Embark on a captivating journey through faith and symbolism as we navigate the vast array of Christian cross types. The cross, a powerful icon at the heart of Christianity, comes in a multitude of styles and interpretations, each abundant with historical and spiritual significance.
Ranging from the globally recognized Latin Cross to the unique designs of St. Andrew’s and Celtic Crosses, each cross type tells a singular story and holds a distinctive role in the Christian tradition. Alongside crosses, the Catholic faith is adorned with many other symbols, each brimming with theological significance. Discover more about these emblems in our comprehensive guide to Catholic Symbols.
This guide shines a light on these different types of crosses and their meanings, providing a more profound comprehension of the deep spirituality they signify. Whether you are a researcher, a devout Christian, or simply a person with a thirst for knowledge, accompany us on this intriguing exploration as we unravel the narratives behind these holy symbols, casting light on their historical origins and ongoing impact on Christian culture.
How many types of crosses are there?
Pinpointing the exact number of cross types can be somewhat challenging due to the countless variations and adaptations throughout diverse cultures and Christian sects. However, there are around 60 broadly acknowledged types of crosses, each boasting its unique design, history, and spiritual symbolism. In this article, we’re going to explore some of the most notable and meaningful among these, expanding our comprehension of these inspiring faith insignias.
Fun Fact: Did you know? The cross symbol predates Christianity. It was used by several ancient civilizations, each attributing their unique meaning and significance to it!
1. Latin Cross
The Latin Cross, also known as the Crux Ordinaria, is arguably the most recognizable symbol in Christianity. Its vertical beam extends downward, longer than its horizontal one, mimicking the proportions of the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. This emblem powerfully encapsulates the central theme of Christianity: the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the sins of humanity.
- History: The Latin Cross is believed to have become a Christian symbol during the 4th century AD, after Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. He claimed to have seen a cross of light in the sky before a significant battle, which led him to adopt it as his military standard.
- Popularity: This cross is the most common representation of the Christian faith, gracing countless churches, cathedrals, and religious artworks worldwide.
- Shape: The Latin Cross typically features a long vertical beam intersected at a higher point by a shorter horizontal one.
2. Greek Cross
The Greek Cross, featuring four arms of equal length, is a potent symbol in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. This type of cross represents the spreading of Christianity to the four corners of the world.
- History: The Greek Cross is ancient, dating back to early Byzantine cultures and the Eastern Orthodox Church, and is often associated with the Church’s missionaries.
- Popularity: The Greek Cross holds considerable popularity among Eastern Orthodox Christians and is a staple in Orthodox Church iconography and architecture.
- Shape: The Greek Cross has four arms of equal length, forming a perfect square if the ends are connected.
3. Celtic Cross
The Celtic Cross, characterized by its unique ring connecting the arms, merges Christian faith with ancient Celtic symbolism. The circular ring is believed to represent the sun or the concept of eternity.
- History: The Celtic Cross originated in Ireland and Britain in the early Middle Ages. Some believe that Saint Patrick introduced the Celtic Cross when he was converting the pagan Irish to Christianity.
- Popularity: The Celtic Cross remains a popular symbol today, especially in countries with Celtic roots such as Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. It’s often used in jewelry, tombstones, and artwork.
- Shape: The Celtic Cross typically features a cross with a circular ring that intersects the cross at each arm’s midpoint.
4. St. Andrew’s Cross
The St. Andrew’s Cross, also known as a saltire, is an X-shaped cross associated with Saint Andrew, who, according to tradition, was crucified on an X-shaped cross. The Scottish flag bears a white St. Andrew’s Cross on a blue background.
- History: The use of the St. Andrew’s Cross as a Christian symbol dates back to at least the Middle Ages. It’s named after Saint Andrew, a disciple of Jesus, who was said to be martyred on a cross of this shape.
- Popularity: The St. Andrew’s Cross is especially popular in Scotland, where it adorns the national flag. It’s also used in heraldry and appears on many other national flags, including Jamaica and the Confederate flag of the United States.
- Shape: The St. Andrew’s Cross consists of two diagonal lines of equal length crossing in the middle to form an X shape.
5. Maltese Cross
The Maltese Cross, known for its four V-shaped arms of equal length, has a rich history tied to the Knights of Malta, also known as the Knights Hospitaller, a Christian military order from the Middle Ages.
