This small cross pendant decorated with multicolored enamel is similar to the ancient Russian crosses that were made in the 12-th century and were intended to be worn against the naked body, under one’s clothes. The front of the cross depicts an eight-pointed cross of Calvary against a white background, with Adam’s head at the foot and a crescent-like shape (“tsata”) in the center. The crescent represents the rank of King and High Priest, and, when found in the center of the Cross of Calvary, traditionally refers to the Savior as the King of Glory and the High Priest Who committed a redemptive sacrifice and signifies His victory over hell. This is confirmed by the inscription on the cross, which reads: І&С Х&С Цр7ь Сл7вы (“Jesus Christ, the King of Glory”). The inscription also serves to glorify Christ’s heroic act and reminds us about His ascension into glory. The image of Adam’s head, which is traditionally shown under the Cross of Calvary and signifies the fact that Christ’s sacrifice had atoned for the original sin, appeared in the 9th century and later became an almost mandatory attribute of the Cross of Calvary.
The white background, a symbol of Heaven in icon painting, retains the same meaning on cross pendants and corresponds to the widespread cryptogram МЛРБ, or “место лобно Рай бысть” (translated from Church Slavonic as “the place of execution has become paradise”), which refers to mankind regaining the lost paradise. Enamel in other colors has also been used in keeping with Christian symbolism, where blue stands for mystery, eternity, truth, revelation, wisdom and the incomprehensibility of the Divine, and is the color of the Apostles’ clothes; green stands for spring and vegetation, and, as such, signifies the victory of life over death and the Eternal Life bestowed upon us by our Savior, and designates Christ as the Giver of Life and the Cross as the Tree of Life; red stands for the cleansing fire of Heaven and life-giving warmth, and, in the latter case, for life and blood, and therefore serves as a symbol of sacrifice and Easter; and yellow or gold is treated as the likeness of the uncreated Divine Light and an absolute metaphor for God: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5).
On the back of the cross, continuing the theme of re-claiming the lost Paradise, there is a floral pattern on a white background, with the cryptogram ВВВВ in the center, which is taken to mean “возвращение вечное верных в Рай” (“the eternal return of the faithful in to Heaven”), or, according to another interpretation, “велие веселие в него верующих” (“great is the joy of those who believe in Him”, “the great joy of those who believe in Him”).
This iconography of the Cross of Calvary and the inscriptions are typical for Russian cross pendants made in the 17th century.