SYMBOLS Stories of cultural life.

Grave of Soviet prisoners of war

Patriarchal cross, the symbol of the Russian Orthodox Church, is basically a Latin cross with two extra beams. This form of cross appears in early Christian representations.

Upper and shorter horizontal line symbolize the tablet with inscription "INRI", a mocking title, fixed over Jesus' head as Pontius Pilate ordered. Lower beam is slanted and symbolizes a footrest. Several legends told us about the lower beams true meaning, but each is different. The most bizarre legend telling, that Jesus had an uneven leg length. Second legend claims that the slant of the lower beam is due to an earthquake, which was hit shortly after the death of Jesus on the cross. In younger folk legends, the slant of the lower beam symbolizes the fate of two thieves, who were crucified with Jesus. Upper part symbolizes destiny of the penanced thief, who has gone into heaven, and lower part the disobedient thief and his journey to hell. Closest to the true meaning of the slanted beam is its resemblance with St Andrew's cross, which is shaped as X. St. Andrew is also saint, who is credited with the introduction of Christianity in Russia. St Andrew's cross is particularly common in eastern Slavic countries.

There are some interesting forms of crosses in Pobrežje cemetery. Even within the Latin cross form there is a difference between the cross of resurrection and cross of suffering, or crucifix. The latter is reminiscent of Christ's suffering and death, the cross of resurrection on his victory over death and therefore, it is sometimes decorated with a flame and flag, symbols of resurrection from grave.

Next interesting form at the Pobrežje cemetery is the Celtic cross. Its shape is most reminiscent of the Latin cross, but with an added circle, whose centre is at the same time in intersection of the horizontal and vertical lines. Both extend beyond the circle. This cross links symbolism of cross, circle and centre. Centre of both axis symbolize a place without time and changes, place of transit and communication between this and the other world. This cross also symbolizes the synthesis of Christianity and Celtic traditions.

A similar symbolism has the Latin cross with wreath of leaves, flowers and fruits, instead of a circle. A wreath represents an old pagan symbol, which components (leaf, flower and fruits) represent growth and life. A wreath was also a symbol of eternal cycle and newly emerging life. Ideas about eternal life of the soul are frequently linked with wreaths, which decorate civilian and military graves and memorials since ancient times. For the Germans, it was known that such wreaths with candles encouraged arrival of spring. Candle symbolized the Sun's heat, green colour spring time. In the Middle ages this religious habit was taken over by Christianity and integrated into the design of Latin cross, but with a slightly exclusive symbolism. As part of the decorations in the face of Advent, wreath with candles symbolized eternal life only to those, who accept Christ.

Last form of the Latin cross has a similar circular symbolism, but in this case the circle is Jesus' crown of thorns. Trough act of coronation Christ took upon himself the sins of mankind. Crown of thorns was intended as a means of punishment and ridicule of Jesus by the Roman authorities and the Jewish priests. Its symbolism reminds us that if we suffer in this life, we must accept this as a sign of God's will, because of the reward that awaits us - eternal life.

sickle and hammer
five point star
five pointed star