- History: The Maltese Cross dates back to the 16th century when it became associated with the Knights of Malta, who provided medical assistance during the Crusades.
- Popularity: Today, the Maltese Cross is a global symbol of charity and humanitarian aid, often associated with fire and rescue services and the St. John Ambulance organization.
- Shape: The Maltese Cross is made up of four arrowhead-like shapes meeting at a central point, with the narrow end of each arrow pointing outward.
6. Cross of St. Peter (Upside Down Cross)
The Cross of St. Peter or the Upside Down Cross is an inverted Latin Cross. According to Christian tradition, St. Peter requested to be crucified upside down as he didn’t deem himself worthy to die in the same manner as Jesus Christ.
- History: The origins of this cross are linked to the martyrdom of St. Peter, one of Jesus’s apostles, who was crucified in Rome under Emperor Nero.
- Popularity: While it is a less commonly recognized symbol in mainstream Christianity, the Cross of St. Peter is respected among many Christians as a profound symbol of humility and unworthiness before Christ. However, it has also been misinterpreted and used in anti-Christian contexts due to its inverted form.
- Shape: The Cross of St. Peter is essentially a Latin Cross flipped vertically, resulting in an inverted shape.
7. Tau Cross (St. Anthony’s Cross)
The Tau Cross, resembling the Greek letter Tau (T), is a form of the Christian cross symbol. St. Anthony of Egypt, a leading figure in early monasticism, is often depicted with a Tau Cross.
- History: The Tau Cross predates Christianity and was adopted by Christians by at least the 3rd century AD. It was a symbol of divine protection and was often used in amulets and talismans.
- Popularity: The Tau Cross is less commonly seen today but holds significance in Franciscan orders due to St. Francis’s fondness for the symbol.
- Shape: As the name suggests, the Tau Cross takes the shape of a “T,” with the vertical line intersected near the top by a shorter horizontal line.
8. Patriarchal Cross (Archbishop’s Cross)
The Patriarchal Cross, also known as the Archbishop’s Cross or double cross, is a variant of the Christian cross, having two horizontal bars in addition to the vertical one.
- History: The double-barred cross dates back to the 9th century in Byzantine art and later became associated with archbishops and patriarchs in the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
- Popularity: The Patriarchal Cross is particularly recognized in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, especially among Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics.
- Shape: The Patriarchal Cross is a Latin Cross with an additional smaller horizontal line above the first.
9. Papal Cross
The Papal Cross, identified by its three horizontal bars decreasing in length from top to bottom, is a unique symbol in Christianity. As the official insignia of the papacy, it is used by the Pope during liturgical events.
- History: While the exact origins of the Papal Cross remain uncertain, it has been associated with the Pope and the Vatican since at least the 13th century, signifying the Pope’s ecclesiastical authority and role as Bishop of Rome.
- Popularity: The Papal Cross is predominantly visible in the context of the Catholic Church, especially during papal ceremonies and in Vatican iconography.
- Shape: The Papal Cross features a lengthy vertical beam intersected by three horizontal beams, with each beam shorter than the one above it.
10. Cross of Lorraine
The Cross of Lorraine, also known as the Patriarchal Cross, is a double-barred cross in which the top bar is shorter than the lower one. This cross carries significant historical and cultural meaning.
- History: Its origins trace back to the Eastern Christian traditions, and it later became the symbol of the Dukes of Lorraine in France. During World War II, it was used as the symbol of Free France and the French Resistance.
- Popularity: The Cross of Lorraine is often seen in heraldic emblems and is a popular symbol in France due to its historical connections.
- Shape: The Cross of Lorraine features a vertical line intersected by two horizontal bars, the lower one being longer than the upper.
11. Jerusalem Cross
The Jerusalem Cross, also known as the Crusader’s Cross, consists of a large Greek cross surrounded by four smaller versions. It’s an iconic symbol of the Holy Land.
- History: The Jerusalem Cross was adopted by the Kingdom of Jerusalem after the First Crusade in the 11th century. It symbolized the five wounds of Christ or the news of Christ spreading to the four corners of the world.
- Popularity: Today, the Jerusalem Cross is often worn by Christians as a symbol of their faith and connection to the Holy Land.
- Shape: The Jerusalem Cross features a large central cross with four smaller crosses, one in each quadrant.
