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[[Image:Christian cross.svg|thumb|120px|A cross in this simple form is known as the Latin cross or crux ordinaria and, representing the sacrifice ofJesus Christ, is the most common symbol of Christianity.]]

A cross is a geometrical figure consisting of two lines or bars perpendicular to each other, dividing one or two of the lines in half. The lines usually run vertically and horizontally; if they run diagonally, the design is technically termed a saltire.

The cross is one of the most ancient human symbols, and is used by many religions, such as Christianity. It is frequently a representation of the division of the world into four elements (Chevalier, 1997) (or cardinal points), or alternately as the union of the concepts of divinity, the vertical line, and the world, the horizontal line (Koch, 1955).


The word cross was introduced to English in the 10th century as the term for the instrument of the torturous execution of Christ (gradually replacing the earlier word rood), ultimately from Latin crux, via Old Irish cros. The word can nowadays refer to the geometrical shape unrelated to its Christian significance. The Latin Crux (translating Greek stauros) was a Roman torture device used for crucifixion.


It is not known when the first cross image was made; after circles, crosses are one of the first symbols drawn by children of all cultures. There are many cross-shaped incisions in European cult caves, dating back to the earliest stages of human cultural development in the stone age. Like other symbols from this period, their use continued in the Celtic and Germanic cultures in Europe. For example, celtic coins minted many centuries before the Christian era may have an entire side showing this type of cross, sometimes with the cardinal points marked by concave depressions in the same style as in stone age carvings. Other coins may be showing the cross held by a rider on a horse and springing a fern leaf, sometimes identified as a Tree of Life symbol.

As markings

Written crosses are used for many different purposes, particularly in mathematics.

A cross is often used as a check mark because it can be clearer, easier to create with an ordinary pen or pencil, and less obscuring of the text or image that is already present than a large dot. It also allows marking a position more accurately than a large dot.

A large cross through a text often means that it is wrong or should be considered deleted.

