In the 1980s, the American singer Madonna made a fashion statement by wearing a large cross around her neck while performing, attracting controversial media attention. Crosses worn by rock musicians, sports stars, and Hollywood celebrities have become commonplace. Sometimes they’re worn as a religious statement, sometimes as a fashion statement. It’s a surprising symbol — rather like wearing a miniature guillotine or electric chair around your neck. So how did it become such an ever-present icon? In the Roman world, crucifixion was a common form of capital punishment. It was a grotesque, torturous, humiliating way to die. Yet for many, the cross became an object of reverence. In the New Testament, Jesus is put to death on a cross. For Christians, the cross represented the sacrifice of Jesus to save humankind. It became a powerfully paradoxical symbol not of shameful death but of victory over death, not of fear and despair but of love and hope. Since the 6th century it has been the most recognized symbol of Christianity. Crosses are found not only on graves and atop churches, but also on jewelry, clothing, and tattoos.