12. Canterbury Cross
The Canterbury Cross, originating from the Anglican Communion’s mother church, features four arms of equal length, each widening outward with a triangular end.
- History: The design of the Canterbury Cross is based on a Saxon brooch found in Canterbury, England, dating back to the 8th or 9th century.
- Popularity: The Canterbury Cross is a key symbol in the Anglican Communion and frequently appears in the ecclesiastical context of the Church of England.
- Shape: The Canterbury Cross is square-shaped, with each arm flaring out to a triangular point.
13. Coptic Cross
The Coptic Cross, commonly associated with the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt, is a richly symbolic and intricate design featuring a circle from which emanate four arms of equal length, decorated with additional smaller crosses and symbols.
- History: The Coptic Cross symbolizes the eternal and ever-lasting love of God as revealed through Christ’s crucifixion. The exact age of the symbol is unknown, but it has been a central icon of Coptic Christianity since the church’s early years.
- Popularity: The Coptic Cross is a key symbol in the Coptic Orthodox Church and is popular among Egyptian Christians.
- Shape: The design of the Coptic Cross varies, but typically features a circular ‘nimbus’ intersected by four arms, each arm is decorated with three points symbolizing the Holy Trinity.
14. Cross Fleury
The Cross Fleury, or flory, is a stylized cross adorned with lily-like flourishes at each of its ends, symbolizing purity and innocence.
- History: This cross carries significant heraldic symbolism, often found in coats of arms and family crests across Europe.
- Popularity: Today, the Cross Fleury is most commonly recognized in the context of heraldry and is also often seen in Christian artwork.
- Shape: The Cross Fleury features a standard cross shape but with each arm ending in a fleur-de-lis or lily-like flourish.
15. Russian Orthodox Cross
The Russian Orthodox Cross, sometimes referred to as the Suppedaneum Cross, is a distinctive Christian cross marked by its additional, slanted crossbar located towards the bottom.
- History: Rooted in Byzantine traditions, the Russian Orthodox Cross was adopted by the Russian Orthodox Church and has come to represent the Orthodox Christian faith, particularly in Russia and surrounding countries.
- Popularity: Today, the Russian Orthodox Cross is a significant emblem within the Orthodox Christian community and is prominently displayed in Russian Orthodox churches and religious artifacts.
- Shape: The Russian Orthodox Cross features three crossbars: the top bar represents the sign “INRI” (“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”), the larger middle bar is where the hands of Christ were nailed, and the lower one, slanted footrest, is where his feet were nailed, slanting upward toward the side of the penitent thief and downward toward the side of the impenitent thief.
16. Ankh (Coptic Egyptian Cross)
The Ankh, also known as the Coptic Egyptian Cross or key of life, is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol that was later adopted by Coptic Christians. The loop at the top is said to represent eternal life or the rising sun.
- History: The Ankh predates Christianity, tracing its roots back to ancient Egypt where it symbolized life or eternity. It was later adopted by the early Coptic Christian Church in Egypt as a symbol of Christ’s promise of everlasting life.
- Popularity: Today, the Ankh is a commonly recognized symbol of ancient Egypt, and it is also prevalent in Coptic Christian communities, often found in church iconography and jewelry.
- Shape: The Ankh is characterized by a T-shaped cross with a loop or circle replacing the top bar.
17. Chi Rho Cross
The Chi Rho Cross, one of the earliest forms of christogram, is made up of the first two Greek letters of the word “Christ” – Chi (Χ) and Rho (Ρ).
- History: The Chi Rho Cross became a significant Christian symbol after Emperor Constantine I, in a dream, was said to have seen these letters with the inscription “In this sign, you shall conquer,” leading to his victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD.
- Popularity: While not as commonly seen in modern times, the Chi Rho holds historical significance and is sometimes used in liturgical arts and Catholic heraldry.
- Shape: The Chi Rho Cross features the superimposed Greek letters Chi (Χ) and Rho (Ρ), often surrounded by a circle.
18. Cross of Saint James (Saint James’s Cross)
The Cross of Saint James, or Saint James’s Cross, is associated with Saint James the Greater, one of the Twelve Apostles. It is often represented as a cross flory (a cross with each arm ending in a fleur-de-lis) and is a central element of the Order of Santiago, a Spanish order of knights.
- History: The Cross of Saint James has medieval origins, coming to prominence with the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, where the apostle’s relics are said to be housed.
