The cross is the most familiar religious symbol of Christianity. During the first two centuries of Christianity, the cross was rare in Christian iconography as it depicts a purposely painful and gruesome method of public execution. The Ichthys, or fish symbol, was used by early Christians. The Chi-Rho monogram, which was adopted by Constantine I in the fourth century as his banner was another Early Christian symbol of wide use.
In Christendom the cross reminds Christians of God's act of love and atonement in Christ's sacrifice at Calvary - "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." The cross also reminds Christians of Jesus' victory over sin and death, since it is believed that through His death and resurrection He conquered death itself.
The cross is often depicted in different shapes and sizes and in many different styles. The Pueblo style cross as seen on the pictured stole is based on one that was found among the Pueblo people, groups of Native Americans living in the Southwest. The crosses usually have a plain design and are made of silver. When Spaniards arrived in the Southwest and encountered the native peoples in the early sixtennth century, they erected tall crosses at each village. The Franciscan missionaries taught the Native Americans to revere the crosses. The priests traded or gave ornamental crosses to the people, believing that if the Native Americans wore the crosses, they were accepting the new religon. In most cases the Pueblo peoples had accepted the crosses only as ornaments and not as symbols of the religon associated with them. Over time, many Pueblo people were converted to Christianity, and they personalized the cross design with their own cultural interpretation.
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