It is necessary to distinguish between the use of this figure as an object or instrument of devotion, and that of pictorial or other representations of the Crucifixion as a scene. Every variety and combination of the arts of sculpture, mosaic, painting, arid engraving has been applied to this great subject from early times, and to all parts of it; and this distinction is one of principle as well as convenience. If the end of the 5th century be considered the beginning of the Middle Ages, the public representation of the Crucifixion may be said to be a mediaeval usage in point of time. Martigny claims for France the honor of having possessed the first public crucifix-painting which ever existed; for which he refers to Gregory of Tours, and which he says must have been at least as old as the middle of the 6th century. But he says, probably with great correctness, that all the most eminent Crucifixions known were objects of private devotion, instancing the pectoral cross of queen Theodelinda, and the Syriac MS. of the Medicean Library at Florence. The official or public use of the cross as a symbol of redemption begins with Constantine, though, of course, it had been variously employed by all Christians at an earlier date. See Cross.
Crucifixes according to Guericke, did not appear in churches till after the 7th century. Such images, probably, in the early days of the Church, would produce too crude and. painful an effect on the Christian imagination, and to that of the more hopeful pagan they would be intolerable; not only because his feelings would recoil from the thought of the punishment of the cross, but from superstitious terror of associating the "unhappy tree" with a Divine Being. The Graffito Blasfemo of the Palatine illustrates this; but Christian teachers may have refrained from any addition to the cross, as a symbol of divine humiliation and suffering, from purely charitable motives.
The cross itself may have been felt to be temporarily unwelcome to persons in certain stages of conversion.