Guide to Types of Crosses

Kinds of Crosses--what the different designs mean

The symbol of the Cross has taken many forms since it was hallowed almost 2000 years ago--we offer many of these in our store.

Click the style below to see descriptions, examples and origins:
Chi Rho

St Andrew
St Brigid
Four Way
Franciscan Tau
Holy Spirit or Dove
Ichthus, Fish
Ionic or Iona
St Michael
St Olga
Phos Zoe
Rose of Sharon
Widow’s Mite
St. Xenia

Alpha-Omega crossAlpha/Omega Chi Rho Cross:  The Alpha (Α) and Omega (Ω) are respectively the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and, according to some traditions, are representative of Jesus Christ.  “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty.’” (Rev. 1:8).  “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last and there is no God besides Me…’” (Isaiah 44:6).  These letters are thus used in Christian symbolism, sometimes shown to the left and right of Christ’s head, on His halo, or with the Chi-Rho symbol.

The Chi-Rho symbol is an early Christogram, presenting the first two capital letters of “Christ” (ΧΡΙƩΤΟƩ) in Greek – chi (Χ) and rho (Ρ) in such a way as to form a monogram.  When combined with the Alpha and Omega, an acronym is formed with Christ’s words, “I am the Alpha and the Omega”.

The Chi-Rho cross was popularized by St. Constantine, who, as some traditions hold, had a dream or vision of the Chi-Rho symbol in the sky, with “en touto Nika” (Greek for “In this sign you shall conquer.”).  He had this emblem put on his soldier’s shields, and they went on to win the Battle of the Milvan Bridge outside Rome.  St. Constantine made Christianity the Roman Empire’s official religion in the fourth century.

anchor crossAnchor Cross: (also called Mariner’s Cross) Anchor crosses come in various styles, ranging from a traditional anchor shape to those with hooks, swords, ropes and more.  For Christians, Jesus Christ is the anchor of the soul: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6: 19-20).

This cross is also called St. Clement’s Cross.  St. Clement of Rome was third in succession after the Apostle Peter.  He is primarily known for his letter to the Corinthians around 96 AD.  Some early sources say that St. Clement died a natural death, but a tradition from the ninth century relates his martyrdom by drowning when thrown overboard from a ship with an anchor tied to him.  His feast day is celebrated on November 23rd in the West; November 25th in the East.

St. Andrew crossSt Andrew Cross: This Eastern Orthodox cross has three cross bars: the top bar symbolizes the placard on which was written the charge against Christ; some crosses features Slavonic letters that stand for, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews".  The middle bar is where the hands of Christ were nailed.  Some styles are fashioned with a sunburst design on this bar, symbolizing the light of Christ.  The lower bar represents a footrest.  Some sources suggest that the slanted footrest symbolizes a balance of justice: those on the right side of Christ will go up to heaven, and those on the left will go down to Hades.

St. Andrew, the First-called, was the brother of St. Peter, and one of the Twelve Apostles.  Tradition holds that he was crucified in Patras in Achaea, Greece; and was bound, not nailed.  St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, Ukraine, Russia, Prussia, Romania, Patras in Greece, Amalfi in Italy, Luga in Malta and Esgueira in Portugal.  His feast day is celebrated Nov. 30.

St. Brigid crossSt Brigid Cross: This cross is fashioned with a “woven” motif, after St. Brigid’s woven cross.  St. Brigid , Patroness of Ireland (around 453-525), is known for her wisdom and generosity to the poor. She is the most revered female saint of Ireland.  Tradition says that her cross was woven from rushes to illustrate the significance of Christianity to a dying, pagan chieftain, who then embraced Christianity before his death.  Her feast day is celebrated on February 1.

budded crossBudded Cross:  A cross with circles or discs on the end of each arm.  Budded crosses can be fashioned with anywhere from a single to five buds per cross end, each arrangement having its own symbolism.  The most common is three, which represents the Trinity: God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Four buds usually symbolize the four evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The three-budded cross is also sometimes called the Apostles Cross, with each bud representing one of the twelve Apostles.  When designed with gemstones for each bud and a single gemstone in the center, the central stone symbolizes Christ.

Byzantine crossByzantine Cross:  A cross pendant fashioned similarly in shape and/or style to one or more of the crosses crafted during the reign of the Byzantine empire, some of which were decorated with gemstones and detailed Christian symbolism.

