Are there churches outside of the Catholic and Orthodox traditions that use a crucifix as opposed to a cross?

I just watched a movie in which the main character is in a church that has a crucifix on the wall, but the service looked neither Catholic nor Orthodox. I have heard that perhaps Lutheran and Anglicans do this as well, but I don't know how to verify this.

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    Not substantial enough to actually be an answer, but movie producers often use whatever seems "most" Christian. Hence crucifixes and KJV Bibles... Commented Sep 18, 2011 at 4:28
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    I've been through Baptist (all types), Quaker, Presbyterian and haven't seen them. I've been to other denominations (Methodist, etc.) but haven't noticed them (which doesn't mean they weren't there).
    – Richard
    Commented Sep 18, 2011 at 12:46
  • This might be a list answer, which isn't a good fit for the site. (I'd have to research to know, though.)
    – Richard
    Commented Sep 18, 2011 at 12:47
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    None of the Lutheran churches I've been to had crucifixes. I agree with @Richard that this sounds like a list question, and so I'm voting to close -- sorry. We'll see if others agree, or perhaps we'll get a good non-list answer nonetheless. I suggest you rescope the question so it's more specific and not asking for a list. Commented Sep 18, 2011 at 13:51
  • Related: When (and why) did the empty cross v.s. crucifix split happen?
    – Caleb
    Commented Sep 18, 2011 at 16:46

2 Answers 2



Lutherans consider the crucifix to be a powerful reminder of the sacrifice of Christ for our salvation. The Apostle Paul says in 1st Corinthians, chapter 1: “We preach Christ and Him crucified.”

The history of Lutheranism demonstrates that the crucifix was a regular and routine feature of Lutheran worship and devotional life during Luther’s lifetime and during the period of Lutheran Orthdoxy. It was also the case among the founding fathers of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

It was a good practice to hold a wooden crucifix before the eyes of the dying or to press it into their hands.40 This brought the suffering and death of Christ to mind and comforted the dying. But the others, who haughtily relied on their good works, entered a heaven that contained a sizzling fire. For they were drawn away from Christ and failed to impress His life-giving passion and death upon their hearts.

Luther's works, vol. 23 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 6-8

And I say at the outset that according to the law of Moses no other images are forbidden than an image of God which one worships. A crucifix, on the other hand, or any other holy image is not forbidden. Heigh now! you breakers of images, I defy you to prove the opposite!”

Luther's Works. Vol. 40 (Vol. 40, Page 85-86)

Some Lutherans began to move away from crucifixes during the age of Lutheran Pietism, which rejected much of Lutheran doctrine and consequently many Lutheran worship practices. At the time, Lutheran Pietists, contrary to the clear postion of Luther and the earlier Lutherns, held that symbols such as the crucifix were wrong. This was never the view of historic Lutheranism.

  • I've been doing some reading on Luther and Lutheranism and am finding, as you show in your answer, that I have some misconceptions about Luther. Didn't know about Lutheran Pietism, but want to read about it. Thanks for the link.
    – eBeth
    Commented Sep 20, 2011 at 4:10

As you suggest in your question, the use of a Crucifix with a model of the crucified Jesus on it is typically something you find in Catholic and Orthodox traditions. There is quite a big of variance on the design and usage of these, but the practice is fairly restricted to those traditions.

In places with heavy Catholic or Orthodox influence (such as Italy) you will find crucifixes in other places outside of the church including businesses and even government institutions such as law courts. It is also quite common to have these icons in homes.

I do not know of any modern Protestant tradition that uses the crucifix as opposed to an empty cross. There might be individual cases where a local church, for whatever reason, makes a choice to do something out of the normal, but as a whole most non-Catholic/Orthodox traditions do not use a crucifix.

The issue of what you see in the movies is entirely separate. They are less worried about being faithful to represent some specific tradition and more worried about giving a general impression. They tend to put together whatever they can find and mix and match traditions in order to have "something for everyone" on screen. What you see represented on the silver screen should be discarded when actually examining what makes up a given church tradition.

  • I thought the movie depiction might be what you suggest - Hollywood's idea of what a Christian church should be. But, I've been wrong before.
    – eBeth
    Commented Sep 20, 2011 at 4:03

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