- Popularity: Today, the Cross of Saint James is particularly significant to pilgrims walking the Camino de Santiago and is a symbol of Galicia and Spanish chivalric orders.
- Shape: The Cross of Saint James typically features a flory cross, where each of the four arms ends in a fleur-de-lis.
19. Cross Patee
The Cross Patee is characterized by arms that narrow towards the center and flare out towards the ends. It is often associated with the Knights Templar and the Teutonic Knights, among other Christian military orders.
- History: The Cross Patee has been a symbol of numerous Christian chivalric orders throughout history, particularly during the medieval era.
- Popularity: The Cross Patee remains a symbol of chivalry and can be found in the iconography of various military orders and societies.
- Shape: The Cross Patee has arms that are narrow at the center and broaden at the perimeter, often with slightly concave edges.
20. Cross Moline
The Cross Moline is recognized by its unique shape that mirrors a millrind, a piece used in the operation of traditional millstones. This symbol has found its place in both heraldic and church ornamentation.
- History: Originating in medieval Europe, the Cross Moline was widely used among European nobles and religious orders. Its design and usage are closely connected to the heraldic tradition of the Middle Ages.
- Popularity: In contemporary times, the Cross Moline continues to be a prevalent symbol in family emblems and coats of arms, particularly amongst lineages with Norman roots.
- Shape: The Cross Moline is characterized by split ends on each of its arms, giving it the appearance of a millrind, hence the name.
21. Fylfot Cross (Swastika)
The Fylfot Cross, more commonly known as the Swastika, is an ancient symbol that predates Christianity and has been found in numerous cultures worldwide. In Christianity, it was occasionally used as a decorative motif.
- History: The Swastika or Fylfot has been used for thousands of years across many cultures and was adopted in early Christian and Byzantine art as a symbol of good fortune.
- Popularity: Due to its appropriation by the Nazi Party in the 20th century, the symbol has become highly stigmatized in the Western world. However, it continues to hold positive cultural and religious significance in various Asian cultures.
- Shape: The Fylfot or Swastika is made up of an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles, typically in a clockwise direction.
22. Mariner’s Cross (Anchor Cross)
The Mariner’s Cross, also known as the Anchor Cross, resembles a ship’s anchor and symbolizes hope and steadfastness.
- History: The Mariner’s Cross traces its roots back to early Christianity. It was often used as a symbol by mariners and seafaring people, embodying the concept of a safe return home or hope in a turbulent sea.
- Popularity: Today, the Mariner’s Cross is frequently seen in nautical-themed tattoos and jewelry, and it remains a symbol of hope and steadfast faith in the Christian tradition.
- Shape: The Mariner’s Cross combines the traditional Christian cross with the shape of an anchor, resulting in a T-shaped or lower-case ‘t’ shaped design with a curved or ringed top.
23. Tau-Rho Cross (Staurogram)
The Tau-Rho Cross, or Staurogram, is a combination of the Greek letters Tau (Τ) and Rho (Ρ). It is one of the oldest christograms and was used frequently in early Christian manuscripts.
- History: The Staurogram dates back to the 2nd century, where it appeared in early Christian papyrus texts. It’s thought to symbolize the crucifixion, with the Rho symbolizing Christ on the cross.
- Popularity: The Tau-Rho Cross, while less recognized today, is still seen in academic and ecclesiastical contexts, particularly within studies of early Christian history and iconography.
- Shape: The Tau-Rho Cross incorporates the Greek letters Tau (Τ) and Rho (Ρ), with the loop of the Rho placed over the Tau’s vertical bar, symbolizing the crucifixion of Christ.
24. Tetramorph Cross
The Tetramorph Cross is a unique cross design that incorporates four different creatures, each symbolizing a different aspect of Christ as seen through the four Gospels of the New Testament.
- History: The use of the Tetramorph in Christian symbolism traces back to the early Christian Church and has roots in earlier Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cultures.
- Popularity: Today, the Tetramorph Cross can be seen in Christian art, particularly in representations of the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and in religious architecture.
- Shape: The Tetramorph Cross typically features a cross with the symbols of the four evangelists at each corner – a winged man or angel (Matthew), a winged lion (Mark), a winged ox (Luke), and an eagle (John).
25. Botonee Cross
The Botonee Cross, also known as the Budded Cross, is characterized by trefoils or buds on the end of each arm, symbolizing the Holy Trinity.
