was an ancient method of execution in which the victim's hands and feet were bound and nailed to a cross
. There was a strong social stigma associated with crucifixion, a punishment reserved for traitors, captive armies, slaves and the worst of criminals. Detailed descriptions of crucifixions are few, perhaps because secular historians could not bear to describe the gruesome events of this horrible practice. However, archaeological finds from first century Palestine have shed a great deal of light on this early form of death penalty.
Four basic structures or types of crosses were used for crucifixions:
Image: Justus Lipsius (1547-1606)
Crux Simplex was a single upright stake or post upon which the victim was tied or impaled. It was the simplest, most primitive cross used for capital punishment of criminals. The victim's hands and feet were bound and nailed to the stake using just one nail through both wrists and one nail through both ankles, with a wooden plank fastened to the stake as a footrest. Most often, at some point the victim's legs would be broken, hurrying death by asphyxiation.
Image: © Mary Fairchild
Crux Commissa was a capital T-shaped structure, also known as St. Anthony's cross or the Tau Cross, named after the Greek letter ("Tau") that it resembles. The horizontal beam of the Crux Commissa or "connected cross" was connected at the top of the vertical stake. This cross was very similar in shape and function to the Crux Immissa.
Image: © Mary Fairchild
Crux Decussata was an X-shaped cross
, also called St. Andrew's cross. The Crux Decussata was named after the Roman "decussis," or Roman numeral ten. It is believed that the Apostle Andrew
was crucified on an X-shaped cross at his own request. As tradition tells, he felt unworthy to die on the same type of cross on which his Lord, Jesus Christ
, had died.
Crux Immissa was the familiar lower case, t-shaped structure
upon which the Lord, Jesus Christ was crucified
according to Scripture and tradition. Immissa means "inserted." This cross had a vertical stake with a horizontal cross beam (called a patibulum
) inserted across the upper portion. Also called the Latin cross
, the Crux Immissa has become the most widely recognized symbol of Christianity
Upside Down Crucifixions
At times victims were crucified upside down. Historians report that at his own request, the Apostle Peter
was crucified with his head toward the ground because he did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord, Jesus Christ.