This is a small four-pointed Russian Orthodox cross pendant formed by a Russian-style woven openwork pattern.
Superimposed upon the front there is an eight-pointed Cross of Calvary, which signifies Christ’s victory over death and hell. The ends of the bars that comprise the four-pointed cross bear traditional inscriptions glorifying the Savior, with І&С Х&С (“Jesus Christ”) along the horizontal bar, Цр7ь Сл7вы (“King of Glory”) at the top and М.Л.Р.Б., deciphered as “место лобно рай бысть” (“the place of execution has become paradise”), at the bottom.
The braided ornament deserves to be mentioned separately. It is known that the braid belongs to the most ancient forms of ornamentation and has a rich symbolic significance. For the ancient Slavs, braided patterns tended to have a magical meaning and represented the binding of evil forces. This found a practical expression in the use of so-called “nauz“, various amulets with knots and plaits that hung from one’s neck, arm or belt. With the advent of Christianity, these amulets came to be worn alongside the cross, which was forbidden by the Church. Later, the woven patterns acquired a Christian meaning and came to remind the wearer that only God may bind or prevent evil and free us from the chains of sin or the tangled complexities and entrapments of earthly life. Thus the new crosses with a braided ornament were intended as a “stamp of the Lord” that bound death and infernal forces and served to protect the Christian’s life and health.
A similar significance was attached to the teratological (Greek for “marvelous, wondrous”) ornaments found on Russian ecclesiastical books from the 12th – 14th centuries, which depicted fantastical animals, birds and humans framed in woven ornamental bands. In the 12th – 13th centuries, part of the monastic robe, the paraman, consisted of woven crosses and cords, known as “pletsy” in Russian. They were made from leather, which signified the monk’s death to any worldly attachments, and bound his chest and shoulders, serving as a spiritual armor and signifying his relationship with Christ.
By the 15th century, the braided ornaments had taken on a more abstract form that allowed for a spiritual interpretation. In manuscripts, teratological braiding was replaced by Balkan-style woven geometrical patterns. Their main symbolic meaning was to demonstrate the order and longevity of the world created by the Lord, signified by the closed braided bands that would repeat in a certain rhythmic sequence. Considering that the four-pointed cross is a symbolic fourfold model of the world, the braided pattern on the cross emphasizes and develops this meaning, pointing at the harmony inherent in God’s creation, while the eight-pointed Cross of Calvary in the center indicates that the world has been saved by the Lord through His sacrifice on the Cross.