Tuesday, 1 May 2012

What's a Cruz de Mayo, and why?

Cruz de Mayo in Jaén
You will see these all over Spain during May. They're called Cruces de Mayo, or May Crosses.They have a very long tradition in the Roman Catholic Church and come straight down from Byzantium. In fact, it is said that they are a celebration of the time when Saint Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine I, who supposedly found a piece of the original Cross. However, it is also accepted, more realistically, that the May celebrations originated as pagan festivities that the Church so cleverly adapted its Christian benefit, not unlike the May pole in Britain. Okay, but why a cross? Aside from the symbolism of the Cross to early Christians (who, incidentally, almost adopted a fish as its symbol instead), there is also a legend involving Emperor Constantine.PLEASE BE AWARE THAT ITEMS SUCH AS THIS MAY BE SUBJECT TO SUBSCRIPTION IN THE FUTURE but you can make a donation NOW, too! Please click here for more information on how to help us continue. (This article took two hours and seventeen minutes to research, write, illustrate and present to you.)>>>
In the sixth year of his reign, he was confronted by a large Barbarian army on the banks of the Danube. This was an impossible battle to win, he thought, there were too many Barbarians. Then, one night, Constantine had a vision of a cross in the sky, and next to it the words In hoc signo vincis ('with this sign, you shall be victorious'). The emperor had a cross made and put it at the front of his army, which won an easy victory over the enemy multitude. On returning to the city and learning the significance of the cross, Constantine was baptized as a Christian and gave orders to construct Christian churches. He sent his mother, Saint Helena, to Jerusalem in search of the True Cross, the cross on which Jesus died. Once there, Helena summoned the wisest priests to aid in her attempt to find the cross.

On Calvary Hill, traditionally considered the site of Jesus's crucifixion, she found three bloody logs hidden in the undergrowth. In order to discover which was the True Cross, she placed the logs one by one over sick people, and even dead people, who were cured or resuscitated at its touch.

The veneration of the True Cross, and the use of pieces of the True Cross as relics, begins at this time. Santa Helena died praying for all believers in Christ to celebrate the commemoration of the day the Cross was found.

Whatever the legend (Prospero inherited a little crucifix that his father swore contained a splinter of the True Cross), the fact is that in a multitude of cities, towns and villages all over the Spanish world (the tradition travelled to Latin America with the Conquistadores), the faithful make a big effort to celebrate it.

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