Types of Crosses, Page 2 (next)(return to "Types of Crosses" index)

deacon's crossDeacon’s Cross: A deacon’s cross features a sash across the cross’s front, representing the stole worn over the deacon’s shoulder.  In the Western Church, a deacon is an ordained cleric or layperson, depending on the denomination.  In Eastern Orthodoxy, he is an ordained cleric.

Fleur crossFleur-de-Lis Cross:  (or fleur-de-lys) Fleur-de-lis literally means “lily flower” in French.  The symbol, a stylized lily, is used as a symbol of French royalty.  The arms of a fleur-de-lis cross have liliform ends, which can also be viewed as spear-shaped, making this cross popular in French heraldry.  For Christians, the three-petaled ends represent the Trinity: God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  In some traditions, the emblem symbolizes the Virgin Mary.

Fleurie crossFleurie Cross:  This cross features a three-petal design, representing the Trinity: God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The distinctive, open flower shape is symbolic of the Resurrection.

four-way crossFour Way Cross:  In Catholic tradition, a four-way cross or cruciform combines four devotional images.  The top image is that of the sacred heart of Jesus, with Christ pointing to His heart.  This is devotion to Christ’s physical heart as the representation of His divine love and compassion for humanity.  When shown separate from Jesus, it is often depicted as a flaming heart shining with light (indicating the transformational power of His love), pierced with wounds and surmounted by a crown of thorns (symbolizing the Passion). 

The lower image is miraculous, depicting the Virgin Mother and these words: “O Mary conceived without sin pray for us who have recourse to thee.”  It is also called medal of the Immaculate Conception, originated by St. Catherine Labouré after her vision of the Virgin Mary in 1830.  After two years of investigation, the request for design and production of the medal was approved.  Those who wore it felt they had received great blessings, and it became known as the “Miraculous Medal”. 

St. Christopher is depicted on the left.  A third century saint, St. Christopher is known by many as the protector of travelers.  Some traditions say that he was a man of great strength whose livelihood was carrying people across a raging river – he is said to have carried the child Christ across one day.  A martyr for Christ, his feast day is celebrated on May 9.

St. Joseph, the earthly father and guardian of Christ, is shown on the right.  He is depicted holding a lily and the child Christ.  Known as St. Joseph the Betrothed (also, of Nazareth), he was a descendant of St. David the King.  He was advanced in years when called to be the Betrothed and protector of the Virgin.  In submitting to the fulfillment of the prophets’ foresayings, and in his obedience to God, he is an example of putting the sacred above his own desires.  His feast day is celebrated on March 19th in the Western Church and Dec. 31st in the East.

Franciscan crossFranciscan Tau Cross: The Tau cross is based on the Greek T (pronounced “taw”); it is the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet.  Thought to have originated with the Egyptians, it was a symbol of the Roman god Mithras, the Greek Attris, and the Sumerian solar god, Tammuz. 

Some traditions hold that St. Anthony the Great (251-356 AD), one of the Desert Fathers, carried a Tau cross, but the cross is usually associated with the Franciscan Order and St. Francis of Assisi (1181/82-10/1226), founder of the Order.  St. Francis proclaimed his monastic habit to be the Tau cross: when the arms of one wearing the habit were outstretched, an image of this cross was created.  The saint used the Tau cross as his only signature on his writings.  His feast day is celebrated on October 4.

Greek crossGreek Cross: (also known as crux immissa quadrata) A cross with arms of equal length and not much longer than the width. It is used especially by Eastern Orthodox Christians. The cross appears in the flag of Greece, representing Eastern Orthodoxy, the established religion of Greece and Cyprus.

Holy Spirit/Dove crossHoly Spirit or Dove Cross:  Holy Spirit or dove cross pendants are fashioned with a dove, which is regarded in Christianity as a symbol of the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples after Christ’s Resurrection: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and I will be in you.” (John 13: 16-17).  See Acts 2 for the entire account of Pentecost.

Ichthus/Fish crossIchthus, Fish Cross: In the early centuries of the Church, during persecutions of Christians, believers would often recognize each other by using a Fish or Ichthus symbol, as it represented an anagram of the Lord’s name: Jesus Christ Son of God Savior:  Iota (I) – Jesus; Chi (X) – Christ; Theta (Ɵ) – God’s; Upsilon (Y) – Son; Sigma (Ʃ) – Savior.

infinity crossInfinity Cross:  The infinity symbol is actually called a lemniscus, a Latin noun meaning “pendant ribbon”.  It was first given its mathematical meaning by John Wallace, a British mathematician (1616-1703), and was first used in 1694 by Jacob Bernoulli to describe a planar curve (information from numericana.com, Scientific Symbols and Outcomes by Gérard P Michon).  In Christianity, the infinity cross (also called the everlasting cross) symbolizes the love of God, having no beginning and no end.  The infinity sign can also be found on the cross of St. Boniface, a Latin cross with a lemniscus wrapped around the cross arms.

I.N.R.I. crossI.N.R.I. Cross:  These initials are the Latin abbreviation for “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Ludaeorum”, the title Pontius Pilate wrote and had inscribed on the Cross: “And Pilate wrote an inscription also, and put it on the cross. And it was written, ‘Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews.’ Therefore this inscription many of the Jews read, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek.” (John 19:19-20)

Ionic crossIonic or Iona Cross:  (also, Cross of St. Columba) The Celtic cross is also referred to as the Ionic cross, after the monastery on the Isle of Iona, established by the holy Apostle of the Picts, St. Columba, in 563.  St. Columba (521-597) is also known as Column Cille (Old Irish), meaning “dove of the church”.  A preacher, teacher and writer of many books, St. Columba is revered as one of the most beloved saints of both Ireland and Scotland.  He is commemorated on June 9.

Jerusalem crossJerusalem Cross: Referred to as the “Crusaders’ Cross” during the Crusades, the Jerusalem Cross was the symbol of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.  The central cross represents Jesus Christ.  The four smaller crosses symbolize the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and the directions in which the word of God spread from Jerusalem. In some traditions, the five crosses together represent the five wounds of Christ during the Passion (hands, feet and side) or the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament).

Authored by Josie Long

For more information on styles of crosses and crucifixes, see our "Types of Crosses" guide

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