A cross is a geometrical figure consisting of two intersecting lines
or bars, usually perpendicular to each other. The lines usually run
vertically and horizontally. A cross of oblique lines, in the shape of
the Latin letter X, is also termed a saltire in heraldic terminology.
2.2 Christian cross
3 Cross-like marks and graphemes
4 Cross-like emblems
5 Notable formations known as "cross"
6 Physical gestures
7 See also
9 External links
The word cross is recorded in 10th-century
Old English as cros,
exclusively for the instrument of Christ's crucifixion, replacing the
Old English word rood. The word's history is complicated; it
appears to have entered English from Old Irish, possibly via Old
Norse, ultimately from the Latin crux (or its accusative crucem and
its genitive crucis), "stake, cross". The English verb to cross arises
from the noun c. 1200, first in the sense "to make the sign of the
cross"; the generic meaning "to intersect" develops in the 15th
century. The Latin word was, however, influenced by popular etymology
by a native Germanic word reconstructed as *krukjo (English crook, Old
Old Norse krokr, Old High German krucka). This word,
by conflation with Latin crux, gave rise to Old French crocier (modern
French crosse), the term for a shepherd's crook, adopted in English as
Latin crux referred to the gibbet where criminals were executed, a
stake or pole, with or without transom, on which the condemned were
impaled or hanged, but more particularly a cross or the pole of a
carriage. From this word was derived the Latin verb crucio "to put
to death on the cross" or (more frequently) "to put to the rack, to
torture, torment" especially in reference to mental troubles. The
field of etymology is of no help in any effort to trace a supposed
original meaning of crux. A crux can be of various shapes: from a
single beam used for impaling or suspending (crux simplex) to the
various composite kinds of cross (crux compacta) made from more beams
than one. The latter shapes include not only the traditional
†-shaped cross (the crux immissa), but also the T-shaped cross (the
crux commissa or
Tau Cross), which the Early Christian descriptions of
the execution cross indicate as the normal form in use at that time,
and the X-shaped cross (the crux decussata or saltire).
The Greek equivalent of Latin crux "stake, gibbet" is σταυρός
stauros, found in texts of four centuries or more before the gospels
and always in the plural number to indicate a stake or pole. From the
first century BC it is used to indicate an instrument used in
executions. The Greek word is used in Early Christian descriptions of
the execution cross, which indicate that its normal shape was similar
to the Greek letter tau (Τ).
Bronze Age "wheel pendants" in the shape of the "sun cross" (Urnfield
culture, 2nd millennium BC).
Due to the simplicity of the design (two intersecting lines),
cross-shaped incisions make their appearance from deep prehistory; as
petroglyphs in European cult caves, dating back to the beginning of
the Upper Paleolithic, and throughout prehistory to the Iron
Age. Also of prehistoric age are numerous variants of
the simple cross mark, including the crux gammata with curving or
angular lines, and the Egyptian crux ansata with a loop.
Speculation has associated the cross symbol – even in the
prehistoric period – with astronomical or cosmological symbology
involving "four elements" (Chevalier, 1997) or the cardinal points, or
the unity of a vertical axis mundi or celestial pole with the
horizontal world (Koch, 1955). Speculation of this kind became
especially popular in the mid- to late-19th century in the context of
comparative mythology seeking to tie
Christian mythology to ancient
cosmological myths. Influential works in this vein included G. de
Mortillet (1866), L. Müller (1865), W. W. Blake (1888),
Ansault (1891), etc.
Archaic cuneiform character LAK-617: a cruciform arrangement of five
boxes; scribes could use the central, larger box as container for
European Bronze Age
European Bronze Age the cross symbol appeared to carry a
religious meaning, perhaps as a symbol of consecration, especially
pertaining to burial.
The cross sign occurs trivially in tally marks, and develops into a
number symbol independently in the
Roman numerals (X "ten"), the
Chinese rod numerals (十 "ten") and the
Brahmi numerals ("four",
whence the numeral 4).
Phoenician alphabet and derived scripts, the cross symbol
represented the phoneme /t/, i.e. the letter taw, which is the
historical predecessor of Latin T. The letter name taw means "mark",
presumably continuing the
Egyptian hieroglyph "two crossed sticks"
According to W. E.
Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament
Words, worshippers of Tammuz in
Chaldea and thereabouts used the cross
as symbol of that god.
Main article: Christian cross
Further information: Instrument of Jesus' crucifixion, Early Christian
symbols, Christogram, and
Christian cross variants
Early use of a globus cruciger on a solidus minted by
695–698); on the obverse, a stepped cross in the shape of a Iota Eta
The shape of the cross (crux, stauros "stake, gibbet"), as represented
by the letter T, came to be used as a "seal" or symbol of Early
Christianity by the 2nd century.