As emblems and symbols

Cross Name Description Picture
Ankh Also known as the Egyptian Cross, the Key of the Nile, the Looped Tau Cross, and the Ansate Cross. It was an Ancient Egyptian symbol of life and fertility, predating the modern cross. Sometimes given a Latin name if it appears in specifically Christian contexts, such as the crux ansata ("handled cross").
Christian cross Also known as the Latin cross or crux ordinaria. It is the most common symbol of Christianity, intended to represent the death of Jesus when he was crucified on the True Cross and his resurrection in the New Testament.
Coptic ankh The Coptic ankh is an adaptation of the Ancient Egyptian Ankh used by early Gnostic Christians in Egypt Coptic cross.
Original Coptic Cross The original Coptic cross used by early Gnostic Christians in Egypt.
Coptic Cross A small circle from which emanate four arms of equal length, with angled T shapes in the corners, cross-pieces outward, representing the nails used in Jesus' crucifixion. This cross receives its name from Coptic Christianity, which centered around Alexandria, Egypt.
New Coptic Cross This new Coptic Cross is the cross currently used by the Egyptianmarker Christians and the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. It evolved from the older Coptic Crosses depicted above. A gallery of Coptic Crosses can be found here.
Sun cross Also known as the Sunwheel, solar cross, Odin's cross or Woden's cross. Used in Europe since the Neolithic era and by ancient and contemporary Native American culture to represent respectively Neopagan beliefs and the great Medicine Wheelmarker of life. It is also the symbol used by the Gnostic Movements.
High cross Free-standing Celtic crosses commonly found in Irelandmarker and to a lesser extent in Great Britainmarker, very common in churches and graveyards.
Canterbury cross Used in the Anglican Churches. It has four arms of equal length, each widening at the outer end in a hammer shape so that their rims nearly form a circle. Each arm bears a triangular panel incised with a triquetra symbolizing the Trinity. In the center of the cross is a small square. The Anglo-Saxon original, as a brooch, dates from c. 850 A.D. and was excavated in 1867 in Canterburymarker, England. A stone replica can be found in Canterbury Cathedral and in many other Anglican cathedrals around the world. [777]
Crucifix A cross with a representation of Jesus' body hanging from it. It is primarily used in the Catholic Church, Anglican churches, and Eastern Orthodox churches, and it emphasizes Christ's sacrifice— his death by crucifixion.
Greek cross Used especially by Eastern Orthodoxy and Early Christianity Also known as the crux immissa quadrata. Has all arms of equal length. Often the arms curve wider as they go out.
Serbian cross (Tetragrammatic cross) The motif of a cross between four objects is derived from Constantine's labarum and has figured on Byzantine coins, since the 6th c. Later, the 4 symbols of the cross have been interpreted as flints or firestones, but also as the initials (letters β) of the imperial motto of the Palaiologos dynasty: King of Kings, Ruling Over Kings (Greek: βασιλεύς βασιλέων, βασιλεύων βασιλευόντων - Basileus Basileōn, Basileuōn Basileuontōn).The cross has been used by Serbian states and the Serbian Orthodox Church since the Middle Ages after Dušan the Mighty was crowned Emperor (Tsar) of the Serbs and Greeks (16 April 1345). Today it is the national, religious and ethnic symbol of Serbs and Serbiamarker.
Florian cross Adopted as an emblem by the fire service, this cross is named for Saint Florian, the patron saint of Polandmarker, Austriamarker and firefighters. Although similar to the Maltese Cross and Cross pattée, it differs in having arms rounded outwards at the ends.Two different versions are included here; the one above is commonly found on fire service badges, patches, and emblems; the one below is typical of the St. Florian medallion or medal.
Eastern cross Used in the Eastern Orthodox Church. The top line is said to represent the headboard, and the bottom, slanted line represents the footrest, wrenched loose by Jesus' writhing in intense agony. It is raised to the left side, because that was the side of the righteous criminal who said to Jesus: "remember me when you come into your kingdom". This symbolises the victory of good over evil. The letters IC XC found at the end of the main arm of most Eastern Orthodox Crosses are a Christogram, representing the name of Jesus Christ ( ). See also the Cross of Salem
St. Brigid's Cross This cross is found throughout Ireland. It is told that the cross was made by Brigid, daughter of a pagan king from reeds to be used as an instrument of conversion. However, Brigid's name is derived from Brigit (also spelled Brigid, Brìghde, Brìde, and Bríde), a Celtic Goddess of fire, poetry, and smithcraft, and today the cross is used to protect houses from fire. This is an example of the integration of religious traditions.
Chi-Rho Constantine I's emblem, the Chi-Rho (from the two Greek letters that make it up) is also known as the labarum or Christogram. Several variants exist.
Lorraine Cross Used in heraldry. It is similar to a patriarchal cross, but usually has one bar near the middle and one near the top, rather than having both near the top. Is part of the heraldic arms of Lorraine in eastern France. It was originally held to be a symbol of Joan of Arc, renowned for her perseverance against foreign invaders of France.
Marian Cross Included on the coat of arms of Pope John Paul II, the Marian Cross is a Catholic adaptation of the traditional Latin cross to emphasize Catholic devotion to Mary.
Nordic Cross Used in flags descended from the Dannebrog.
Occitan cross Based on the counts of Toulousemarker's traditional coat of arms, it soon became the symbol of Occitania as a whole.
Papal Cross The three cross-bars represent the Pope's triple role as Bishop of Rome, Patriarch of the West, and successor of St. Peter, Chief of the Apostles.
Patriarchal cross Similar to a traditional Christian cross, but with an additional, smaller crossbar above the main one meant to represent all the Orthodox Christian Archbishops and Patriarchs.In the Eastern Orthodox Church, this cross is sometimes seen with an additional, slanted bar near the foot of the cross (see Byzantine Cross).This cross is similar to the Lorraine Cross, Caravaca Cross, and Salem Cross
Presbyterian Cross Used by Presbyterian denominations.
Red Cross Used as a symbol for medical care in most of the world, the Red Crescent being used in Islamic countries and the Magen David Adom in Israelmarker.
Cross of Sacrifice A Latin cross with a superimposed sword, blade down. It is a symbol used by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at the site of many war memorials.
Cross of Salem Also known as a pontifical cross because it is carried before the Pope, it is similar to a patriarchal cross, but with an additional crossbar below the main crossbar, equal in length to the upper crossbar. It is also similar to the Eastern Cross.
Royal Flag of Georgia Used in Georgiamarker as national flag, first used by Georgianmarker King Vakhtang Gorgasali in the 5th century and later adopted by Queen Tamar of Georgia in the 13th century. The flag depicts a Jerusalem cross, adopted during the reign of George V of Georgia who drove out the Mongols from Georgia in 1334.
St. Nino's Cross Also known as a "Grapevine cross" and traditionally ascribed to Saint Nino, the 4th-century female baptizer of the Georgians, it is used as a symbol of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
St. Thomas Cross Also known as a "Mar Thoma Cross" and traditionally ascribed to Saint Thomas, the Apostole of India, it is used as a symbol of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church and venerated by all Saint Thomas Christians denominations.
Saint Andrew's Cross Used in Scotlandmarker's national flag, the naval ensign of the Russian Navy, and the former Confederate States of America; it is also called the Saltire, the Boundary Cross (because it was used by the Romans as a barrier) and the crux decussata. Saint Andrew is believed to have suffered a martyr's death on such a cross, hence its name. The cross does not have to be at this particular angle to qualify as a saltire; the symbol X can also be considered a St. Andrew's Cross.
St George's Cross Used in Englandmarker's national flag.
St George's Cross The definition of a St George's cross is, in Scandinavia, extended to also include a centred cross, normally red but not necessarily, with triangular arms that do not fill the square. The example beside is the cross of the Swedish Order of Freemasons.
Saint Peter's Cross/Inverted Cross An upside-down Latin cross, based on a tradition that holds that Saint Peter was martyred by being crucified upside-down. Today it is often associated with anti-Christian or Satanic groups.
Tau Cross Also known as Saint Anthony's Cross, the Egyptian Cross and the crux commissa. It is shaped like the letter T. Francis of Assisi used it as his signature.
Thieves' Cross Also known as the Furka Cross. The fork, shaped like the letter Y. [778]
Mariner's Cross The Mariner's Cross is a stylized cross in the shape of an anchor. The Mariner's Cross is also referred to as St. Clement's Cross in reference to the way he was martyred.
Order of Christ Cross Cross originally used by the Portuguesemarker Order of Christ.Since then it has become a symbol of Portugalmarker, used on the sails of the carracks during the Discoveries Era, and currently by the Madeira Autonomous Regionmarker of Portugalmarker and the Portuguese Air Force.
Extreme-right variant of the Celtic Cross Some white nationalist and neo-fascist groups adopted this variation of the Celtic cross, made up of simple lines, without any of the ornamental complexity of traditional Celtic crosses. It is thought that this basic variation's minor resemblance to the swastika is the reason it has become popular in such circles. This variation was also used by the Zodiac killer at the scenes of his crimes.
Swastika The swastika is an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles, in either right-facing ( ) form or its mirrored left-facing ( ) form.

Archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates from the Neolithic period. It occurs mainly in the modern day culture of India, sometimes as a geometrical motif and sometimes as a religious symbol. It remains widely used in Eastern religions / Dharmic religion such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.Though once commonly used all over much of the world without stigma, because of its iconic usage in Nazi Germany the symbol has become stigmatized in the Western world.
Chakana The Chakana or Tawa Chakana (or Inca Cross) symbolizes for Inca mythology what is known in other mythologies as the World Tree, Tree of Life and so on. The stepped cross is made up of an equal-armed cross indicating the cardinal points of the compass and a superimposed square. The square represents the other two levels of existence. The three levels of existence are Hana Pacha (the upper world inhabited by the superior gods), Kay Pacha, (the world of our everyday existence) and Ucu or Urin Pacha (the underworld inhabited by spirits of the dead, the ancestors, their overlords and various deities having close contact to the Earth plane). The hole through the centre of the cross is the Axis by means of which the shaman transits the cosmic vault to the other levels. It also represents Cuzcomarker, the center of the Incan empire.
Skull and crossbones Not a cross as such, but a saltire made of bones, with an overlaid skull. While traditionally associated with pirates, it was actually relatively rarely used by them, each ship having its own design, often involving an hourglass.

In heraldry

These crosses are ones used primarily or exclusively in heraldry and do not necessarily have any special meanings commonly associated with them. Not all the crosses of heraldry and the crosses with commonly known contexts are listed below.

