Christian Cross: The Meaning Behind the Symbol

Christian Cross: The Meaning Behind the Symbol

When it comes to the Christian cross there are a lot of things that people think they understand but do you really know everything? 🤔 How about the different versions of the Christian cross? Do you know what each of them really means? Well, we’re going to explore a little more of them here. ✝

christian cross

1) The Christian Cross Symbol In History

This history of the Christian cross actually dates back to Constantine. During this time, which occurred approximately three centuries after Christ, the symbol became more associated with Jesus.

christian cross symbol in christianity

Prior to this, while some Christians did, in fact, use the symbol in their religious worship and teachings, it was a more private occurrence. Constantine was the first to claim the cross for the Christian faith and followers of Jesus Christ. 🙏

2) The Cross Symbol in Christianity

Beginning with the 4th Century and Emperor Constantine, the cross began to see more common use throughout Christianity. It is used as a symbol not only of Christianity and the faith that the people have in Jesus and God but actually as a symbol of Jesus himself.

christian cross symbol christianity

Because of the crucifixion and the death of Jesus on the cross, this symbol is believed to be even more reverential and holy to those who follow the faith. 🤲

A. How Did the Cross Become the Symbol of Christianity?

The cross became a symbol of Christianity in part because of the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross. It was 2000 years after the death of Jesus that Constantine abolished crucifixion so that no one could again be crucified (which has previously been a more common occurrence). 🔨

👉 Read the very interesting blog post on McLaurin Memorial Baptist Church about the crucifixion of Jesus: A Reflection on the Crucifixion of Jesus

How Did the Cross Become the Symbol of Christianity?

He also determined that the cross would become a symbol of Jesus. This occurred in the 4th century, the period in time where Constantine converted to Christianity himself.

B. Why is the Cross Important in Christianity?

The cross is an important symbol in Christianity because it represents Jesus and the sacrifice that he made for the sins of everyone when he was crucified.

Why is the Cross Important in Christianity?

It represents the faith that the Christian people have in Jesus and in God himself. The cross shows the freedom and forgiveness that were given as a result of the passion of Jesus Christ and the death that he endured to achieve it. ❤

Discover our collection of Men's Cross Necklaces to empower your faith ⬇

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C. INRI Inscription on the Christian Cross

During the process of the crucifixion, while Jesus was dying on the cross, a notice was hung over him. ✏ This notice read ‘Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum.’

INRI Inscription on the Christian Cross

This Latin phrase, translated into English, means ‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.’ While at the time it was merely a notice, it is now used on crosses to signify a true Christian. This is inscribed into many crosses of Christian followers who have died. ⚰

👉 Read more on the blog about The Meaning Of INRI On The Cross

INRI Christian cross

D. Christian Cross Fish

This symbol, which is actually Icthys, is most commonly referred to as a fish 🐟 because of the look of the symbol. Prior to Christianity being a more common faith it was actually something practiced in secret and the fish was a symbol and a code that was used by Christians to help them identify one another.

Christian Cross Fish

This symbol specifically was actually an acronym for another Latin phrase ‘Theou Yios, Soter; Koine.’ This phrase translates into English as ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.’

👉 If you want to discover more about the Ichthys symbol read, Ichthys: The Meaning of the Christian Fish Symbol

E. Crucifix vs. Empty Cross

When you talk about specific symbols of the Christian faith, one of the most important is the crucifix. However, a crucifix is no the same as a cross. ✝

Crucifix vs. Empty Cross

While both are similar in some ways, there is one very important distinction. The cross is simply that, two pieces that are crossed over one another. The crucifix, however, is a cross with a depiction of Jesus. The depiction usually shows Jesus in relief on the cross.

empty cross

For most Christians, this is a more compelling symbol than a standard cross, though this also depends on the specific faith within Christianity.

⛪ Catholics are more likely to utilize the crucifix as a symbol for their faith. Protestants, however, are more likely to use a cross as a depiction of their faith.

cross symbol jesus

3) Christian Cross Variants

When we talk about the different variations of the Christian cross there are many that need to be considered.

christian cross variant

While not all of these are as well known as others, each one plays a different role in the faith and in the worship of the followers of Christ and God through the Christian faith.

A.Orthodox Christian Cross

First used in the 6th century in the Byzantine Empire, the Orthodox Cross, or more specifically the Russian Orthodox Cross a vertical bar with three horizontal bars.

Orthodox Christian Cross

The first is in reverence to the sign hung above the head of Jesus, the second where his hands were nailed and the final one where his feet were nailed.

B. Double Christian Cross

The Cross of the eight-point cross-stone ceremony.

double cross

The double cross is similar to the Greek word "XI" (the capital letter of the word Christ) it's a symbol of revival.

C. Red Christian Cross

The Red Cross is found on the Christian flag and depicts a Latin cross inside a blue square.

Red Christian Cross

The red of the cross is a symbol of the blood that Jesus shed, the blue the water from baptism and the white that the blue rests on is the purity of Jesus.

D. Greek Cross

The Greek Cross 🇬🇷 is slightly unique in that it depicts a cross with four equal bars. Two bars are crossed over one another to create the arms that are all the same.

Greek Cross

This cross is older than the Latin version, first being used to represent the Babylonian god Shamash, and represents the spread of the gospel across the world, in all directions.

E. Latin Cross

The Latin cross is the most common and most simple of all of the designs. It shows a horizontal bar crossed over the top third of a vertical bar.

Latin Cross

This is the cross that is seen most commonly in different faiths of Christianity and in symbols used by followers.