- History: The Botonee Cross is believed to originate from Gothic architecture and is used extensively in Christian art and ecclesiastical ornamentation.
- Popularity: This cross is often used in church decorations and Christian iconography and is popular in various Christian denominations.
- Shape: The Botonee Cross features a traditional cross but with each arm terminating in a trefoil or three-leafed design, each leaf representing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
25. Gamma Cross
The Gamma Cross is identified by its unique shape that resembles the Greek letter ‘gamma’. It typically has a long vertical shaft with a shorter horizontal arm intersecting it near the top.
- History: The origins of the Gamma Cross are complex and not completely understood. However, it’s often associated with ancient cultures and religions, where the gamma symbol had various symbolic meanings, such as strength or the pathway between life and death.
- Popularity: Today, the Gamma Cross is not as widely recognized as some other cross forms. However, it holds significance in specific cultural or academic contexts, often representing various scientific or mathematical principles due to its association with the Greek letter.
- Shape: The Gamma Cross, as the name implies, takes the shape of a gamma symbol. This is characterized by a long vertical shaft with a shorter horizontal arm crossing near the top.
26. Consecration Cross
The Consecration Cross, often seen in Christian churches, is used to mark the spots where the bishop anointed the church with chrism during its consecration.
- History: These crosses have been a part of Christian liturgical tradition since the early Middle Ages, marking the sanctification of a church.
- Popularity: Consecration Crosses are common in churches worldwide and serve as a testament to the sacred nature of the building.
- Shape: The Consecration Cross typically takes the form of a simple Latin cross, often encircled, inscribed on the interior walls of a church.
27. Canterbury Cross
The Canterbury Cross is a distinctive Anglo-Saxon design that originates from Canterbury, England. The cross’s design is based on a Saxon brooch found in 1867.
- History: Dating back to the 9th century, the Canterbury Cross is one of the most recognized symbols of the Anglican Church and Canterbury Cathedral.
- Popularity: This cross is a significant symbol for Anglicans worldwide and often appears in jewelry and religious ornaments associated with the Anglican Communion.
- Shape: The Canterbury Cross is a square cross with arms that narrow towards the center and end in triangular enlargements. Each arm bears a triangular panel inscribed with a design of three downward-pointing triangles.
28. Cross of Saint Peter (Upside Down Cross)
The Cross of Saint Peter, also known as the Upside Down Cross or Petrine Cross, is a Christian symbol based on Saint Peter’s crucifixion, who, according to tradition, was crucified upside down out of respect for Jesus.
- History: The symbol dates back to the early Christian Church and is based on the martyrdom of Saint Peter, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus.
- Popularity: The Cross of Saint Peter is used in various Christian denominations as a symbol of humility and unworthiness in comparison to Christ. However, it has also been misappropriated by popular culture as a symbol of anti-Christian sentiment.
- Shape: The Cross of Saint Peter is an inverted Latin cross, symbolizing Saint Peter’s upside-down crucifixion.
29. Lorraine Cross
The Lorraine Cross, also known as the Cross of Lorraine, is a heraldic two-barred cross, which became popular after its adoption by the Free French Forces during World War II.
- History: The Lorraine Cross has been associated with the Dukes of Lorraine in France and the Kingdom of Hungary in the Middle Ages. It gained global recognition when General Charles de Gaulle used it as the symbol of Free France during World War II.
- Popularity: Today, the Cross of Lorraine is recognized worldwide due to its association with France’s resistance movement during WWII. It is also used in various organizations and medical associations.
- Shape: The Lorraine Cross consists of a vertical bar crossed by two horizontal bars of unequal length, the lower one being longer than the upper.
30. Golgotha Cross
The Golgotha Cross, also referred to as the Crucifixion Cross, is most often represented as a simple upright post with a transverse bar at its top, reflecting the cross upon which Jesus Christ was crucified according to Christian tradition.
- History: The Golgotha Cross, named after the location where Jesus Christ was said to be crucified, is deeply rooted in Christian tradition. It serves as a symbol of sacrifice and salvation, embodying the central narrative of Christianity.
- Popularity: The Golgotha Cross is one of the most recognized symbols in Christianity and is prevalent in churches, religious art, and iconography worldwide. It represents the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, a fundamental belief in Christian theology.
