A saltire, also called Saint Andrew's Cross, is a heraldic symbol in the form of a diagonal cross, like the shape of the letter X in Roman type. The word comes from the Middle French sautoir ("stirrup"), possibly owing to the shape of the triangular areas in the design.[1]

It appears in numerous flags, including those of Scotland and Jamaica, and other coats of arms and seals. A variant, also appearing on many past and present flags and symbols, is the Cross of Burgundy.

A warning sign in the shape of a saltire is also used to indicate the point at which a railway line intersects a road at a level crossing.

In Unicode, the cross is encoded at U+2613 saltire (HTML ☓). See X mark for similar symbols that might be more accessible.

Heraldry and vexillology

Bayonets in saltire create Roman numeral X for the US Army's 10th Mountain Division.

The saltire is one of the classic "honourable" ordinaries, geometric charges that span throughout (from edge to edge of) the shield.

When two or more saltires appear, they are usually blazoned as couped (cut off). For example, contrast the single saltire in the arms granted to G. M. W. Anderson[a]—with the three saltires couped in the coat of Kemble Greenwood.[b]

Diminutive forms include the fillet saltire,[c] usually considered half or less the width of the saltire, and the saltorel, a narrow or couped saltire.

A field (party) per saltire is divided into four areas by a saltire-shaped "cut". If two tinctures are specified, the first refers to the areas above (in chief) and below (in base) the crossing, and the second refers to the ones on either side (in the flanks).[d] Otherwise, each of the four divisions may be blazoned separately.

The phrase in saltire or saltirewise is used in two ways:

  1. Two long narrow charges "in saltire" are placed to cross each other diagonally. Common forms include the crossed keys found in the arms of many entities associated with Saint Peter and paired arrows.[e]
  2. When five or more compact charges are "in saltire", they are arranged with one in the center and the others along the arms of an invisible saltire.[f][g]

There are numerous significant heraldric and vexillogic uses of the saltire:


The Flag of Scotland, called The Saltire or Saint Andrew's Cross, is a blue field with a white saltire. According to tradition, it represents Saint Andrew, who is supposed to have been crucified on a cross of that form (called a crux decussata) at Patras, Greece.

The Saint Andrew's Cross was worn as a badge on hats in Scotland, on the day of the feast of Saint Andrew.[1]

In the politics of Scotland, both the Scottish National Party and Scottish Conservative Party use stylised saltires as their party logos, deriving from the flag of Scotland.

Prior to the Union the Royal Scots Navy used a red ensign incorporating the St Andrew's Cross; this ensign is now sometimes flown as part of an unofficial civil ensign in Scottish waters. With its colours exchanged (and a lighter blue), the same design forms part of the arms and flag of Nova Scotia (whose name means "New Scotland").

Cross of Burgundy

The Cross of Burgundy, a form of the Saint Andrew's Cross, is used in numerous flags across Europe and the Americas. It was first used in the 15th century as an emblem by the Valois Dukes of Burgundy. The Duchy of Burgundy, forming a large part of eastern France and the Low Countries, was inherited by the House of Habsburg on the extinction of the Valois ducal line. The emblem was therefore assumed by the monarchs of Spain as a consequence of the Habsburgs bringing together, in the early 16th century, their Burgundian inheritance with the other extensive possessions it inherited throughout Europe and the Americas, including the crowns of Castile and Aragon. As a result, the Cross of Burgundy has appeared in a wide variety of flags connected with territories formerly part of the Burgundian or Habsburg inheritance. Examples of such diversity include the Spanish naval ensign (1506-1701), the flag of Carlism (the nineteenth century Spanish conservative movement), the flag of the Dutch capital of Amsterdam and municipality of Eijsden and the flag of Chuquisaca in Bolivia.

St Andrew's flag, used by the Russian Navy

Maritime flags

The naval ensign of the Imperial Russian (1696–1917) and Russian navies (1991–present) is a blue saltire on a white field.

The international maritime signal flag for M is a white saltire on a blue background, and indicates a stopped vessel. A red saltire on a white background denotes the letter V and the message "I require assistance".


The Brazilian cities of Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza also use a blue saltire on a white field, with their coats-of-arms at the hub. The flags of the Spanish island of Tenerife and the remote Colombian islands of San Andrés and Providencia also use a white saltire on a blue field.

Saltires are also seen in several other flags, including the flags of Grenada, Jamaica, Alabama, Florida, Jersey, Logroño, Vitoria, Amsterdam, Breda, Katwijk, Potchefstroom and Valdivia, as well as the former Indian princely states of Khairpur, Rajkot and Jaora.