Clement of Alexandria
Clement of Alexandria in the
early 3rd century calls it τὸ κυριακὸν σημεῖον
("the Lord's sign") he repeats the idea, current as early as the
Epistle of Barnabas, that the number 318 (in Greek numerals, ΤΙΗ)
in Genesis 14:14 was a foreshadowing (a "type") of the cross (the
letter Tau) and of Jesus (the letters Iota Eta). Clement's
Tertullian rejects the accusation that Christians are
crucis religiosi (i.e. "adorers of the gibbet"), and returns the
accusation by likening the worship of pagan idols to the worship of
poles or stakes. In his book De Corona, written in 204, Tertullian
tells how it was already a tradition for Christians to trace
repeatedly on their foreheads the sign of the cross.
While early Christians used the T-shape to represent the cross in
writing and gesture, the use of the
Greek cross and Latin cross, i.e.
crosses with intersecting beams, appears in Christian art towards the
end of Late Antiquity. An early example of the cruciform halo, used to
identify Christ in paintings, is found in the Miracles of the Loaves
and Fishes mosaic of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna (6th century). The
Patriarchal cross, a
Latin cross with an additional horizontal bar,
first appears in the 10th century. A wide variation of cross symbols
is introduced for the purposes of heraldry beginning in the age of the
Cross-like marks and graphemes
Further information: X mark
The cross mark is used to mark a position, or as a check mark, but
also to mark deletion. Derived from Greek Chi are the Latin letter X,
Cyrillic Kha and possibly runic Gyfu.
Egyptian hieroglyphs involving cross shapes include ankh "life", ndj
"protect" and nfr "good; pleasant, beautiful".
Sumerian cuneiform had a simple cross-shaped character, consisting of
a horizontal and a vertical wedge (𒈦), read as maš "tax, yield,
interest"; the superposition of two diagonal wedges results in a
decussate cross (𒉽), read as pap "first, pre-eminent" (the
superposition of these two types of crosses results in the
eight-pointed star used as the sign for "sky" or "deity" (𒀭),
DINGIR). The cuneiform script has other, more complex, cruciform
characters, consisting of an arrangement of boxes or the fourfold
arrangement of other characters, including the archaic cuneiform
characters LAK-210, LAK-276, LAK-278, LAK-617 and the classical sign
Phoenician tāw is still cross-shaped in
Paleo-Hebrew alphabet and in
Old Italic scripts
Old Italic scripts (
Raetic and Lepontic), and its descendant T
becomes again cross-shaped in the Latin minuscule t. The plus sign (+)
is derived from Latin t via a simplification of a ligature for et
"and" (introduced by
Johannes Widmann in the late 15th century).
Aleph is cross-shaped in Aramaic and paleo-Hebrew.
Egyptian hieroglyphs with cross-shapes include Gardiner Z9 – Z11
("crossed sticks", "crossed planks").
Other, unrelated cross-shaped letters include
Brahmi ka (predecessor
Devanagari letter क) and Old Turkic (Orkhon) d² and Old
Hungarian b, and
Katakana ナ na and メme.
The multiplication sign (×), often attributed to William Oughtred
(who first used it in an appendix to the 1618 edition of John Napier's
Descriptio) apparently had been in occasional use since the mid 16th
Other typographical symbols resembling crosses include the dagger or
obelus (†), the Chinese (十, Kangxi radical 24) and Roman (X) ten.
Unicode has a variety of cross symbols in the "Dingbat" block
✕ ✖ ✗ ✘ ✙ ✚ ✛ ✜ ✝ ✞ ✟ ✠ ✢ ✣ ✤ ✥
Miscellaneous Symbols block (U+2626 to U+262F) adds three specific
Christian cross variants, viz. the
Patriarchal cross (☦),
Lorraine (☨) and "
Cross of Jerusalem" (implemented as
The following is a list of cross symbols, except for variants of the
Christian cross and Heraldic crosses, for which see the dedicated
Christian cross variants and Crosses in heraldry,
Crosses as emblems and symbols
The ankh or crux ansata, an
Egyptian hieroglyph representing "life".
Basque cross or lauburu.
the Sun cross
The "sun cross" or "wheel cross" appears with some regularity in
prehistoric European artefacts, usually interpreted as a solar symbol,
perhaps representing the spoked wheel of the Sun chariot.
