Used in several places such as churches, bibles, jewelry, and cemeteries, the Christian cross gained plenty of variations during the Middle Ages. The main cross types are the Latin cross with an elongated arm and the Greek cross with four equal arms. These are two of the cross forms that have existed since antiquity. There are also other cross forms varying according to the geographical regions, saints, and sects. Here is a compilation of different types of crosses.
The history of the Latin cross goes back to the 4th century after Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity. It is the most common cross form and mimics the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified.
The Greek cross dates back to the early years of the Byzantine Empire. Having four equal arms, it is the symbol of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Also known as the balanced cross, the shape of the Greek cross is often considered to symbolize the four seasons, four winds, four elements, or some other aspect of nature.
The Orthodox cross, or the Russian Orthodox cross, dates back to the 16th century in Russia. It has a distinctive lower crossbeam slanted downward. This cross form became a part of the Russian state coat of arms after Ivan the Terrible, Grand Prince of Moscow, introduced it during the canonical isolation of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1551. As for its meaning, the top arm symbolizes the INRI inscription hung over Christ’s head, the middle is where Jesus’s hands were nailed, and the slanted one is the foor-rest.
The Celtic cross has a distinctive ring, connecting the arms and probably representing the sun or eternity. This cross originated in Ireland and Britain during the early Middle Ages. Some even believe St. Patrick introduced the Celtic church when he converted to Christianity. It is still a popular cross form in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
Toulouse Cross or Occitan Cross
The Toulouse cross is a heraldic cross used in the coat of arms of the county of Toulouse during the 12th century and on coins and seals in the 13th century. Today, it is the emblem of the Occitania region.
Although it is uncertain when it first occurred, the Coptic Church appertains to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Egypt. Even though the form of the Coptic cross shows variations, a typical one consists of a nimbus intersecting a Greek cross and four T-shaped decorations symbolizing the Holy Trinity.
New Coptic Cross
The New Coptic Cross, introduced in 1984, is a modern variation of the old Coptic Cross. The three points of each arm symbolize the Holy Trinity, and the 12 points altogether represent the Apostles. It is commonly used in the Coptic church as well as the Ethiopian and Eritrean churches.
The Carolingian cross dates to as early as the ninth century, comprising both Christian and pagan concepts. It consists of four triquetrae (three arches forming a trinity knot), forming a cross. The triquetra is a representation of the Trinity as well as the tree of life in Paganism.
The Papal cross is distinguishable through its three horizontal arms getting shorter from bottom to top. Although the origin of the papal cross is uncertain, it probably dates back to the 13th century as the ceremonial cross of the Pope and the Vatican. It signifies the Pope and the Vatican’s authority in the Christian world.
St. James Cross
St. James Cross is one of the most common red crosses resembling a sword with a hilt in a fleur-de-lis shape. It takes its name from James the Great who was believed to appear at the Battle of Clavijo which ended with the Spanish victory over the Moors. The St. James Cross over a white background was the Spanish Order of Santiago’s emblem during the 12th century. The Portuguese also used this cross as the emblem of their Military Order of Saint James of the Sword.
Also known as the Wheel cross, the Sun cross is one of the oldest religious symbols dating back to prehistoric times. This type of cross appears in both Asian and European cultures, symbolizing the cycle of life. Today, one can come across the Sun cross as the icon of ancient religions in the context of archaeology and anthropology as well as neopagan religions such as Wicca and Heathenry.
The Jerusalem Cross consists of a large Greek cross surrounded by smaller ones. The Kingdom of Jerusalem adopted this cross form after the First Crusade (1096-99). It mainly symbolizes the Holy Land.
Also known as the Veljusa Cross, the Macedonian Cross is associated with Christianity in North Macedonia. Ir first appeared on the façade of the Holy Mother of God Church in Veljusa Monastery in 1085 AD.