Cross name Description Picture
The cross as heraldic "ordinary" A simple heraldic cross (the default if there are no additional specifying words) has arms of roughly equal length, artistically proportioned to the particular shape of the shield, which extend to the edges of the shield. Illustrated is the blazon "Azure, a cross Or" (i.e. a gold cross on a blue shield).

A cross which does not extend to the edges of the shield is humetty, in heraldic terminology.
Cross anchry A stylized cross in the shape of an anchor. Also known as the anchored cross or mariner's cross.
Cross barbée Also known as the cross barby or arrow cross, this symbol consists of two double-ended arrows in a cross configuration. Best known today for its use by the fascist Arrow Cross Party in the 1930s, the symbol actually dates to ancient times and was used by Hungarianmarker tribes in the Middle Ages. In Christian use, the ends of this cross resemble the barbs of fish hooks, or fish spears. This alludes to the Ichthys symbol of Christ, and is suggestive of the "fishers of men" theme in the Gospel.
Cross bottony A cross with the ends of the arms bottony (or botonny), i.e. shaped like an architectural trefoil. It occurs counterchanged on the flag of Maryland.
Cross cercelée A cross which, opening at the ends, turns round both ways, like a ram's horns.
Cross crosslet A cross with the ends of each arm crossed.
Cross fleury A cross with the ends of the arms fleury (or flory), having a shape like a fleur-de-lys.
Cross fourchee One form of the heraldic cross fourchee (fourchée, fourchy) or cross fourche (meaning "forked").
Cross fylfot Upright cross with truncated bent arms
Jerusalem cross Also known as the Crusader's Cross. This cross was the symbol of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, which existed for almost two hundred years after the First Crusade. The four smaller crosses are said to symbolize either the four books of the Gospel or the four directions in which the Word of Christ spread from Jerusalem. Alternately, all five crosses can symbolize the five wounds of Christ during the Passion. This symbol is also used in the flag of Georgia. It is also the logo for the Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem as well as the Franciscan order's Custody of the Holy Land. Many retreats including the Ignatian Kairos Retreat, and the Marian L.I.F.E. retreat bestow this cross on its participants as a sign of shared spirituality.

Maltese cross With arms which narrow towards the center, and are indented at the ends. The "eight-pointed cross" (with no curved lines).
Cross moline In a cross moline, the ends of the arms are split and curved back.
Cross patonce A cross patonce is more or less intermediate between a cross pattée and a cross flory (or fleury).
Cross pattée A cross pattee (pattée, patty), or formée (formy) has arms narrowing towards the centre, but with non-indented ends. See also Iron Cross.
Cross pommee A cross pommee (pommée, pommy) has a circular knob at the end of each arm.
Cross potent This cross has a crossbar at the end of each of its arms. "Potent" is an old word for a crutch, and is used in heraldic terminology to describe a T shape. It is used by many, mostly Roman Catholic, Scouting and Guiding organisations in their logos and insignia.
Quadrate A cross with a square at the intersection point.
Cross triple parted and fretted In heraldry, a "cross triple parted and fretted" (or "treble parted and fretted") is interlaced. Here, a version which is "Or on an Azure field" (gold on blue) is shown.
Cross voided A "cross voided throughout", also known as the Gammadia, can be seen as a Greek cross with its centre lines removed, or as composed of four angles (L shapes) separated by a thin space. So the name "gammadia" refers to its being made up of four shapes similar to a capital Greek letter gamma; the word gammadion can also refer to a swastika.
Cross fitchy A cross fitchy is a variation where the lower part is fashioned as a spike or sword blade, perhaps to plant the cross in the ground as a worshipping aid when its carrier stopped to worship where there was no church or chapel. This can be combined with other variations, e.g. cross crosslet fitchy, shown here.
Cross of St James The Cross of St. James, similar to a Cross Flory Fitch, is formed by a Cross Flory, where the lower part is fashioned as a sword blade (fitched)—making this a cross of a warrior. It is most frequently depicted in red. (The version depicted here is the one used by the order of Santiago.)

There are numerous other variations on the cross in heraldry. See heraldry for background information.