*The Byzantine Empire: Christian tradition holds that Constantine was presented an omen (a mid-day vision, according to Eusebius; a dream, according to Lactantius) – a chi-rho in the sky, with the inscription, “By this sign shalt thou conquer”, shortly before his victory at the Milvian Bridge in 312. With this sign, Constantine instituted the new military standard, called the labarum, to be carried into battle. (The Chi-Rho symbol is an early Christogram, presenting the first two capital letters of “Christ” - XPΙƩΤΟƩ in Greek: chi as X and rho as P, in such a way as to form a monogram.)

With his victory at the Milvian Bridge, Constantine was declared western Augustus. The defeat of the eastern ruler Lucinius (Roman Emperor from 308-324), made Constantine sole emperor and gave way to the proposition that a new Eastern capital be chosen to represent the integration of the East into the Roman Empire as a whole. The Emperor Constantine transferred the capital of the Byzantine empire (also called the Eastern Roman Empire) from Nicomedia (Asia Minor) to Byzantium (later renamed Constantinople, “City of Constantine”, after his death). The new capital was protected by the relics of the True Cross, the Rod of Moses and other holy Relics.

Constantine was the first emperor to endorse Christianity, and during his reign, he built basilicas (one of the most famous being the Church of the Holy Sepulcher) and financially supported the Church. The Edict of Milan (instituted by Constantine and Lucinius in 313) legalized Christianity, returned confiscated property, and established Sunday as a day of worship.

While retaining its Romano-Hellenistic traditions, the Byzantine Empire became identified with its Greek culture; and Constantinople became a center of learning, cultural preservation and prosperity for the Empire. The Byzantine Empire existed for more than a thousand years, and was one of the leading economic, military and cultural influences in Europe.

*Most Information obtained from Wikipedia (see “Constantine” and “Byzantine Empire”) and OrthoWiki (see “Constantine the Great”).

Canterbury crossCanterbury Cross: Found in 1867 in Canterbury, England, the original cross dates to circa 850 AD and was cast in bronze.  The arms were each designed with a triangular panel adorned with a “triquetra”, or three-cornered knot, representing the Trinity: God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The design of the Canterbury cross is an example of an early Consecration cross.  The original is on display at the Royal Museum in Canterbury.

Celtic crossCeltic Cross:  The Celtic cross evolved in the British Isles, its earliest forms (dating from the seventh to ninth centuries) carved into large slabs of rock that lay on the ground.  Later forms stood in an upright position.  There are varying traditions regarding the origin of the cross’s circle.  One includes the story of how St. Patrick, “the Enlightener of Ireland”, took a standing stone etched with a circle that symbolized the Druid moon goddess, and marked a Latin cross over the circle, thus incorporating a pagan symbol into a new Christian cross for the converted Druids.

Some traditions suggest that the Celtic cross evolved from the "Chi Rho" symbol of Christianity, the first two letters of "Christ" in Greek, popularized by St. Constantine, who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century.

Claddagh crossCladdagh Cross:  The Claddagh symbol (also spelled Claddaugh) is two hands clasping a heart surmounted by a crown.  The design represents love (heart), friendship (hands) and loyalty (crown).  A Claddagh featured with a cross represents love based on the Christian faith.

consecration crossConsecration Cross:  (also called a Rounded Cross) The word “consecration” means a setting apart, an act which separates something, or someone, from a common to a sacred use.  The minister of a consecration is a bishop.  In a consecrated church, twelve consecration crosses are carved or painted on walls, pillars or altars, marking the place where church walls have been anointed with chrism.  The twelve crosses have equal length arms, distinguishing them from the main crosses of the church, which represent the Crucifixion.  The consecration crosses symbolize the twelve apostles.

Dagmar crossDagmar Cross:  This cross features several holy images: from top and then clockwise are St. Basil the Great, St. John the Baptist, St. John Chrysostom and Mary, the Mother of God.  The central image is that of Christ; on the back is Christ crucified.

The Dagmar cross is associated with Queen Dagmar (pronounced “dowmah”) of Denmark.  The wife of Valdemar II, King of Denmark from 1202-1241, Queen Dagmar is said to have died in childbirth.  When her grave was opened in 1690, a cross with this design was found around her neck, and is believed to date to around 1000 A.D.

Authored by Josie Long

For more information on styles of crosses and crucifixes, see our "Types of Crosses" guide is ranked 4.8 out of 5 stars based on 282 total votes with 175 written reviews