The Archbishop of Canterbury has slammed the use of the crucifix in contemporary fashion.

Rev Justin Welby accused designers of trivialising the symbol without understanding it true meaning.

He claimed that as a result of the trend, wearing the cross was of a fashion statement that bore no religious significance.

"For those early Christians, it was a badge of shame," the Christian leader said. "Today it is more commonly seen as a symbol of beauty to hang around your neck. As a friend of mine used to say, you might as well hang a tiny golden gallows or an electric chair around your neck."

The archbishop expressed his concerns in his book, Looking Through The Cross, which will be published in February just before Lent.

An extract reads: "Are we now living with a symbol emptied of power by time and fashion?

"Christianity with a powerless cross is Christianity without a throne for Christ or an aspiration for Christians. A cross that has no weight is not worth carrying.

"For God to be fully human, and then to die an ignominious death reserved for a criminal, seems so extraordinary and pointless as to be inexplicable.

"Indeed in the early centuries of Christianity many of the accusations against the Church started with the assumption that you could not seriously believe in a God who undertook such a terrible and dishonourable death."

His scathing comments came after a Christian airline check-in clerk won a landmark case to wear her cross at work.

The European Court of Human Rights issued a landmark ruled that Nadia Eweida should be free to display her faith in the workplace.