- Shape: The shape of the Golgotha Cross is generally depicted as a ‘T’ or ‘t’, with a longer vertical post and a shorter horizontal bar towards the top. The representation can vary, but this form is the most commonly associated with the Crucifixion Cross.
31. Byzantine Cross
The Byzantine Cross, also known as the Eastern Orthodox Cross or the Orthodox Cross, is recognized by its unique double crossbar design, with the upper bar representing the sign INRI (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum, or ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’) and the lower, slanted bar representing the footrest of Christ.
- History: The Byzantine Cross originated in the Byzantine Empire, an Eastern continuation of the Roman Empire, which was the birthplace of the Eastern Orthodox Church. It serves as a symbol of the Eastern Orthodox faith, embodying deep spiritual and theological meanings tied to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Popularity: Today, the Byzantine Cross is most commonly associated with the Eastern Orthodox Church and is prominently displayed in its religious artwork, architecture, and liturgical objects. It represents the Orthodox Christian belief in the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
- Shape: The Byzantine Cross typically features three bars: the top one is a smaller horizontal bar representing the sign INRI, the middle is the main horizontal bar where Christ’s hands were nailed, and the bottom is a slanted bar representing the footrest. This distinct design differentiates it from other forms of Christian crosses.
32. Cross Crosslet
The Cross Crosslet, also known as the Cross Crosslet Fitchée, is recognized by its design which consists of a central vertical and horizontal bar, with each end of these bars also bearing a smaller crossbar, giving the appearance of four small crosses joined at the center.
- History: The Cross Crosslet is an ancient Christian symbol, often used in heraldry. It represents the spread of Christianity to the four corners of the world (north, south, east, and west) and the fourfold mystery of the cross.
- Popularity: Today, the Cross Crosslet is commonly seen in family crests, coats of arms, and in the iconography of various Christian denominations. It symbolizes the Christian’s duty to spread their faith across the world.
- Shape: The Cross Crosslet features a central cross with smaller crossbars at the end of each arm, effectively creating four small crosses. When ‘fitchée’, the lower vertical arm is pointed, enabling the cross to be planted in the ground, further symbolizing the spread of the Christian faith.
33. Burgundy Cross
The Burgundy Cross, also known as the Cross of Saint Andrew or the Saltire of Burgundy, is recognized by its diagonal cross or “X” shape, reminiscent of the St. Andrew’s Cross.
- History: The Burgundy Cross traces back to the Duchy of Burgundy, a historic region in modern-day eastern France. It was adopted as the naval ensign of the Duchy and later became a symbol of the Habsburgs, the ruling house of the Spanish Empire. It represents the crucifixion of Saint Andrew, who, according to Christian tradition, was crucified on an X-shaped cross.
- Popularity: Today, the Burgundy Cross is particularly associated with regions that were under the influence of the Spanish Empire, including parts of Italy, the Low Countries, and Latin America. It is often used in flags, emblems, and heraldic iconography.
- Shape: The Burgundy Cross is characterized by its “X” shape, comprising two diagonal lines crossing in the center. It’s an iconic symbol of Saint Andrew’s crucifixion and the historic Duchy of Burgundy.
34. Lithuanian Cross
The Lithuanian Cross, also referred to as the Cross of Vytis or the Iron Wolf Cross, is a distinct cross type that is typically combined with a knight on horseback (Vytis) or an iron wolf, both of which are national symbols of Lithuania.
- History: The Lithuanian Cross has its roots in the national history of Lithuania. The symbols combined with the cross – the Vytis and the Iron Wolf – represent various elements of the Lithuanian historical narrative, with the Iron Wolf originating from the legend of the founding of Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital.
- Popularity: Today, the Lithuanian Cross holds a significant place in Lithuanian cultural and national symbolism. It can often be seen in a variety of contexts, including in national celebrations, on coins, and as part of military insignias.
- Shape: The exact shape of the Lithuanian Cross can vary, but it typically includes a Latin cross as the base, with additional national symbols such as the Vytis or the Iron Wolf. These elements add depth to the cross, making it not just a religious symbol, but also a symbol of national pride and history.
35. Scandinavian Cross
The Scandinavian Cross, also known as the Nordic Cross, is recognized by its off-center design, where the horizontal bar is shifted towards the hoist (or the left when observed from the front).
