The symbol of the Armenian people is the stone cross (Khatchkar). Throughout the centuries, Armenians have engraved images of the cross of Christ within the rocks of their ancient homelands. Today, the armenian cross is seen on the tops of churches, as ornaments in homes, tattoos on bodies, and jewelry around necks and rearview mirrors.
The stone cross contains symbols of both death and life. After all, crucifixion was a common form of execution used by the Roman Empire. A similar symbol in America would be an electric chair. But when Armenians artistically express the cross, they do not point to death but to life. The cross proclaims the Good News that Jesus Christ has defeated death and welcomes us to new life.
What makes the Armenian cross unique is its eight corners. One tradition states that each corner represents the eight beatitudes found in the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Apart from that basic template, there is much creative freedom in its design.
Stone crosses are fusions of both earthly and heavenly imagery. Many of the crosses are elaborately decorated with vines and leaves. Few even go so far as depicting the cross as the Tree of Life. Heavenly images take the form of angelic wings for corners and an eternity circle (either below or in the middle of the cross), symbolizing light and eternal life.
The Armenian cross is an artistic reminder, set in stone, of the hope there is in Jesus Christ, who delivered humanity from the bondage of death into eternal life. For centuries, the stone crosses of the Armenian people have been an affirmation of our faith in Christ Jesus and have provided encouragement to follow in his footsteps.