Historical Cross Gallery

Historical symbols give us insight to how Christianity worked itself out in everyday lives and bear witness to the faithful men and women who have gone before us.
Thanks to Jerry Clemmens for doing the research. Thanks to Jerry and Rob Jassey for creating actual crosses to display on the walls of our church.
 The crosses and Christian symbols were produced to be decorative as well as educational – to increase knowledge of Christian history. Seven of the crosses were made from cherry wood.  Due to the nature of the wood and the finish used, they will probably darken as they age.
The information about the symbols was obtained from multiple sources.  If you detect something wrong (misspellings, erroneous data, or can add something of interest, etc.) or know of a symbol not shown here, please notify the church office and we will gladly correct, modify, or add to the descriptions.

The Latin Cross

A Latin cross or crux immissa is one of the most recognized and most used religious symbols in the world. It is characterized by its plain and simple look – a straight vertical line with a crossbar going horizontally above its middle point. This simple look is also why the Latin cross is often called the Plain Cross, Roman Cross, Protestant Cross, Western Cross, Chapel Cross, or the Church Cross. If displayed upside down, it is called St. Peter’s cross because he was reputedly executed on this type of cross at his request. When displayed sideways it is called St. Phillip’s cross for the same reason.

The historical meaning of the Latin cross is well known. It represents the torture device used by ancient Romans on criminals of all sorts. Jesus Christ was crucified on such a cross until his death. He was then buried in a tomb before returning back to life after three days. Because of that Christians carry the cross to honor his sacrifice as it was done to absolve them of their sins. However, this isn’t the only ascribed meaning of the cross. According to some theologians, the plain cross also symbolized the Holy Trinity. The three upper arms represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, while the longer lower arm is their Unity, reaching down to humanity.

In the United States, the Latin cross began as a Roman Catholic emblem. It was vehemently contested as “Satanic” by various Protestant denominations in the 19th century. It has since become the universal symbol of Christianity for Protestants as well.

The Fish Symbol

In the early Christian community, the ichthus or fish symbol ranked as one of the most important to believers wishing communicate and spread the precepts of the Christian faith. The use of the fish symbol had ancient beginnings in pagan art by organizations such as the cult of Isis. Clement of Alexandria (150 AD) is the first early Christian church father to have specifically mentioned the fish symbol as pertaining to Christian usage. He did not give an explanation for its use, which seems to imply that the Christian community he was writing to understood the meaning of the symbol.

Several representations of the fish symbol can be found on the walls of the Catacombs. It initially enabled Christians to identify themselves to each other in secret and enabled them to recognize each other without the need for verbal communication. They then could jointly, but silently, proclaim their profession of faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ.

When a Christian met a stranger on the road, one would draw one-half of the outline of the fish on a rock or in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other half, both Christian believers knew that they could enjoy fellowship and freely share their belief in Jesus. The fish symbol was also scratched on walls or rocks to point the way to where Christians were meeting in secret. A similar symbol used by non-Christian Greeks marked the location of funerals, therefore the Christian usage of the symbol blended in.

When Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity, the fish symbol began to disappear after the 4th century as Christianity spread and the symbol was no longer needed. It has since been revitalized in recent times.

The Mariner’s Cross

A cross in the figure of an anchor.  An anchor keeps the boat stable and rooted to the ground.  The symbol that denotes the strengths and stability of one’s faith.  A ship can sail anywhere and can encounter huge waves and storms, but an anchor firmly fixed on the sea floor would keep the boat from straying from its course.  A spirit that accepts Jesus Christ would never get lost from the path of enlightenment for Jesus would always be the light that would show you the right way and be your strength that you can rely on in spite of the problems or difficulties that you may encounter.  The anchor symbolizes hope, steadfastness, calm and composure
The use of the anchor as a symbol has been attributed to Skeleucus I.  The symbol was adopted by the Jews living in the Seleucid Empire and used on their coins.  Therefore, the anchor as a symbol would have been widespread and familiar to early Christians.  Since it resembled the cross, the anchor was used to mark safe houses for early Christians looking for a place of refuge, thus becoming a Christian symbol of safety and security.  
Missionaries of the United Methodist Church wear the anchor cross as a reminder that their work should always be “anchored in faith, hope and love”.
The anchored cross is also referred to as the Mariner’s Cross or St Clement’s Cross in reference to his martyred end – tied to an anchor and tossed overboard into the Black Sea.  In spite of his untimely end at sea, St Clement is considered the patron saint of sailors and many wear his cross for protection.  

