Can someone help translate the Latin formula used on the left side of the cross below. I already know the right side is the formula for Saint Benedict's Medal but the letters on the left still elude me. I'm assuming they relate to the Saint Benedict prayers of protection, because of what is known about it so far.

I believe the letters on the left are delineated by the Greek cross between some of the letters but that's just an assumption on my part. Anyone familiar with this representation of the St. Benedict's Medal or perhaps the formula on the left looks familiar to someone familiar with the Benedictine Order.

If it helps, the translation of the formula on the right is below.

CSS is found diagonal on the top, then ML-NDSMD going down from right center. C S S M L - N D S M D, 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 the 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").

Also possibly of note, it's on double cross bar often associate with a Caravaca or Crusaders cross with a Celtic design at center.

Benedict Formula

  • The picture in the round window in the middle looks like a depiction of Rom 12:1. Mar 5, 2018 at 5:12

2 Answers 2


This is the cross of Zacharias of Jerusalem, also known as a "plague cross" with the St. Benedict medal prayer added on.

Here is the full text abbreviated on the image on the left side, which is the traditional text of the plague cross, as well as a translation:

  • O Cross of Christ, save me. Z. May zeal for your house free me. + The Cross conquers; the Cross reigns; the Cross rules; by the sign of the Cross free me, O Lord, from this plague. D. God, my God, drive this plague away from me, and from this place, and free me. I. In your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit, my heart, and my body. A. Before heaven and earth God was; and God is able to liberate me from his plague. + The Cross of Christ will expel the plague from this place and from my body. B. It is good to wait for the help of God in silence, that he may drive away this plague from me. I. I will incline my heart to performing your just deeds, and I will not be confounded, for I have called upon you. Z. I had zeal on occasion of the wicked; seeing the peace of sinners, I have hoped in you. + The Cross of Christ puts demons to flight; corrupt air; and drives away the plague. S. I am your Salvation, says the Lord; cry out to me, and I will hear you, and I will liberate you from this plague. Abyss calls to abyss, and you have expelled demons by your voice; liberate me from this plague. B. Blessed the man who hopes in the Lord, and does not look upon vanities, and false extravagances. + May the Cross of Christ, which was once the cause of scandal and indignity, and is now in glory and nobility, be for my salvation, and expel from this place the demon, and corrupt air, and plague from my body. Z. May zeal for the honor of God convert me before I die, and in your name, save me from this plague. + May sign of the Cross free the People of God, and those who trust in him, from the plague. H. Will this foolish people return to the Lord? Make good on your vows, offering a sacrifice of praise and faith to him, because he is able to liberate this place and me, from this plague; for whoever trusts in him will not be confounded. G. If I will not praise you, let me tongue stick to my throat and to my jaws; free those who hope in you; in you I trust; liberate me and this place, O God, from this plague, for your name has been invoked in prayer. F. At your death, O Lord, darkness fell over the whole earth; my God, render the power of the devil tenuous and dim, for it is for this that you have come, O Son of the living God: so that you might destroy the works of the devil with your power, drive out from this place and from me, your servant, this plague; and may the corrupt air depart from me into the outer darkness. + Defend us, O Cross of Christ, and expel from this place the plague, and free your servant from this plague, you who are kind, and merciful, and of many mercies, and true. B. Blessed is he who does not look upon vanities, and false extravagances; on the day of evil the Lord will free him; Lord, I have trusted in you; free me from this plague. F. God has become my refuge; because I have trusted in you, free me from this plague. R. Look upon me, O Lord my God, Adonai, from the holy seat of your Majesty, and have mercy on me, and because of your mercy, free me from this plague. S. You are my Salvation: heal me, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved.

Need help with Latin Formula for an unusual Saint Benedict Cross?

Actually this is a Plague Sheet, sometimes called a Plague Cross! There are many different styles and various images of saints accompanying this Plague Cross. However the basic lettering always remains the same.

In early October 2020, one bishop of Poland suggested placing “plague crosses”, where it would be possible to pray to the Savior of the world for mercy and salvation' during calls for strict social-distancing and hygeine standards in churches to prevent the spread of COVID-19.


