In the acts of Polish religiosity and culture the symbol of the cross, as the most important sign of Christianity, has a special place. Belles-lettres, especially poetry, shows that thecross has always played an important role in liturgy, culture, art, literature, and tradition. Its meaning was also frequently interpreted in the context of actual historical, social, and political situations. Defining the scope of concepts relating to the symbolism of the cross in literary works is not simple. Firstly, it is connected to the salutary Passion and death of Christ, a theme which was particularly prominent in medieval literature. In the later Baroque period, religious elements were connected to patriotic ideas. The cross then expressed an attitude of fortitude and is tied to the conviction that the Polish nation was chosen by God, an idea that was later widely spread in the idea of romantic Messianism. Selected works by Adam Mickiewicz, Juliusz Słowacki, Zygmunt Krasiński, and Cyprian Kamil Norwid distinctly show that, in the nineteenth century, the symbol of the cross was related to the national awareness and patriotic attitudes of Poles. A sign, which for many centuries had a mainly sacral meaning, then became a symbol, or emblem, of the endurance of the nation; it marked traces of soldierly exile and permanently inscribed itself in the Polish landscape. The first and second world wars also represented periods in which the presence of the cross in literature played a very important role. Here we can find an interpretation of the cross that is close to romantic Messianism, in which it appears as a symbol of hope and life, a way of peace, love, and forgiveness, and as an example leading to the creation of a new and better world. The theme of the cross continues in contemporary creativity – it is a symbol of suffering and love, inscribed in the history of the Polish nation, and in its culture and art. Today, it also appears in new, tangible situations, and at numerous times during very difficult everyday circumstances. Nowadays it is harder for a person to agree with the idea that there is a nobility to suffering for a cause when viewed through the prism of the cross, even though the acts of Poland, as preserved in literature and fine art, show that the more painful Polish historical experiences were, the more social sensitivity related them to the cross.
Although many things change in the world, the cross, as a universal value, endures and the richness of its meanings – despite a frequent lack of understanding, rejection, or the recreation of it in personal terms – is still being evoked in all aspects of human life.