Russian Orthodox Cross

Meaning:  The topmost of the three crossbeams represents Pilate’s inscription which in the older Greek tradition is “The King of Glory”, based on John’s Gospel; but in later images it represents INRI (The King of the Jews).  The middle crossbeam is the main bar to which the victim’s hands are fixed, while the bottom crossbeam represents the footrest which prolongs the torture.  In many depictions, the side to Christ’s right is higher slanting upward toward the penitent thief St Dismas, who according the apocryphal tradition was crucified on Jesus’ right, but downward toward the unpenitent thief Gestas.  It is also a common perception that the foot rest points up toward Heaven on Christ’s right and downward toward hell on Christ’s left.
History:  The slanted cross existed as early as the 6th century.  However, it was used only in church art and never on church domes.  At the end of the 15th century this cross started to be widely used in Muscovy, when its rulers declared themselves the “Third Rome”, as successors of Byzantium and defenders of Orthodoxy.  In 1551 at a council of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Grand Prince of Moscow, Ivan the Terrible, decided to standardize the cross on Russian churches.  This marked the first time the Russian Orthodox cross was used on church domes.  
In the 19th through the early 21st centuries the Russian cross has been promoted by Russia in Belarus, Poland and Ukraine as part of Russification policies.  This suggests the Russian Orthodox cross is viewed more as a Russian symbol than a religious one.

The Maltese Cross

The Maltese cross is steeped in history and politics, making its first notable appearance in the Middle Ages during the Crusades.  It is associated with the Knights Hospitallers, also known as the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. The organization was established during the Crusades to care for pilgrims in the Holy Land.  Later it took a more militant role, with the Hospitallers fighting alongside the Knights Templars.  
The eight points of the Maltese cross have many interpretations connected to the knights and to Christianity.  Maybe the first interpretation represented the regions the Knights Hospitaller hailed from including:  Provence, Aragon, Auvergne, Castille, Portugal, Italy, Germany and England.  The eight points are also considered to represent “the eight obligations” of the knights: to live in truth; have faith; repent of one’s sins; be humble; be just; be merciful; be sincere; to endure persecution.  
For many Christians the Maltese cross represents the “eight beatitudes” recounted by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew 5:3-10.
“ (1) Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven; (2) Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted; (3) Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth; (4) Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied; (5) Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy; (6) Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God; (7) Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God;  (8) Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The Grapevine Cross

The Grapevine Cross, also known as the Georgian Cross or St Nino’s Cross is a major symbol of the Georgian Orthodox Church.  Christianity became the official religion of Georgia around 330 AD.  The cross is recognized by its drooping horizontal arms.
Traditional accounts credit St Nino, a Cappadocian woman, who preached Christianity in Georgia early in the 4th century  bringing with her the unusual shaped cross.  Legend has it that she received the cross from the Virgin Mary or alternatively she forged it herself and secured it by entwining it with her own hair.  The familiar representation of the cross, with its peculiar drooping arms, did not appear until the early modern era.
According to traditional accounts, the cross of St Nino was kept at the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskjeta until 541.  During the Persian invasions, it was taken to Armenia and stayed there until 1124.  During the 17th and 18th centuries, when Georgia was subjected to a series of Persian and Ottoman invasions, the cross was taken to safer areas:  first to Gergeti Trinity Church, then to Ananuri in highland Georgia and eventually to Moscow. In 1802, the Russian Tsar Alexander returned it after Georgia was incorporated into the Russian Empire.  The cross has since been preserved in the Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi, Georgia..

The Chi-Roh Symbol

The pronunciation of Chi-Roh is simply “Kee-Roe” in English.  The symbol is the superimposition of two Greek letters:  X (Chi) and P (Rho).  Together they are taken from the Greek word “Christos” meaning “the one who is anointed” which translates to “Christ” in English.  It is mostly known as a Christian symbol, but it existed before Christianity, where it was inscribed on the coins of Ptolemy III Euergetes who ruled the Ptolemiac Dynasty in Egypt between 246 and 222 BC.  It is unknown why Ptolemy III used the symbol.  
The first public use of the Chi-Rho symbol was on the shields of Constantine’s warriors in the Battle of Milvian Bridge on 28 October 312 AD.  According to stories, after seeing the bitter fates of many commanders who worshipped several different gods, Constantine asked for help from the “One Supreme God”.  After noon that day, Constantine saw a sign in the sun with a message that said:  “With this symbol, you will conquer”.  On that same night he reported that Christ appeared in a dream and told him to use this sign as a defense against his enemies.  He had the sign drawn on the shields of his men and won the battle.  He believed it happened with the help of Jesus Christ.
In 313 AD Constantine in the Edit of Milan, declared Christianity legal in the Roman Empire.  The almost 300 years of Imperial persecution of Christians was over.  His decision was a turning point for early Christianity, sometimes referred to as the “Triumph of the Church”, the “Peace of the Church”, or the “Constantinian shift”. The Chi-Rho symbol’s adoption by Christians going back to the 4th century, does not mean it belongs exclusively to Catholic or Protestant churches.  The symbol can be seen in some Protestant Churches today, but it is more frequently used by the Catholic church. 