- History: The Scandinavian Cross is deeply rooted in the history of the Nordic countries – Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland. It first appeared in the Danish flag (Dannebrog), which is considered one of the oldest national flags in the world, dating back to the 14th century. The cross symbolizes Christianity, which has played a significant role in the history and culture of these countries.
- Popularity: Today, the Scandinavian Cross is prominently featured in the national flags of all Nordic countries, making it a widely recognized and esteemed symbol throughout the region and beyond. It is a national emblem representing not only the Christian faith but also the shared history and cultural heritage of the Nordic countries.
- Shape: The Scandinavian Cross is characterized by its off-center design. Unlike the typical ‘plus’ shape of most crosses, the vertical bar of this cross extends the full length of the field, while the horizontal bar is shifted closer to the hoist. The cross is typically presented in contrasting colors to the background for prominence.
36. Sun Cross
The Sun Cross, also known as the Solar Cross or Wheel Cross, is recognized by its equal-arm cross inside a circle. This cross symbol has been associated with various cultures and often symbolizes the solar calendar or the cycle of the seasons.
- History: The Sun Cross is one of the oldest and most universal religious symbols. Its origins can be traced back to prehistoric cultures and it has been associated with a variety of ancient civilizations, from Europe to Asia, symbolizing celestial phenomena and the cycle of life.
- Popularity: Today, the Sun Cross is often used in the context of archaeology, anthropology, and mythology to represent ancient religions. It can also be found in modern neopagan religions, such as Wicca and Heathenry, where it often represents the Wheel of the Year and the cycle of the seasons.
- Shape: The Sun Cross is characterized by its simple geometric design: an equal-arm cross enclosed within a circle. This represents the rotation of the sun, the four seasons, or the cardinal directions – north, south, east, and west.
37. Templar Cross
The Templar Cross, also known as the Cross of the Knights Templar, is recognized by its distinct red cross on a white background. It often takes the form of a simple, equilateral cross, though variants can include more complex shapes.
- History: The Templar Cross is associated with the Knights Templar, a medieval Christian military order founded in the 12th century. The knights used this symbol on their uniforms and flags during the Crusades, marking it as a symbol of their faith and commitment to the protection of Christian pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land.
- Popularity: Today, the Templar Cross remains a powerful symbol of the Knights Templar, carrying historical, religious, and even mythological connotations. It is often used in the context of historical literature, movies, and video games, as well as by various modern organizations claiming Templar heritage.
- Shape: The Templar Cross generally appears as a red equilateral or slightly elongated cross on a white background. Its simplicity and bold coloring make it a visually striking symbol.
38. Basque Cross
The Basque Cross, also known as Lauburu or the Four Heads, is a symbol with four comma-shaped heads. Although it’s called a cross, it doesn’t follow the traditional design of a cross, instead taking on a unique swirling pattern.
- History: The Basque Cross is a traditional symbol of the Basque Country, a region spanning parts of Spain and France. Its exact origins are unknown, but it’s long been a part of Basque iconography, found on tombstones and homes as a talisman against evil spirits.
- Popularity: Today, the Basque Cross is a widely recognized symbol of Basque identity. It is used extensively in Basque cultural expressions, from traditional dances and ceremonies to contemporary visual design and political symbolism.
- Shape: The Basque Cross, or Lauburu, is characterized by its four comma-like or teardrop-shaped heads, arranged in a swirling pattern. The ends of each ‘head’ do not meet in the center, creating a hole in the middle of the cross. It’s a unique symbol, distinct from traditional cross designs.
39. Bottony Cross
The Bottony Cross, also known as the Cross Bottony or Cross Botonée, is recognized by its trefoil design at the end of each arm, which resembles a bud or a button.
- History: The Bottony Cross is often associated with heraldry and ecclesiastical use, particularly in the Middle Ages. The term “bottony” is derived from the French word for button, referring to the bud-like ends of the cross. This cross is often linked to the Trinity due to its trefoil ends.
- Popularity: Today, the Bottony Cross is still used in various contexts, including architecture, religious iconography, and heraldic designs. It can be found on numerous coats of arms, and is often associated with historical and religious symbolism.
- Shape: The Bottony Cross is characterized by its trefoil design at the end of each arm, which gives the impression of a bud or a button. This design makes it distinct from other cross forms and adds a layer of symbolism, often linked to the Christian concept of the Trinity.
