Explore the symbolism of an iconic religious symbol and why you should wear it every day.
The Scapular: its origin and evolution
The word itself comes from the Latin “scapula” — the shoulder blade — and refers to the cloth worn over the religious dress by nuns and monks in certain Christian orders, such as the Carmelites and the Capuchins.
Over time, the original monastic scapular transformed into a much smaller item for devotional use. Popular among many Christians, this kind of Scapular is made of two rectangular pieces of cloth joined by a rope and worn around the neck. The most renowned of them all is undoubtedly the Brown Scapular, featuring the Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the Sacred Heart of Jesus (learn more below).
For a bit more sophisticated version of this devotional tool have a look at the Catholic Scapular medal, whose two sides bear the two sacred images mentioned above.
Finally, the last step in the evolution of this Christian item is the Scapular Cross, sometimes known as the Four-Way Cross. Its unparalleled symbolism makes it an absolute must-have of classic Catholic jewelry. Explore it in more detail here below.
The Four-Way Cross
Let’s start by saying that the Scapular Cross pendant is a two-sided cruciform featuring 5 symbols on the obverse, and has three additional symbols on the reverse. The fact that it is sometimes referred to as "4 way cross" or "4 way medal" suggests that the original version of the Scapular cross had only four symbols, presumably the ones featured on the arms of the cruciform. Let’s take a closer look at each of them (clockwise from the top).
Solid Gold Four Way Cross - The obverse
Sacred Heart of Jesus
Celebrated on the third Friday after Pentecost, the mystical devotion of the Heart of Jesus comes from the Middle Ages and has been widely popularized by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century. Its symbol is a wounded heart spreading light and crowned with thorns. It is commonly interpreted as Jesus’ love for humanity.
According to some sources, St Christopher was a giant hermit who, taking advantage of his height, used to help pilgrims cross rough rivers, which is why he is depicted carrying Baby Jesus on his back. He is venerated as one of the 14 Holy Helpers and is the Patron Saint of pilgrims, travelers, motorists. He is also invoked against sudden deaths.
Our Lady of Grace
The larger arm of the Four-Way Cross presents nothing less than the notorious Miraculous Medal depicting Our Lady of Grace. (You’ll find the back of this medal on the reverse of the Scapular Cross.)
Back in 1830, the Virgin herself entrusted a French novice, St. Catherine Labouré, with the task of striking the Miraculous Medal. Ever since the medal is a symbol of Marian favors guaranteed to those who wear this medal.
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
This representation of the Virgin dates back to 1251, when the prior general of the Carmelites, St. Simon, received a vision of Mary surrounded by angels. The Mother of God offered him the Brown Scapular as a new, more powerful tool of prayer for his order.
The Scapular Cross reverse
At the center of the Scapular pendant, we see the dove representing the Holy Spirit. On the reverse of the cross pendant, we will generally find the back of the Miraculous Medal, the St Peter Basilica and Square, and “Rome”.
To sum up, the Scapular cross encompasses some of the most powerful Christian symbols, making it a perfect cross pendant to wear every day. Shop your Four Way Necklace on www.SavelliReligious.com and request your free blessing by Pope Francis at checkout.