The swastika or crux gammata (in heraldry fylfot), historically used
as a symbol in Buddhism,
Jainism and Hinduism, and widely popular in
the early 20th century as a symbol of good luck or prosperity before
adopted as a symbol of
Nazism in the 1920s and 30s.
As a design element
A compass rose, sometimes called a windrose, is a figure on a compass,
map, nautical chart or monument used to display the orientation of the
cardinal directions and often appears as a cross tapering to
Symbol of the Papacy used in various emblems representing the keys to
The crossed swords symbol (⚔ at
Unicode U+2694) is used to represent
battlegrounds on maps. It is also used to show that person died in
battle or that a war machine was lost in action. Two crossed swords
also look like a
Christian cross and the mixed symbolism has been used
in military decorations. It is also a popular way to display swords on
a wall often with a shield in the center
Used as a symbol for luck as well as a stand in for a cross in various
Skull and crossbones
Traditionally used to mark Spanish cemeteries; the symbol evolved to
represent death/danger, poison, and pirates.
Notable formations known as "cross"
Crux, or the Southern Cross, is a cross-shaped constellation in the
Southern Hemisphere. It appears on the national flags of Australia,
Brazil, New Zealand, Niue,
Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea and Samoa.
Notable free-standing Christian crosses (or Summit crosses): 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 Caidos in Spain. A cross at the junction of
Interstates 57 and 70 in Effingham, Illinois, is purportedly the
tallest in the United States, at 198 feet (60.3 m) tall. The
tallest freestanding cross in the United States is located in Saint
Augustine, FL and stands 208 feet.
The tombs at Naqsh-e Rustam, Iran, made in the 5th century BC, are
carved into the cliffside in the shape of a cross. They are known as
the "Persian crosses".
Cross shapes are made by a variety of physical gestures. Crossing the
fingers of one hand is a common invocation of the symbol. The sign of
the cross associated with Christian genuflection is made with one
hand: in Eastern Orthodox tradition the sequence is head-heart-right
shoulder-left shoulder, while in Oriental Orthodox, Catholic and
Anglican tradition the sequence is head-heart-left-right.
Crossing the index fingers of both hands represents and a charm
against evil in European folklore. Other gestures involving more than
one hand include the "cross my heart" movement associated with making
a promise and the
Tau shape of the referee's "time out" hand signal.
In Chinese-speaking cultures, crossed index fingers represent the
Astrological symbols -the cross symbolically represents matter in many
of these glyphs.
Astronomical symbols -the crossmark may have been added to
Christianize pagan god symbols.
Cross and Crown
Cross cap -topological surface
^ Lewish and Short, A Latin Dictionary: crux
^ Lewis and Short, A Latin Dictionary: crucio
^ Gunnar Samuelsson,
Crucifixion in Antiquity (Mohr Siebeck 2011), p.
^ The Epistle of Barnabas, IX
^ Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata, book VI, chapter 11
^ Adversus Marcionem, liber III, cap. XXII
^ Lucian, Trial in the Court of Vowels
^ G. de Mortillet, "Le signe de la croix avant le christianisme",
^ L. Müller, "Ueber Sterne, Kreuze und Kränze als religiöse Symbole
der alten Kulturvölker", Copenhagen, 1865
^ W. W. Blake, "The Cross, Ancient and Modern" New York, 1888
^ Ansault, "Mémoire sur le culte de la croix avant Jésus-Christ",
^ "In the bronze age we meet in different parts of Europe a more
accurate representation of the cross, as conceived in Christian art,
and in this shape it was soon widely diffused. This more precise
characterization coincides with a corresponding general change in
customs and beliefs. The cross is now met with, in various forms, on
many objects: fibulas, cinctures, earthenware fragments, and on the
bottom of drinking vessels. De Mortillet is of opinion that such use
of the sign was not merely ornamental, but rather a symbol of
consecration, especially in the case of objects pertaining to burial.
In the proto-Etruscan cemetery of Golasecca every tomb has a vase with
a cross engraved on it. True crosses of more or less artistic design
have been found in Tiryns, at Mycenæ, in Crete, and on a fibula from
Vulci." O. Marucchi, "Archæology of the
Cross and Crucifix", Catholic
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 June 2015.
Retrieved 17 June 2015.
^ Vine, William Edwy (1940). "Cross, Crucify". Vine's Expository
Dictionary of New Testament Words. Retrieved 2016-10-16. The shape of
the [two beamed cross] had its origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used
as the symbol of the god Tammuz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau,
the initial of his name) in that country and in adjacent lands,
^ See also Abram Herbert Lewis, Paganism surviving in Christianity,
G.P. Putnam's sons, 1892, pp 237, 238.