St Andrew and the Cross

While little is known about St Andrew’s life, we do know he was a fisherman from Galilee, brother to Simon, whom Jesus would call Peter.  Andrew is believed to have been a missionary to Asia Minor and Greece.  He was reportedly crucified by the Romans on an X-shaped cross at Patras in 69 AD, since he did not feel worthy to be crucified on a cross like Christ.  
His remains were entombed in Constantinople under the order of Emperor  Constantine.  In 370 AD, St Rule, had a vision telling him to take the bones to the “ends of the earth” for safe keeping.  He removed portions of St Andrew’s bones from Constantinople and took them to a Pictish settlement on the Eastern coast of Scotland.  The settlement later became known as St Andrews.  The relics were initially placed in a small chapel and  later moved to the Cathedral of St Andrews, a center for medieval religious pilgrims - today, modern pilgrims of another sort travel there --- to play golf!  It is believed St Amdrew’s relics were destroyed during the Scottish Reformation.  
St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland.  This explains the red X-shaped design on the Scottish flag.  The design also appears on the flag of Britain and several other countries and organizations (including the state flags of Alabama and Florida). 

The Celtic Cross

The oldest “high” stone crosses still standing in Ireland date from the 8th to the 12th centuries.  The crosses are often intricately carved with the earliest crosses depicting knotwork and later crosses including imagery of bible stories and inscriptions. The shape of the head of the cross is considered by many to be the defining feature of the Celtic Cross.  Structurally, the ring shape gives the cross strength, supporting the arms of the cross.  This has led some scholars to consider the shape a continuation of a form required for earlier more delicate wooden crosses.  
Others suggest the ring depicts the halo or disc shape around a head, while others think it represents a celestial sphere like the sun – as depicted in a 5th century Christian poem “Carmen Paschale” (based on the four Gospels) by Coelius Sedulius.  Still others suggest the ring and the “rivet” shaped carvings on some early crosses represent the Celtic shield.  This would merge Christian and Celtic imagery, a tactic used by St Patrick as well as early missionaries of the Catholic Church in their attempts to convert the Celts to Christianity.  
The early Celts revered trees.  Christian missionaries arriving in Ireland in the 5th century would have been keen not to upset the early pagan Celts.  By merging the Christian imagery of the cross and halo with important Celtic imagery of trees and the sun, this new religion woiuld have been more ‘familiar’ and more acceptable – presumably making for easier converts.  No one really knows why the ancient people erected such huge stone monuments.  The crosses are typically located near important monasteries.  They may have defined boundaries or were used for preaching, teaching scripture, prayer and penance.  Many crosses commemorate events or a patron with several dedicated to important saints, including St Patrick.

The Greek Cross

In order for the cross to be considered truly Greek, all four arms must be of an equal length.  This is different from other depictions of the Christian cross where the length is a lot longer that the width.  By the 4th century AD, this cross was commonly used throughout Greece and the Byzantine Empire.
In antiquity, the cross was used as a symbol not only of religious, but of artistic character.  It was used as a pattern in ornaments, clothing, buildings, jewelery, etc.  It is not known when the first cross was created.  
The Greek cross was also used by the Egyptians, however, they used it in clothing and jewelry, while the Egyptian cross for religious purposes was the ankh.  The ankh is also called the Tetractys and was considered a holy symbol for Pythagoreans, followers of Pythagoras of Samos.  Its equal arms symbolized the four main elements of nature: air, fire, water and earth.  The Pythagoreans would also take their vows on it, as it was also linked to their basic principle of the harmony of numbers and by extension, harmony of the universe.

The Patriarchal Cross

The Patriarchal Cross also known as the Archiepiscopal Cross, is a variation of the Latin cross believed to have originated in the 10th century during the Byzantine era.  It is the official heraldic emblem of archbishops of the Roman Catholic Church.  It is similar to the traditional Latin cross and to the Papal Cross in design.  The Latin cross has one crossbar, the Papal cross has three, the Patriarchal cross has two.
Unlike the Latin cross which represents the cross on which Jesus was crucified and by extension symbolized the significance of his death as victory over sin, the symbolism of the double barred cross is not clear.
Some theories of the Patriarchal Cross:  
  •  During Roman times, when people were crucified, a plaque with their name would be    hung on the cross for all to see and identify the convicted person.  The shorter crossbar on the Patriarchal cross is believed to represent the plaque which hung on the cross above Jesus, proclaiming to the world who he was, with the words:  “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” or the Latin initials “INRI”.  
  •  The main crossbar represents secular power, while the second bar represents the ecclesiastical power of the Byzantine emperors.
 The first bar represents the death of Jesus, while the second cross bar represents his resurrection and victory.  The Patriarchal cross appears in the coat of arms of Hungary, is one of the national symbols of Belarus and was also used by the Knights Templar during the Crusades.  It is also used interchangeably with the cross of Lorraine.

