Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Caravaca Crucifix

 Caravaca Crucifix

The Caravaca Cross with double cross bar, body of Christ, and two angels takes its name from Caravaca (now known as Caravaca de la Cruz), Spain, a town in the province of Murcia.  The Cross is a popular religious symbol in Mexico and is said to be the first Christian cross to be brought into the country. Mexican Christians believe the cross has special powers to grant wishes and prayers.

Franciscan missionaries brought the cross to the new world. In 1943, when the burial crypt of Father Serra (1713-1784), the Franciscan founder of the California missions, was opened, a Caravaca style relic cross was found. The cross is now on display at the Carmel Mission.

 One version of the legend of the origin of the Caravaca cross is as follows.

When the Moors captured their prisoners they determined whether they had any particular skill, and if the skill was worthwhile their life would be spared. One day they captured a priest and asked him what tools he needed to show his trade. He asked for a table, three linen cloths, two candles, a cup, bread, wine, and a crucifix. He was provided with everything except for the crucifix. Without the crucifix, he could not perform his trade. On the verge of being put to death, two angels arrived carrying a cross. They held it over the table while the priest said mass and his life was spared. The cross was attributed to the patriarch of Jerusalem and included a piece of the True Cross.

Another version has the cross appearing while the priest was taken to be executed. The Moorish lord converted, and the priest was saved. The townspeople of Caravaca, Spain shaped a replica of the cross out of metal and provided space for relics to be inserted. A Festival of the Holy Cross is held there every May.