The shape of this small cross is similar to that of Russian reliquary crosses made in the 14th-15th centuries. The ends of the bars have a smooth, well-rounded keel shape, which resembles the traditional depiction of the angelic forces.
On the front there is an engraved eight-pointed cross with a double contour, along with a relief figure of the Crucified Christ. Inscribed over the Savior’s head are the letters І&С Х&С (“Jesus Christ”).
This particular artistic and iconographic design of the Crucifixion, where the figure of the Savior seems to be embedded in the cross, while the latter resembles a cruciform vessel or container, enables one to perceive the Cross as more than just an instrument of execution. It is a visual illustration of the continuity between the Holy Cross and Its predecessor, the Ark of the Covenant, which was written about by the early Fathers of the Church. For example, in the 7th century, St. Isaac the Syrian wrote that “the unlimited power of God dwells in the Cross, as it used to dwell, in the most direct sense, in the arc the Chosen People worshipped with the utmost reverence and awe”. In addition, when depicted this way, the Cross of Calvary becomes an allusion both to the Communion Chalice and the baptismal font, establishing a symbolic link between the Crucifixion and the two major sacraments of the New Testament Church: Baptism and Communion.
The domed free space on the cross is covered with floral ornaments, which stand for the Resurrection and the Eternal Life discovered through the salvific sacrifice of the Lord.
The reverse of the cross looks like the inside of a reliquary’s wing, whereas the concave part carries a recessed eight-pointed Cross of Calvary, which appears to be nested inside the cross. This emphasizes the particular sanctity of the Holy Cross, which is reflected in the ancient tradition that mandates for particles of the Venerable Wood to be stored in reliquary boxes or crosses.
Inscribed upon the “embedded” eight-pointed cross is the prayer to the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, based on the words of Psalm 67: Да воскрeснетъ бг7ъ, и6 расточа1тсz врази2 є6гw2, и6 да бэжа1тъ t лица2 є6гw2 ненави1дzщіи є6гw2. (“Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered: let them also that hate Him flee before Him.”)
This prayer was believed to have a special protective significance and is thus often found on cross pendants and is highly popular among the Old Believers.