It is found in some editions of the Raccolta

It is sometimes called Zachariah's Cross. A double cross, on one side side Zacharias and his blessing, on the other St. Benedict and the lettering of the cross of St. Benedict. Protection against the plague.

The Black Death gave impetus to hand-production of plague amulets offering divine protection and supernatural healing. In the 15th century, the technological innovations of block printing and typographical printing helped meet growing demand. Inexpensive and expendable, printed amulets were batch-produced on paper for sale and distribution by clergy or itinerant peddlers.

‘Pestblätter’, or plague sheets, spread across German-speaking lands over the next centuries, integrating popular religious imagery with Latin or vernacular text. The emphasis was usually on two plague saints: Sebastian (d. 290 AD), who according to legend interposed his body to defend ancient Rome from a hail of plague arrows; and Roch (1295–1327), portrayed as a pilgrim who had triumphed over disease, and often shown lifting his tunic to reveal a plague sore on one of his thighs.

Text and symbols in the plague amulet reinforced the promise of saintly intercession against the plague. At the top of the Patriarchal cross is the Triumphal Inscription (INRI), and at the bottom is the Sacred Heart pierced by the Three Nails of the Crucifixion, popular in the 17th century as a symbol of Christ’s divine love for the Christian faithful. Between the Triumphal Inscription and Sacred Heart are ‘characteres’ interspersed with Latin crosses and configured in cruciform:

♰ Z ♰ D I A I : I S ♰ B I Z ♰ S A B ♰ Z M R A ♰ H G F ♰ B F R S

Medieval liturgical formulas could be abbreviated by giving only the initial letter of each word. For example, P.S.I.S.S.S. could stand for ‘Pater Sanctus, Iesus Sanctus, Spiritus Sanctus’. This simple scheme had been used in textual amulets since the 13th century, though ‘characteres’ could also include arcane symbols and magical script without verbal equivalents. Unfortunately, without a word-by-word explanation, it can be difficult to make sense of these inscriptions.

Yet at the time this plague amulet was in use, clerics would have recognised the ‘characteres’ as a shorthand for the Saint Zacharias Blessing, despite a typographical error in the top crossbar (♰ D I A I : should have read ♰ D I A ♰). Bernhard Sannig (1638–1704), a Franciscan theologian active in Prague, explained the text as a remedy against the plague in his ‘Rituale ecclesiasticum’ (1698), and Gelasius de Cilia (1654–1721), an Augustinian canon from Regensburg, gave an almost verbatim version in ‘Locupletissimus Thesaurus’ (1709). Both propagated the legend that Saint Zacharias (d. 116 AD), bishop of Jerusalem, had collected this set of prayers against the plague, which were later written down on parchment as ‘characteres’, preserved in a Spanish monastery (Fraytes or Frailes), and recommended in 1546 at the Council of Trent for their efficacy.

Gelasius de Cilia noted that the text was inscribed on religious medallions and metal crosses. Physical evidence for such objects survives in plague crosses produced c. 1650–1760 in bronze or other metals, inscribed with the Saint Zacharias Blessing. Some of these, such as the cross shown below, have the Saint Benedict Blessing in ‘characteres’ on the verso.

The Latin crosses in the Saint Zacharias Blessing did not serve as punctuation, nor as prompts to supplicants to cross themselves, as one encounters in many textual amulets. Instead, they stood for specific invocations of divine protection from the plague, each beginning with the word ‘crux’ (cross). The Christian numerology of seven crosses also enhanced efficacy. Each majuscule letter stood for a bit of amuletic text or scripture, mostly asking God to drive away the plague and protect the supplicant and other Christian faithful from it. For example, ‘D’ stood for ‘Deus, Deus meus expelle pestem a me, et a loco isto, et libera me’ (God, my God drive the plague from me, and from this place, and liberate me).

Most amulet users would not have hesitated to use plague amulets and crosses even if they did not know what each majuscule letter signified. If anything, the mystery of ‘characteres’ served to enhance amulets’ perceived magical efficacy. Christians used plague amulets in the expectation of receiving divine protection from a dreaded disease, whose bacterial origins and medical treatment would not be known for centuries.

Deciphering a central European plague amulet

Plague Sheets

Plague Sheets often portrayed many saints on them as well as Our Lady of Pity or the Madonna and Child.

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