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The globus cruciger, also known as the orb and cross or the cross triumphant, is a Christian symbol that dates back to the medieval era. It features a cross placed upon an orb, symbolizing Christianity’s dominion and authority over the world.
History of the Globus Cruciger
Since ancient times, orbs were used to depict the earth, while an orb held in a hand was a symbol of dominion over the earth. The Roman god Jupiter (Greek: Zeus) is often portrayed holding an orb, symbolizing his authority over the world. However, spheres also symbolize perfection and completion, so the orb could also signify Jupiter’s perfection as the creator of all things.
Other pagan depictions of the orb can be seen on Roman coins of the time. A coin from the 2nd century depicts the Roman God Salus with his foot on an orb (symbolizing domination and ruthlessness) while a 4th century coin depicts the Roman emperor Constantine the First with an orb in his hand (symbolizing total authority).
By the time the symbol was adapted by the Christians, the association of the orb with the world was already in existence. By placing a cross upon the orb, even non-Christians understood the significance of the symbol. The globus cruciger became a symbol of rulers and angels. It signified the Christian ruler’s role as the executor of God’s will.
Depictions of the Globus Cruciger
The globus cruciger is an important component in royal regalia in some European monarchies, often carried together with a sceptre.
The globus cruciger can also be seen on the top of the papal tiara worn by the Pope. Considering that the Pope had just as much temporal power as the Roman Emperor, it’s fitting that he also had the authority to display the globus cruciger.
Sometimes the globus cruciger is depicted in the hands of Jesus Christ, in Christian iconography. In this case, the symbol indicates Christ as the Savior of the World (called Salvator Mundi).
The globus cruciger was highly popular during the Middle Ages, featured heavily on coins, in artwork and royal regalia. Even today, it is a part of royal regalia.
While it can be argued that the globus cruciger no longer has the same impact and power that it once did, it remains an important Christian and political symbol.