Cross-section of crosses and their significance

1. CELTIC - A cross associated closely with the Church in Ireland and Celtic lands and thought to have been introduced into Ireland by St. Patrick, who used the cross and the nimbus to explain the triumph of Christ over the old pagan sun god. Towering Celtic high crosses were very popular in Celtic territories from the eighth century.

Celtic cross
Celtic cross. Shutterstock photo

2. CROSS-CROSSLET - A cross seen especially in medieval heraldry, the cross-crosslet is a combination of four Latin crosses placed at right angles like the points of the compass. The four points are said to represent the four Gospels or the four Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

3. CRUX ANSATA - From the Latin for “cross with a handle,” a cross better known in its ancient Egyptian form as the ankh. Traditionally, it was a combination of the Tau cross with a loop. For the ancient Egyptians, it was a symbol of eternal life and was adopted by the Christians of Egypt.

4. EASTERN CROSS - Used throughout the Eastern Churches, the Eastern Cross is distinctive for its three bars — the top symbolizing the titulus placed on Christ’s cross at command of Pontius Pilate, the second for where Christ’s hands were crucified and a slanted one at the bottom for the footrest; it always points left toward the side of the good thief.

5. JERUSALEM - The symbol of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem that was established after the First Crusade (1095-1099), the Jerusalem Cross has a central cross surrounded by four smaller Greek crosses. The five total crosses represent the five wounds of Christ. The Jerusalem Cross is used especially by the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

6. LORRAINE - Also called a patriarchal cross — used by patriarchs and metropolitan archbishops — the cross of Lorraine was used by knights during the Crusades and is best known as a symbol of the Free French forces during World War II. It also appears on several countries’ flags, including Slovakia.

 7. MALTESE - Best known as the symbol of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta (the Knights of Malta), the Maltese Cross first appeared in the late 16th century. The eight sharp points of the cross symbolize the eight beatitudes proclaimed by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount.

8. SALTIRE (ST. ANDREW'S) - The cross that honors St. Andrew, patron saint of Scotland, Greece, Russia and Romania. Also called the crux decussata (from the Latin decus, or “honor or glory”), the saltire cross takes it unique shape from the tradition that Andrew was crucified at Patra, Greece, tied to an X-shaped cross that he had requested as he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Christ.

9. ST. CHAD'S - A version of the so-called quadrate cross, a cross with a square in its center, the cross honors the seventh-century abbot and bishop in England. The square signifies the four Evangelists, with each corner pointing to the four corners of the world.

10. TAU - The symbol of both St. Francis of Assisi and the Franciscan Order, the Tau is also called the crux commissa (Latin for “connected cross”). Derived from the 19th letter of the Greek alphabet, the cross was adopted by the Egyptian Christians and was associated with St. Antony of the Desert.

See also: