The Cross of Coronado was a jewel-encrusted golden crucifix with a chain; named for Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado. It was believed to contain a piece of the cross upon which Jesus Christ was crucified.
Although the cross would later become associated with the Spanish conquistadors, there was evidence to suggest that the artifact was originally a smaller brass or gold alloy crucifix from the 7th or 8th century thought to contain a relic of the True Cross in its center. It was connected to Emperor Justinian II and held an inscription that was nearly identical to that of the Crux Vaticana which predated it.
Around the 16th century, the original cross was affixed to the back of a larger, more ornate, solid gold and pearl front piece attached to a golden chain.
In 1520, the Spanish conquistador, Hernando Cortés gave the cross to Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and sent him in search of the Seven Cities of Gold but Coronado lost it during his ultimately futile quest for treasure.
At some point the cross was boxed and hidden away in a burial site within a cave complex in what would become the US state of Utah and fell into legend as the "Cross of Coronado". Word that the conquistadores had explored the caves and buried a treasure there later caught the attention of 19th century miners who opened up new passages in their pursuit of gold.
Years later, Panama Hat hired a gang of men led by Fedora to dig in the caves. In 1912, two Scouts, a young Indiana Jones and his friend Herman, stumbled upon the gang's looting and observed their discovery of the Cross in the caves. Recognizing the artifact, and holding a firm belief that it belonged in a museum, Jones sent Herman to get help while he attempted to seize the Cross out from under Fedora's men. However, Jones was caught in the act and chased back to his home. Although Herman brought the Sheriff, the lawman saw to it that the Cross was returned to Panama Hat.
When Panama Hat suffered financially during The Depression, he sought out wealthy buyers for the Cross of Coronado. He was approached by a man (later suspected of being American industrialist and Nazi sympathizer Walter Donovan) whose offer came with the proviso that Indiana Jones be dead.
In 1938, Jones – now a famous archaeologist who had made a number of failed attempts to retake the Cross of Coronado – infiltrated Panama's ship, the Vasquez de Coronado, off the Portuguese coast following a tipoff from a disgruntled employee. He retrieved the Cross from a safe but realized that he was being set up just prior to being captured.
After recovering the Cross, Panama ordered Jones be thrown overboard. However, Jones broke free of his captors, seized the Cross and the action combined with rough seas caused an explosion that destroyed the Coronado. Jones survived and returned with the Cross of Coronado to his job at Barnett College in New York. He presented the Cross to Marcus Brody, who felt that it should be given a place of honor in the Spanish collection at his museum.
Behind the scenes
The Cross of Coronado is a fictional artifact invented for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. During the development of the film's script, written by Jeffrey Boam, the Cross of Coronado was originally the Cross of Cortés, given from Montezuma to Cortés.
In 1520, the real Cortés was in Mexico leading the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs while Francisco Vásquez de Coronado would have been a child of 10 or 11 back in Spain at the time, a situation which would have made it difficult for Coronado to receive the cross from Cortés, especially in person.
The Lost Journal of Indiana Jones, written from the perspective of Indiana Jones, notes the similarity of the Cross of Coronado's inscription to that of the Crux Vaticana but inaccurately states that the Crux Vaticana was a gift of Justinian II (669 – 711) rather than Justin II (520 – 578), the emperor named in the inscription itself. Nevertheless, the book acknowledges that the Crux Vaticana is of the sixth century while the back of the Cross of Coronado is from the seventh or eighth century. This article attempts to write around the discrepancy.
During the early development of the fourth film, Frank Darabont's script Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods featured the Cross of Coronado, seen by a drunken Indiana Jones at the National Museum before he tries to steal back the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol.
There were plans by Icons in the mid-1990s to create a Cross of Coronado prop replica for a proposed Indiana Jones licensed product-line called The Treasures of Indiana Jones, so some concept art was made. However, Icons's plans ultimately didn't go ahead.
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