The Tau Cross and Symbol

The Tau is a very ancient symbol and also known as the Crux Commissa, the Franciscan Cross, the Anticipatory Cross, the Advent Cross, the Crutch Cross and St Anthony’s Cross.  Tau is the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet and represents the fulfilment of the revealed Word of God.  It is commonly depicted with expanded three ends.  It is called a “tau cross” because it resembles the shape of the Greek letter tau in an upper-case form.  While the New Testament is represented by the Latin cross, the Tau is more representative of the Old Testament.  It is the emblem used by the Franciscan Order, founded by Saint Francis of Assisi;  hence the name “Franciscan cross”.  The Hospital Brothers of St Anthony were a religious order founded in 1095, who staffed the leprosarium on the outskirts of Assisi and wore the Tau as a religious symbol.  Thus the name of “St Anthony’s Cross.”  The T-shape also led to the name “Crutch Cross.”
Jesus prophesied his own crucifixion by saying: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15).  This led to the names of the “Anticipatory Cross” or the “Advent Cross” – used by some churches for Advent, four Sundays before Christmas.
The Tau cross appears in artworks depicting Moses when God told him to “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”  (Num 21:8).  
Pope Innocent III when addressing the Bishops gathered in Rome for the Fourth Lateran Council on 11 November 1215, said:  The sign of the Tau was also a sign of the Cross of Christ.  Innocent III also encouraged several incursions during the Crusades.

The Cross of Lorraine

The Cross of Lorraine is used interchangeably with the Patriarchal Cross.  The cross of Lorraine is a two barred cross that comes in a few variations.  It is a popular variant of the Latin Cross and is also known as the Cross of Anjou.  
Derived from French heraldry, the cross can be traced back to the Crusades, when Godfrey de Bouillon, Duke of Lorraine used it during the capture of Jerusalem in the 11th century.  The cross was then passed on to his successors as a form of heraldry.  By the 15th century, the Duke of Anjou inherited it and the icon became known as the Cross of Lorraine, representing the national unity of France. 
Lorraine, located in northeastern France and sharing borders with parts of Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, has been the scene of many wars and battles.  In WWII, when Hitler took control of the region, General de Gaulle chose the cross as a symbol of the French resistance -   a reference to Joan of Arc, who was from the Lorraine area and is considered a national heroine of France . who led the French army against foreign invaders.  
At Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises in Champagne-Ardenne, is a monument of the Cross of Lorraine, dedicated to General de Gaulle as commander of the Free French Forces.  In European heraldry, it can be seen on the coat of arms of Hungary, Slovakia and Lithuania.  Several groups have adopted the cross to represent various ideals such as:  A symbol of Patriotism and Freedom – used on many French battlefield and war memorials; An emblem of Christianity; a symbol of the Global Fight against Lung Disease – adopted in 1902 to represent the fight against tuberculosis.

The Coptic Cross and Egyptian Ankh

The ankh is one of the most recognizable symbols from ancient Egypt.  It has been known as the “key of life” or the “cross of life” dating from the Early Dynastic Period (c. 3150-2613 BCE).  It is simply a stickman shaped symbol with a circle on a Tau cross that denotes the key to the afterlife.  This made it a potent symbol for 4th century  Coptic Christians of Egypt who eventually took it as their own.  The ankh then became a symbol of Christ’s promise of everlasting life through belief in his sacrifice and resurrection.   This may have been the origin of the Christian use of the cross as a symbol of faith today.  It is felt by some that the early Christians of Rome would not have considered the cross as a symbol of their faith, since it was associated at that time as a form of punishment for criminals and other undesirables.   
Coptic Christianity developed in Egypt under St Mark. The Copts were part of the Byzantine family of Christians until the Fourth Ecumenical Council in 451 AD.  The council ruled then that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine or two complete natures.  The Coptic Christians (now Eastern Orthodox), believe that the humanity and divinity of Jesus are united and that the Son of God has one, not two natures.
The book of Isaiah (19:19), contains a prophecy of the formation of a Christian community in Egypt.  Isaiah writes:  “In that day there will be an alter to the Lord in the midst of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border.”  Many Bibical figures sought Egypt as a refuge from famine and persecution.  Mary and Joseph are believed to have spent time in Egypt when Jesus was a small child.  Many churches have been built at sites where the Holy Family was believed to have sought shelter.