The design is also part of the Confederate Battle Flag and Naval Jack used during the American Civil War (see Flags of the Confederate States of America). Arthur L. Rogers, designer of the final version of the Confederate National flag, claimed that it was based off the saltire of Scotland.[8]

Christian symbol

Saint Andrew on saltire

The saltire appears on vexilla that are represented consistently on coinage of Christian emperors of Rome, beginning in the fourth century. Anne Roes found it on coins of Constantius II, Valentinian, Jovian, Gratianus, Valens, Arcadius, Constantine III, Jovinus, Theodosius I, Eugenius and Theodosius II, though she searched only coins at the British Museum.[9] In the ninth and tenth century the saltire was revived in Constantinople as a symbol of Christian-imperial power.[citation needed]

Anne Roes detected the symbol, which often appears with balls in the quadrants formed by the arms of the chi-cross, in standards that appear on the coins of Persepolis. She suggested that early Christians endorsed its solar symbolism as appropriate to Christ. She also wrote: "although it cannot be proved, ... in the white saltire of St. Andrew we still have a reminiscence of the old standard of the Persepolitan kingdom".[10]

Other saltires

Chemical hazard


In the old European Union standard, a black saltire set in an orange square is the hazard symbol for irritants (Xi) or harmful chemicals (Xn). It indicates a hazard less severe than skull and crossbones, used for poisons, or the corrosive sign.

The trademark of X-Radium stoneware, a patented cooking ware produced in the early 1900s by F. H. Griswold, was an X with radiating lines.

The Maria Theresa thaler has a saltire to symbolize (as the Roman numeral) the 1750 debasement of the coinage, from 9 to 10 thalers to the Vienna mark (a weight of silver).


Railway crossing, Polish

A saltire is the conventional road sign used to indicate the point at which a railway line intersects a road at a level crossing, called a "crossbuck" in this context. A white saltire on a blue background (or black on yellow for temporary signs) is displayed in UK railway signalling as a "cancelling indicator" for the Automatic Warning System (AWS), informing the driver that the received warning can be disregarded.

In Cameroon, a red "X" placed on illegally constructed buildings scheduled for demolition is occasionally referred to as a "St Andrew's Cross". It is usually accompanied by the letters "A.D." ("à détruire"—French for "to be demolished") and a date or deadline. During a campaign of urban renewal by the Yaoundé Urban Council in Cameroon, the cross was popularly referred to as "Tsimi's Cross" after the Government Delegate to Yaoundé Urban Council Gilbert Tsimi Evouna.[11]

Timber saltire, Germany

Physical objects

In traditional timber framing a pair of crossing braces is called both a saltire and St. Andrews Cross.[12] Half-timbering, particularly in France and Germany, has patterns of framing members forming many different symbols known as ornamental bracing.[13]

A similarly-constructed piece of furniture is also known as a St. Andrew's Cross or saltire. It is used in BDSM for splaying out a bound person, not unlike the crucifix of antiquity.


See also


  1. ^ Or on a saltire engrailed Azure two quill pens in saltire Argent enfiling a Loyalist military coronet Or[2]
  2. ^ Sable a chevron Erminois cotised between three saltires couped Or[3]
  3. ^ The coat of the South African National Cultural and Open-air Museum: Or; an ogress charged with a fillet saltire surmounted by an eight spoked wheel or, and ensigned of a billet sable; a chief nowy gabled, Sable
  4. ^ The coat of the Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council: Per saltire Vert and Or four Fers de Moline counterchanged in fess point a Fountain.[4]
  5. ^ Suffolk County Council's Gules a Base barry wavy enarched Argent and Azure issuant therefrom a Sunburst in chief two Ancient Crowns enfiled by a pair of Arrows in saltire points downwards all Or[5]
  6. ^ Winchester City Council: Gules five castles triple towered, in saltire, argent, masoned proper the portcullis of each part-raised, or, and on either side of the castle in fess point a lion passant guardant that to the dexter contourny Or[6]
  7. ^ The arms of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America: Argent; a quarter azure charged with nine cross crosslets in saltire argent, overall a cross gules[7]


  1. ^ "Saltire". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved March 2016.
  2. ^ "Anderson, George Milton William [Individual]". Archive.gg.ca. 2005-07-28. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  3. ^ "Greenwood, Kemble [Individual]". Archive.gg.ca. 2005-07-28. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  4. ^ "Civic Heraldry Of England And Wales-West Midlands". Civicheraldry.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  5. ^ "Civic Heraldry Of England And Wales - East Anglia And Essex Area". Civicheraldry.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  6. ^ "Civic Heraldry Of England And Wales - Cornwall And Wessex Area". Civicheraldry.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-09-09. 
  7. ^ "The Episcopal Church - Logos, Shields, Graphics". 
  8. ^ Coski 2005, pp. 17–18
  9. ^ Anne Roes, "An Iranian standard used as a Christian symbol", The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 57.2 (1937), pp. 248–51
  10. ^ Roes 1937:251.
  11. ^ Célestin Obama. Tsimi Evouna s’attaque aux édifices publics, Le Messager, 23 Sept 2008 Archived December 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ Hansen, Hans Jürgen, and Arne Berg. Architecture in wood; a history of wood building and its techniques in Europe and North America.. New York: Viking Press, 1971. Print.
  13. ^ Rudolf Huber and Renate Rieth, Glossarium Artis, 10, Holzbaukunst - Architecture en Bois - Architecture in Wood. Munich, Germany: Saur. 1997. 55. ISBN 3-598-10461-8
  14. ^ a b *Álvarez Abeilhé, Juan. La bandera de España. El origen militar de los símbolos de España. Revista de historia militar Año LIV (2010). Núm extraord. Madrid: Ministerio de Defensa. ISSN 0482-5748. PP. 37-69.

External links

  • Media related to Saltires at Wikimedia Commons