F. Byzantine Cross

Also known as the Russian Orthodox Cross 🇷🇺, the Byzantine Cross features three horizontal bars crossing a single vertical bar.

Byzantine Cross

 

The third of these is at an angle with each bar representing the sign above Jesus’ head, the place where his hands were nailed and the place where his feet were nailed respectively.

G. Patriarchal Cross

This cross features two horizontal bars, usually with the top one shorter than the bottom.

patriarchal cross

These bars can both we located at the top of the vertical bar or they could be more split with the lower bar much lower.

H. Cross of Lorraine

Used to symbolize the movement known as 🇫🇷 Free France in World War II, this cross depicts two horizontal bars across a single vertical one.

Cross of Lorraine

It comes in many different variations but was used as a rallying cry for those who sought to save France.

I. Papal Cross

The symbol of the pope, the Papal Cross features three horizontal bars crossed over a vertical one.

Papal Cross

Unlike the Byzantine or Russian Orthodox Crosses, however, the bars on this one are all straight and appear at the top of the cross with each longer than the one above.

J. Monogrammatic Cross

Also known as the Staurogram, this is actually a Greek symbol. It combines tau or a ‘T’ with rho or a ‘P’ to create a symbol of salvation.

 Monogrammatic Cross

The tau was a symbol marked on the saved in Ezekiel in the Bible and so the symbol has been carried on in the same manner.

K. Cross of Salem

The Cross of Salem has also been referred to as the Pontifical Cross. It is one that is carried before the Pope when he appears and has three horizontal bars.

Cross of Salem

The middle bar appears directly in the middle of the vertical bar and is the longest with one evenly spaced on either side being of equal length.

L. Jerusalem Cross

This cross is used as a symbol of the wounds of Christ. It is a large cross with a smaller one in each of the corners.

Jerusalem Cross

The cross at the center represents the wound where he was pierced on the side by soldiers to prove he was dead. Each of the others represents wounds on his hands and feet when he was nailed to the cross. 

M. Cruciform Halo

This symbol is depicted by a halo with a cross appearing in it and represents the Holy Trinity.

cruciform halo cross

It is most commonly used to depict Jesus, though it has been used to represent God as well. This symbol is used in much artwork as a representation of these beings.

N. Knights Templar Cross

This cross is one where the vertical and horizontal bars cross and form four equal sections.

Knights Templar Cross

It is used as the symbol of the Knights Templar, which was a Christian organization in medieval times to protect those visiting the Holy Land. The red cross they wore symbolized their martyrdom and their willingness to die in combat. ⚔

O. Celtic Cross

The Celtic Cross is rumored to have begun with St. Patrick who attempted to convert Pagans to Christianity.

Celtic Cross

It is believed to represent the space where the Divine emerges. This is considered a sort of compass that provides for spiritual navigation.

4) Cross Associated with Saints

There are different crosses associated with various Saints including the crosses of Saint Peter, Saint Gilbert, Saint George and Saint Andrew.

cross associated with saints

Each of these crosses has their own distinctions and is slightly different than others mentioned here.

A. Cross of Saint Peter

Also known as the Petrine Cross, the Cross of Saint Peter is an inverted version of the Latin Cross.

Cross of Saint Peter

It shows a vertical bar with a horizontal bar placed across it near the bottom. It was once a symbol of Christianity but has now fallen into more common use as an anti-Christian symbol. 😈

B. Tau Cross

This cross is represented by a cross in the shape of a ‘T.’ This means the upper bar cross the very top of the vertical bar.

tau cross

This cross is believed to represent the execution cross that Jesus was hung and killed upon. This is also the Saint Anthony’s Cross.

C. Saint George’s Cross

This cross is a red cross on a white background, similar to the Red Christian Cross.

Saint George’s Cross

It is from the Late Middle Ages and was the one that Saint George, a military saint, frequently used. It is now used to represent the Kingdom of England. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

D. Cross of Saint Gilbert (Portal Cross)

Also referred to as the Portate Cross, the Cross of Saint Gilbert is similar to the one Jesus carried himself before the Crucifixion.

Cross of Saint Gilbert

It is a standard cross at an angle instead of upright, as a cross would be if someone were carrying it themselves to their crucifixion.

E. Saint Julian Cross

Known also as the Missionary’s Cross, this one is used by wandering bards. The cross itself is actually two bars crossed over each other to form four equal arms.

st julian cross

This is then turned at an angle so the bars do not face straight to the sides or up and down. Each is then crossed again by a smaller bar. The end result is a large cross that then forms four additional, smaller cross.

F. Cross of Jeremiah

The Cross of Jeremiah is actually a symbolic cross, representing the burden that he bore because of his calling to help spread the word of God.

Cross of Jeremiah

Jeremiah bore his cross with determination and even though it led him to great suffering he did not forsake his goal.

G. Cross of Lazarus

The green version of the Greek Cross is known as the Cross of Lazarus.

Cross of Lazarus

It features a vertical line of equal length to a horizontal line with the two crossed at the middle. This is sometimes also depicted in a slightly more stylized version.

H. Cross of Saint Andrew

This is also called the Saltire and is used as the flag of Scotland. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Cross of Saint Andrew

It represents St. Andrew, who was crucified on this type of cross himself. (The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew)

5) Conclusion

There are a number of different reasons that you will want to take a look at Christianity and the different symbols that are depicted around it.

conclusion christian cross

Each of these will help you to better understand Christianity and the symbols that are important to its practice. ✝

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