40. Constantine Cross
The Constantine Cross, also known as the Chi-Rho Cross, is recognized by its distinct design which includes the superimposition of the Greek letters Chi (Χ) and Rho (Ρ), the first two letters of the Greek word “ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ” which means Christ.
- History: The Constantine Cross is named after the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, who reportedly saw this symbol in a dream before a crucial battle, alongside the message “In this sign, you will conquer.” Following his subsequent victory, Constantine converted to Christianity and made it the official religion of the Roman Empire.
- Popularity: Today, the Constantine Cross is often used in the iconography of various Christian denominations. It stands as a significant symbol of Christianity’s historical emergence as a major world religion.
- Shape: The Constantine Cross is characterized by the overlapping of the Greek letters Chi (Χ) and Rho (Ρ). The design varies, with some versions showing the letters superimposed in a more abstract way, while others present a more literal rendering of the two letters.
41. Serbian Cross
The Serbian Cross, a variant of the Byzantine Cross, is distinguished by its four firesteels, or stylized letter “C”, located in each corner around the central cross.
- History: The Serbian Cross is an important symbol of Serbian heritage and Orthodox Christian faith. The cross is associated with the Nemanjić dynasty, which ruled Serbia in the Middle Ages. The four “C” shapes, or firesteels, are said to represent the Old Serbian saying “Само слога Србина спасава” which translates to “Only Unity Saves the Serbs.”
- Popularity: Today, the Serbian Cross is a central part of the Serbian national emblem and flag. It is a widely recognized symbol of Serbian identity and Orthodox Christian faith, often used in religious, national, and cultural celebrations.
- Shape: The Serbian Cross is characterized by its central cross (usually a double cross with one smaller crossbar above the main one) and four “C”-shaped firesteels or Cyrillic “S” symbols in each corner. These features combine to create a distinct symbol known and revered by Serbs worldwide.
42. Novgorodsky Cross
The Novgorodsky Cross, also known as the Novgorod Cross, is recognized for its distinctive complex design featuring a slanted footrest, a smaller crossbar above the main one, and often inscriptions and religious iconography.
- History: The Novgorodsky Cross has its origins in the medieval city of Novgorod, Russia. It emerged during the time when Novgorod was a significant cultural and religious center. The cross is often associated with the Orthodox Church and was typically used in religious ceremonies and processions.
- Popularity: Today, the Novgorodsky Cross is often seen in museums, collections, and reproductions. It is a significant symbol of Russia’s religious and cultural history, particularly that of Novgorod’s role as a historical religious center.
- Shape: The Novgorodsky Cross features a complex design with a small crossbar above the main one, often for the inscription “King of Glory,” and a slanted footrest, symbolizing the balance of good and evil. The cross also often carries inscriptions, religious symbols, and depictions of saints, adding layers of meaning and complexity to its design.
43. Grapevine Cross
The Grapevine Cross, also known as the Georgian Cross or Saint Nino’s Cross, is recognized for its unique shape with drooping arms that resemble the branches of a grapevine.
- History: The Grapevine Cross is strongly associated with Saint Nino, who is credited with converting the kingdom of Georgia to Christianity in the 4th century. According to tradition, Saint Nino crafted the cross from a grapevine and secured it with strands of her own hair.
- Popularity: Today, the Grapevine Cross is a national symbol of Georgia, used extensively in the Georgian Orthodox Church and present on the national flag. It is a cherished symbol of Georgian identity, heritage, and Christian faith.
- Shape: The Grapevine Cross is characterized by its drooping arms that resemble the branches of a grapevine. It is a unique and recognizable symbol, often crafted with elaborate detail and artistic flourish in contemporary renditions.
Conclusion, the diverse array of Christian crosses showcases the rich tapestry of symbolism, history, and cultural significance within the Christian faith. From the universally recognized Latin Cross to the intricate designs of the Celtic Cross and the distinctive symbols of the Knights Templar, each cross type carries its own unique narrative and holds a special place in religious traditions and artistic expressions.
These crosses serve as powerful reminders of the core principles and beliefs of Christianity, inspiring devotion, faith, and reflection.
Whether displayed in churches, worn as personal adornments, or depicted in artistic creations, these crosses continue to captivate and inspire individuals around the world, connecting them to the deep-rooted heritage and enduring spirituality of the Christian faith.