Ground Zero, along with songs, poems, and long-lost rituals, to bring us a moving study of faith, both Christian and non-Christian, in its infinite variety.' - Ingrid D. Rowland, author of Giordano Bruno: Philosopher/Heretic and From Pompeii: The Afterlife of a Roman Town
'An impeccable work on a sign that is both central to Christianity and immediately recognizable, meaningful, and sometimes controversial across the world. Jensen’s historical narrative is learned and lucid.' - Robert Kiely, author of Blessed and Beautiful: Picturing the Saints
'Rich in artistic imagery and well researched in both Western as well as Eastern Christian traditions… This erudite history illuminates the social, cultural, as well as theological developments of the cross over time.' - Library Journal
'Robin Jensen explores in great detail, with academic rigor and a believer's vigor, the history of the Cross in Christian belief, worship, and art… This book is a splendid work of scholarship. Jensen has synthesized centuries of theological insights, artistic endeavors and personal devotion into an eminently readable text.' - Paul Senz, Catholic Herald
'An authoritative, clear and enjoyable guide, especially to the unfamiliar world of late antiquity. [Jensen’s] use of pictures is particularly informative.' - Christopher Howse, The Spectator
'Jensen gives readers a succinct, vivid account of the cross’s history - complete with dozens of necessary full-color illustrations to help her show the symbol’s ornamentation and development over the past two millennia… Religious or not, Jensen makes a solid argument for the importance of understanding the indispensable Western symbol and appreciating its history (even if its meaning isn’t the same for everyone)…Her writing is accessible to the learned and the newcomer—to anyone who wants to better understand the Western world’s most enduring symbol.' - Matthew Snider, PopMatters
Number Of Pages: 280
Published: 17th April 2017
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 23.8 x 16.5 x 2.6
Weight (kg): 0.63