Crucifixion scene with a secret meaning

There are many different versions of the Crucifixion of Jesus that artists have portrayed over the years but this one seems quite unique and possibly contains a secret meaning that was known only to a select group of church members during the 18th century. I find this very interesting because most images during this era were intended to communicate a general understanding of religious events at a time when literacy rates were very low. The image below obviously wouldn’t be used for that purpose, so  I believe this would have been used as yet another hidden meaning that was only known to a select few.

The Crucifixion scene has the typical setting with Jesus, John, Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary. But things take an unusual twist when taking a closer look at Mary Magdalene and noticing that she’s pointing at herself and doesn’t appear to have any facial features other than some markings or symbols. This was very curious to me because it also seems that she has the attention of Jesus, as if Mary Magdalene is conveying some type of message to him while the other two have their attention elsewhere.

This is one of the central images on the parchment and has the resin collage fused into the opposite side if the paper. I’ll get more into the arrangement of the picture and their assumed importance in a later post, but for now, I’ll just say this image takes on a central importance when looking at the locket as a whole. This is one of the areas that I would really like to spend more time and get a better understanding about the symbolism it contains.

As always, please feel free to leave comments with your thoughts and ideas on the subject.

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Origins of the locket

I find it interesting that the MRA monogram is displayed so prominently on both the locket and at the top of the Latin prayer for protection. The IHS christogram is often used as the symbol for the Jesuit order, which would be expected because IHS symbolizes the holy name of Jesus and Jesuits are also known as the Society of Jesus. But why do we sometimes see the MRA monogram juxtaposed with the IHS symbol? It almost seems like MRA might relate to a different subset or denomination of the Jesuit order. The symbols from the Latin prayer are shown in the image below.

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I recently found a reference to an almost identical document that was created by the Jesuits around the same time. It also has two stamps at the top associated to the Jesuits, but curiously both of the stamps have different variations of the same IHS symbol. The document can be viewed here. This furthered my suspicions about the MRA monogram might represent a specific group within the Jesuit order. So far, I haven’t had much luck identifying one, but I did find a few references to cottages in Scotland that used very similar symbolism as seen here and below.

The other interesting aspect of the locket is that it has sunburst symbolism used instead of the traditional halo for anything considered to be holy. For example, in some of my older posts you’ll notice that all of the depictions of Saints use the sunburst symbolism while much of the art from that era would have used the traditional oval halo. The sunburst is also seem emanating from the center of the Cross of Lorraine, as well as the central woodcut image just to the left of the Cross.

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I think that many of these clues will eventually lead to answers, but until then, the search continues..

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The Relics

I’m keeping my comments to a minimum here as the images can be a bit evocative. Please use discretion.

I have to assume this is intended to be a miniature Statue of the Crowned Virgin Mary and Child. I have so many unanswered questions here.. this is not the traditional depiction I would expect to see.

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Next are the four fabrics that are fused into the resin. They each appear to have the letters “Rel” (short for Relic?) followed by a name or initial. They also have the remnants of an old wax seal next to each.  They’re listed clockwise from the top.

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Finally the cloth relics under the woodcut images of Saints. I would expect they’re attributed to the Saint from the woodcut.


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If you have questions about anything specific in the images please feel free to post them in the comments and I’ll try to answer to the best of my knowledge.

Thanks and God Bless!

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Cross of Lorraine


The Cross of Lorraine is a version of the two-barred cross that has been used by religious orders such as the Knights Templar and is considered to be a Crusader’s Cross. The Jesuits carried this cross during their missions in colonial American, because it helped the Native Americans relate to the symbolism. I believe this was probably what led to the artifact ending up in Arizona many years ago and it remains today.

What makes this cross so unusual are the Latin letters that are listed in some type of code or formula. On the right side of the cross it has the letters from the St Benedict Medal, although the layout seems to be encoded for some reason.

Notice that CSS is found diagonal on the top, then ML-NDSMD going down from right center.
When you put the letters together, C S S M L – N D S M D are the initials of the words Crux sacra sit mihi lux! Non draco sit mihi dux! (“May the holy cross be my light! May the dragon (devil) never be my overlord!”)

Then these letters are found on the crossbars (just to the right of the vertical phrase mentioned above)
V R S N S M V – S M Q L I V B, in reference to Vade retro satana: Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas! (“Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!”)

At the bottom is CSPB, listed left to right and top down.
C S P B in reference to Crux Sancti Patris Benedicti (“The Cross of [our] Holy Father Benedict”).

At the corners of the woodcut we find the following letters, surrounding a Maltese cross:

QVD – Latin: Quis vt Deus? English: Who is like unto God? This is the inscription on the shield carried by the Archangel St. Michael

CMB – Latin: Christus Mansionem Benedicat English: May Christ Bless This House

VCPI – Unkown?

INRI – Latin: Iēsus Nazarēnus, Rēx Iūdaeōrum English: Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews

The formula used for the left side of the cross is still a mystery to me. It seems to use the same method of using the Maltese cross to delineate how the letters should be assembled, but their meaning still eludes me.

Your comments and suggestions are appreciated.

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Jesuit Mystery Artifact


I’d like to share an unusual artifact that sent me down a rabbit hole of esoteric Catholicism.  I’ve been researching it for awhile now and everything about it seems to have some degree of symbolism or purpose. I’ll get into that more in other posts but I wanted to give a quick overview first.

One side of the locket is inscribed with MARIA. To the best of my knowledge, this is a Marian monogram for the Virgin Mary. The position of the letters MRA take on more significance in the symbol and refer to the Latin words, ‘ Maria Regina Angelorum ‘, meaning ‘Mary, Queen of the Angels’.  Below the monogram is the wounded heart of the virgin, with flames emitting from the top as a metaphor for the passionate love of Christ. The other side of the locket is inscribed with the IHS Christogram, referring to the holy name of Jesus. This has also been used as the insignia for the Jesuit order.

Inside the locket, it contains a parchment that is probably 200-300 years old. The first paper has several woodcut images that are pasted on top of the parchment. There are several Saints at the top and bottom of the page. A couple of the woodcuts have started to separate from the parchment and contain a cloth underneath. I’ve been told the cloths are likely 3rd class Relics (aka touched Relics). I’ve only checked the one’s that were already starting to lift up and each of them contains a cloth, so it’s likely the others probably do as well.


But here’s where things start to become harder to explain.. the woodcut image at the center of the page is pasted on top of a very old Latin prayer from the Inquisition in Turin, with IHS and MRA Monograms at the top . It probably dates much older than the woodcut images and would have been issued during the Reformation Era. With translation from Latin, it has Prayers payers against “curses, evil spirits, and attacks” and it has a very unusual collage that is fused into the center of the page, with what looks like an old resin. The paper is dowsed with oil and looks like it may have been ceremonially constructed.


So the collage raises many questions. The elements fused into the resin appear to be something other than “touched Relics”, but it would also be very unusual if the locket was intended to be a reliquary. With that said, there appears to be the old remnants of a old wax seal at each of the corners and it also has four cloths with a Saints name written in Latin on each of them. However, the Council of Trent (1545-1563) made rules for encasing relics and I’ve been informed that the locket would not qualify. Perhaps it was made before the council was formed? If not, why does it contain all of these indications of being from the church? And if so, why all the esoteric symbolism?

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