^ "The cross as a Christian symbol or 'seal' came into use at least as
early as the second century (see "Apost. Const." iii. 17; Epistle of
Barnabas, xi.-xii.; Justin, "Apologia," i. 55-60; "Dial. cum Tryph."
85-97); and the marking of a cross upon the forehead and the chest was
regarded as a talisman against the powers of demons (Tertullian, "De
Corona," iii.; Cyprian, "Testimonies," xi. 21-22; Lactantius, "Divinæ
Institutiones," iv. 27, and elsewhere). Accordingly the Christian
Fathers had to defend themselves, as early as the second century,
against the charge of being worshipers of the cross, as may be learned
from Tertullian, "Apologia," xii., xvii., and Minucius Felix,
"Octavius," xxix. Christians used to swear by the power of the cross.
CROSS:, Jewish Encyclopaedia.
^ "Clement of Alexandria: Stromata, Book 6".
Earlychristianwritings.com. Retrieved 2016-06-18.
^ Apology., chapter xvi. "Then, if any of you think we render
superstitious adoration to the cross, in that adoration he is sharer
with us. If you offer homage to a piece of wood at all, it matters
little what it is like when the substance is the same: it is of no
consequence the form, if you have the very body of the god. And yet
how far does the Athenian Pallas differ from the stock of the cross,
or the Pharian Ceres as she is put up uncarved to sale, a mere rough
stake and piece of shapeless wood? Every stake fixed in an upright
position is a portion of the cross; we render our adoration, if you
will have it so, to a god entire and complete. We have shown before
that your deities are derived from shapes modelled from the cross."
Sed et qui crucis nos religiosos putat, consecraneus noster erit. Cum
lignum aliquod propitiatur, viderit habitus, dum materiae qualitas
eadem sit; viderit forma, dum id ipsum dei corpus sit. Et tamen quanto
distinguitur a crucis stipite Pallas Attica, et Ceres Pharia, quae
sine effigie rudi palo et informi ligno prostat? Pars crucis est omne
robur, quod erecta statione defigitur; nos, si forte, integrum et
totum deum colimus. Diximus originem deorum vestrorum a plastis de
^ "At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when
we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table,
when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary
actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign" (De
Corona, chapter 3)
^ William Wood Seymour, "The
Cross in Heraldry", The
Tradition, History, and Art (1898).
^ An example of a cruciform arrangement of a character that is itself
cruciform is the ligature "EZEN x KASKAL squared", encoded by Unicode
at U+120AD (𒂭).
^ Florian Cajori, A History of Mathematical Notations Dover Books on
Mathematics (1929), 251f.
Cross Foundation Midwest Christian Monument
Meditation Fellowship Retreat". crossusa.org. Retrieved 18 June
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 April 2012.
Retrieved 3 April 2012.
Chevalier, Jean (1997). The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols. Penguin
Drury, Nevill (1985). Dictionary of Mysticism and the Occult. Harper
& Row. ISBN 0-06-062093-5.
Koch, Rudolf (1955). The Book of Signs. Dover, NY.
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.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Crosses.
Seiyaku.com, all Crosses - probably the largest collection on the
Variations of Crosses - Images and Meanings
Crucifix - Glossary: Forms and Topics
Nasrani.net, Indian Cross
Cross in Tattoo Art
Cross of Jesus Christ: Symbols of Christianity, Images,
Designs and representations of it as objects of devotion
Christian cross variants
Anchored/St. Clement's Cross
Cross of the Archangels
Caucasian Albanian Cross
Cross of St. Chad
Cross crosslet fitchy
Cross and Crown
Cross of the Evangelists
Cross fleury fitchy
St. Florian Cross
St. George's Cross
Grapevine/St. Nino's Cross
St. James/Santiago Cross
Jerusalem cross (variant)
Kingdom of Jerusalem
Kingdom of Jerusalem cross
Cross of St. John
Cross of Novgorod
Orthodox cross (Bulgarian)
Orthodox cross (Greek)
Orthodox cross (Slavic)
St. Patrick's Saltire
Cross pattée fitchée
Cross of St. Peter
Cross of St. Philip
Cross of St. Gilbert
Cross of Salem
Saltire/St. Andrew's Cross
Tau/St. Anthony's Cross
St. Thomas Cross
Cross and Crown
Cuthbert's pectoral cross
Early Coptic cross
Saint Julian's cross
Cross of Neith
Cross of Peñalba
Pierced cross quarterly
Knights Templar cross
Teutonic Order cross
Crosses in heraldry
Armenian eternity sign
Shield of the Trinity