This cross develops the style typical for a group of 6th-7th century Byzantine crosses. The main typological features of this group are a laconic design and three-dimensional bars that widen from the center outwards and reveal a hexagon or circle in cross-section. The decor on these crosses used to be as austere as possible. Particular attention was paid only to the center of the cross, which was seen as the place of God and contained a gem or other symbolic element to denote Christ. The facets of the crosses were generally smooth, but sometimes they could be engraved with prayers that called out to the Lord, or with fragments of text taken from the Gospel. Often, pearl beads or the Greek letters Α and ω were suspended from the horizontal bar. Pendants with the letters Α and ω could also be frequently encountered on Byzantine processional crosses.
In many respects, our cross resembles these ancient examples, but it also has some distinctive features of its own. The cross-section of the bars is a trapezoid, i.e. a half-hexagon whose three-dimensional side is facing outward, while the flat, truncated side is facing inward.
The image that dominates the entire cross is the Holy Face of the Savior not made by human hands, executed as a high relief and placed inside the circular medallion in the center. He is the focus and the source of all things. Given the symbolism of the Crucifixion, where the vertical bar stands for the heavens, while the horizontal bar stands for the earth, the image of the Savior belongs to both directions and thus confirms the Christological dogma about Christ as the true God and the true Man. When we look at the cross as a quadripartite model of the world, the image of the Savior in the center illustrates the ancient prophecy: “For God was our Lord since before the beginning of time: He brought forth salvation in the middle of the earth” (Ps. 73.12).
The four widening bars that extend outward from the center of the cross are seen as the four beams of the Light of Life emanating from the source – that is, from Christ. This symbolism is reinforced by the decorations on the bars, which have a zigzag pattern on the edges of their flat parts and little grains arranged in rows along the sharp brims. A similar ornament is found on the round mobile top. Around the image of Christ one can see the inscription I&С Х&С НИКА (“Jesus Christ the victor”) divided among the four quarters. The medallion with the Holy Face not made by human hands is flanked by pendants with the two Greek letters, Α and ω, which illustrate the words from Revelation (1: 8): “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty”. They, like the letters οωΝ (One Who Is, Jehovah) on the cross-shaped nimbus of the Savior, affirm Christ’s divine nature. In addition, the image of the Savior’s Holy Face has a protective and healing function, and serves as a symbol and guarantee of victory. This is connected to the history of this specific icon, known as the Mandylion or the Image of Edessa, which was first given by the Lord to Abgar, King of Edessa, to alleviate his suffering, and was then placed over the gates to protect the city from enemy attacks.
The recess on the reverse contains an embedded cross whose shape echoes that of the external one. Inscribed upon the cross in a cruciform manner are the Greek words ΚΥΡΙΕ ΒΟΗΘΕΙ (“Lord, help!”). Such appeals to the Lord and to the Blessed Virgin Mary are often seen on early Byzantine apotropa (objects that perform a protective function). It is important to note that the Greek word βοήθει is not just a plea for help but a desperate cry coming from a person who has suddenly realized that death is imminent. The sides of the recess are decorated with a zigzag pattern.