The "penal Cross" gets it's name from the "Penal Codes" instituted in Ireland in 1695 to supress the Roman Catholic population. The penalties included confiscation of property, execution, no civil rights, death for priests who refused to abandon their calling. These penalties lasted 150 years. The penal cross is a symbol of the faithfulness of the Irish Catholics, as the design with shortened arms was to make the crucifix easier to conceal(up a sleeve etc.).The penal cross was often attached to a ring used as a one decade rosary. The ring was passed from finger to finger to count the Hail Mary's of one decade. The 'prisoners' were the majority of the people in Ireland who suffered for their faith and demonstrated a constancy and creativity in sustaining their faith.This reproduction is a tribute to their sufferings.
The crucifix has various symbols of the Passion: a hammer for the nails of the cross, a halo around the head for the Crown of Thorns a jug symbolizing the Last Supper, cords for binding which recall the scourging at the Pillar, the spear used at Calvary, a rooster which illustrates Peter's Denial of Our Lord which He prophesied would have occurred before the cock crowed, a sponge at the foot of the cross which was soaked with vinegar and offered as he thirsted, three nails used for nailing himto the cross. Small marks along the side of the corpus indicate a ladder, both used in the crucifixion, the removal of Our Lord's body from the cross and the rosary, the ladder of prayer by which we ascend to heaven. On the back is a tri-branch, showing the three Divine Persons in One God