The semi-classic book A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry by James Parker (1894) is online, and contains much information about variants of crosses used in heraldry.

In flags

Several flags have crosses, including all the nations of Scandinavia, whose crosses are known as Scandinavian cross, and many nations in the Southern Hemispheremarker, which incorporate the Southern Cross. The Flag of Switzerland since the 17th century has displayed an equilateral cross in a square (the only square flag of a sovereign state apart from the Flag of the Vatican City); the Red Crossmarker emblem was based on the Swiss flag.

Sovereign state flags with crosses

Image: Flag_of_Burundi.svg|
Flag of Burundimarker
Image: Flag_of_Denmark.svg|
Flag of Denmarkmarker
Image: Flag_of_Dominica.svg|
Flag of Dominicamarker
Image: Flag_of_the_Dominican_Republic.svg|
Flag of Dominican Republicmarker
Image: Flag_of_Finland.svg‎|
Flag of Finlandmarker
Image: Flag_of_Georgia.svg|
Flag of Georgiamarker
Image: Flag_of_Greece.svg‎|
Flag of Greecemarker
Image: Flag_of_Iceland.svg‎|
Flag of Icelandmarker
Image: Flag_of_Jamaica.svg|
Flag of Jamaicamarker
Image: Flag_of_Malta.svg|
Flag of Maltamarker
Image: Flag_of_Norway.svg‎|
Flag of Norwaymarker
Image: Flag_of_Serbia.svg|
Flag of Serbiamarker
Image: Flag_of_Slovakia.svg|
Flag of Slovakiamarker
Image: Flag_of_Sweden.svg|
Flag of Swedenmarker
Image: Flag_of_Switzerland.svg‎|
Flag of Switzerlandmarker
Image: Flag_of_Tonga.svg‎|
Flag of Tongamarker
Image: Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg|
Flag of United Kingdommarker

Other selected flags and arms with crosses

Image: Flag_of_Scotland.svg|
Flag of Scotlandmarker and San Andres
Image: Flag_of_Quebec.svg|
Flag of Quebecmarker
Image: Flag_of_the_Red_Cross.svg‎|
Flag of Red Crossmarker
Image: Naval Ensign of Italy.svg|
Flag of the Navy, Italymarker
Image: Wappen_schwyz.png|
Arms of Schwyzmarker, Switzerlandmarker
Image: Coat of arms of the Carabinieri.svg|
Flag of the Carabinieri gendarmerie, Italymarker
Image: 98px-Kreuzlin.gif|
Arms of Kreuzlingenmarker, Switzerlandmarker
Image: Flag_of_Madeira.svg|
Flag of Madeiramarker Autonomous Region
Image: PortugueseFlag1095.svg|
Flag of Portugalmarker (1095)
Image: Southern_cross_appearing_on_a_number_of_flags.PNG|
Southern cross appearing on a number of flags

Other noteworthy crosses

The Crux, or Southern Cross, is a cross-shaped constellation in the Southern Hemispheremarker. It appears on the national flags of Australia, Brazilmarker, New Zealandmarker, Niuemarker, Papua New Guineamarker and Samoamarker.

The tallest cross, at 152.4 metres high, is part of Francisco Franco's monumental "Valley of the Fallen", the Monumento Nacional de Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caidosmarker in Spainmarker.

A cross at the junction of Interstates 57 and 70 in Effingham, Illinoismarker, is purportedly the tallest in the United States, at 198 feet (60.3 m) tall.

The tallest freestanding cross is located in St. Augustine, FL and stands 260 feet.

The tombs at Naqsh-e Rustammarker, Iranmarker, made in the 5th century BC, are carved into the cliffside in the shape of a cross. They are known as the "Persian crosses".

See also


  • Chevalier, Jean (1997). "The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols". Penguin ISBN 0140512543
  • Koch, Rudolf (1955). The Book of Signs. Dover, NY. ISBN 0-486-20162-7.
  • Drury, Nevill (1985). Dictionary of Mysticism and the Occult. Harper & Row ISBN 0060620935
  • Webber, F. R. (1927, rev 1938). Church Symbolism: an explanation of the more important symbols of the Old and New Testament, the primitive, the mediaeval and the modern church. Cleveland, OH. .

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