The cross is made in a dainty Byzantine manner, having in the center grand figure of the Lord Almighty and two archangels worshipping Him. The reverse is devoted to the icon of “the Three-Handed” Mother of God.
The full-length is of the Lord Almighty is one of the most widespread in old Byzantium. Jesus Christ was depicted like this in the church wall paintings, on icons, and book miniatures; on precious cover of altar gospels and tabernacles. Several crosses and encolpions of 10th-11th centuries reached present time whereon the Lord Almighty is depicted full-length on the obverse together with the interceding saints. That was those pieces that became prototypes of the given cross.
Jesus Christ is portrayed as if coming to meet people. The archangels Michael and Gabriel bow before Him on both sides, a prayer “O, merciful Lord, save and guard me” being inscribed underneath.
Above, on the cross ear there is an icon of the Vernicle Image of the Saviour. Such a double portraying of Jesus Christ in not uncommon for neck crosses. The Lord Himself endowed the human beings with the Vernicle Image for being guarded and helped.
On the cross reverse we see the icon of “the Three-Handed” Mother of God – the object of worship of the Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos. According to legend St. John Damascene († near 777), a great saint and one of the Church Fathers was miraculously cured in front of it.
For his writings witnessing for the Orthodoxy the saint’s right hand was cut off. After his praying before the image of the Mother of God the hand miraculously adhered. In return the saint ordered a silver hand to be cast, and attached it at the foot of the icon. Since then the icon had been called “the Three-Handed”.
After that miracle St. John Damascene retired to the monastery next to Jerusalem, founded by St. Sabbas the Sanctified, the great hermit and wonderworker (†532), where he arrived at the age of 102. The miracle-working icon had been kept in the monastery during several centuries until it was presented to St. Sabbas, Archbishop of Serbia. The icon stayed in Serbia till Turkish invasion. Wishing the object of worship to be safeguarded the Orthodox put the icon on a donkey back and let the animal go alone. The donkey reached the Holy Mount Athos and stopped before the gate of the Hilandar Monastery. The local monks accepted the icon as the greatest gift and brought it to the altar with reverence. Once when a time came to reelect Father Superior (hegumen) dissension started in the monastery. Then the Mother of God icon itself moved to the hegumen place in the church; since then a vicar had gone into monastery proceedings in Hilandar, the Most Holy Mother of God being the hegumenness (Mother Superior) in Her “Three-Handed” image.
On the cross the miracle-working image of the Mother of God is surrounded with icons of St. John Damascene (above), St. Sabbas the Sanctified (to the left), and St. Sabbas, Archbishop of Serbia (to the right).
St. Sabbas, Archbishop of Serbia (†1237) was a son of Stephen Nemanjić, Serbian King, and Anna, the daughter of Romanus, the Byzantium emperor. Being 17 years old he secretly left the ancestral home for the Russian monastery of St. Panteleimon in the Holy Mt Athos where he took the monastic vows. Several years later his father Stephen Nemanjić joined him and took the monastic vows as well under the name of St. Simeon, the King of Serbia. Together they refreshed the Hilandar Monastery and gave it the status of regal stauropegion.
In1219 St. Sabbas became the first Archbishop of Serbia. During his ministry the Primate established the Serbian monastic rules by pattern of monasteries of Athos and Jerusalem; had multitude of churches built, and consecrated them. At the end of his life St. Sabbas went to a long journey wishing “his days to be finished as a wanderer in strange land”. The holy hierarch passed through Palestine, Syria, Babylon, Egypt, and Anatolia as a pilgrim, and finished his pilgrimage in Tyrnovo, Bulgaria in the house of his kinsman, Bulgarian King Asan. There he commended his soul to the Lord with spiritual joy († 1237).