Crosses in heraldry

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The Christian cross had been used as a symbol of Christianity from Late Antiquity. Beginning in the 11th century, and increasingly during the age of the Crusades, a variety of variant forms of cross symbols were developed for the purposes of the emerging system of heraldry.

The cross symbol was also used on flags from the medieval period, and in modern times also on numerous national flags.

Variants of heraldic crosses[edit]

Crosses in heraldry
These crosses are used primarily or exclusively in heraldry and do not necessarily have any special meanings commonly associated with them. Not all the crosses of heraldry and the crosses with commonly known contexts are listed below.
Picture Cross name Description
Azure-Cross-Or-Heraldry.svg The cross as heraldic "ordinary"

The basic heraldic cross (the default if there are no additional specifying words) has arms of roughly equal length, adapted to fit the particular shape of the shield, extending to the edges of the shield (or subdivision thereof)—as in the coat of the City of London.

A cross which does not extend to the edges of the shield is couped or humetty, in heraldic terminology, as in the coat, flag and badge of Geiger, Canada; it is shown with all its limbs of equal length and is also sometimes called a Greek cross.

ArrowCross.svg Cross barbed

Found in the coat of Umziginsi School, South Africa (see South Africa's Bureau of Heraldry); and in the coat of Upper Macungie Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania (see The Heraldic Register of America); also the coat of Tillie in Cornwall (cited in Parker's Glossary, s.v. Cross barby). The symbol—also called an arrow cross-- in green was the rallying symbol of the former Hungarian Nazi-style party.

Cross-Bottony-Heraldry.svg Cross bottony

A cross with the ends of the arms bottony (or botonny), i.e. shaped like a trefoil—and so it is sometimes called a cross trefly. It occurs counterchanged on the flag of Maryland; a saltire botonny can be seen in the coat and flag of the Village of New Maryland, New Brunswick; and a Latin cross trefly can be seen in the coat of Isidore Popowych.

In early armory it is not always distinguished from a cross crosslet.

Cross Cercelée.svg Cross cercelée

A cross recercely seems to be a cross moline parted or voided throughout—though it may be a cross moline very curly (Brooke-Little An heraldic alphabet, p 77).

Cross-Flory-Heraldry.svg Cross fleury or flory

A cross whose arms end in fleurs-de-lys – as in the coat of the Municipalité de la Paroisse de Saint-Philémon. In early armory it was not consistently distinguished from the cross patonce.

Cross-Fourchee-Heraldry.svg Cross fourchee

One form of the heraldic cross fourchee (fourchée, fourchy) or cross fourche (meaning "forked"). An example is the South African Postal Association (South Africa's Bureau of Heraldry)

Argent a fylfot azure.svg Fylfot

Upright cross with truncated angled arms; essentially a variant of the swastika; uncommon, but can be found in the crest of Gordon of Hallhead (Scots Public Register volume 31, page20). Also known as a gammadion cross, consisting of four capital Greek letters Γ (gamma).

Jerusalem Cross 2.svg Jerusalem cross

The symbol of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, which existed for almost two hundred years after the First Crusade; in the rendering at left, the large cross is shown slightly "potent" (i.e., with T-shaped ends), but that is not always the case. The four smaller crosses are said to symbolize either the four books of the Gospel or the four directions in which the Word of Christ spread from Jerusalem. Alternatively, all five crosses can symbolize the five wounds of Christ during the Passion. This symbol is used in the flag of Georgia. Also found in the coat of arms of the Papal Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Vatican City (matriculated in Scotland as "Argent; a Jerusalem cross cantoned between four crosses couped, gules"—Scots Public Register, volume 75, page 112)—to be seen at various EOHSJ websites; also in the Canadian coat of Robert Gerald Guest (Canadian Public Register Volume III, page 85).

Maltese-Cross-Heraldry.svg Maltese cross

With arms which narrow towards the center, and are indented at the ends, also known as the eight-pointed cross (with no curved lines). Perhaps best known as a badge of the Order of Malta; whether connected with the Order or not, it is a common heraldic device—found in the coat of the London Borough of Hackney and the Canadian coat of Eric Lawrence Barry; as a "cross of eight points" to be found in the crest of Robert G. Loftus, Canada.

Cross-Moline-Heraldry.svg Cross moline

In a cross moline, the ends of the arms are bifurcated, split and curved back, as found in the English coat of Kirkby Urban District Council and the Canadian coat of Charles Macdonald Lloyd Buchanan; surprisingly often to be found pierced, as shown in the online version of Guillim, section II chapter VII.

It is also called a cross ancré or anchory as in the arms of Rory Henry Grattan Fisher and of the Town of Dalmeny, Saskatchewan. As a mark of cadency in English and Canadian heraldry, it marks an eighth son.

Cross-Patonce-Heraldry.svg Cross patonce

A cross patonce is more or less intermediate between a cross pattée and a cross flory (or fleury). The ends of its limbs are trifurcated into leaf shapes, and seems to come in two sorts: one where the limbs are the same width all along as in the coat of Godfrey McCance Gransden; and the other where the limbs gently widen from the centre (but do not curve) as in the coat of John Chiu (both of Canada). A mediaeval example is shown on the seal of William de Fortibus(d.1260)

Cross-Pattee-Heraldry.svg Cross pattée

A cross pattee (pattée, patty), or formée (formy) has arms narrowing towards the centre, but with flat ends. It is usually found with curved inside edges as in the arms of Baron Berkeley (see also Iron Cross); but sometimes encountered with straight edges (triangular arms). The symbol was also used as the military aircraft roundel design for the former German Empire and the former Kingdom of Bulgaria.

Bundeswehr Kreuz Black.svg Bundeswehr cross

Vehicle emblem of the modern German military.

Cross-Pommee-Heraldry.svg Cross pommee

A cross pommee (pommée, pommy) has a round knob at the end of each arm, as in the coat of Penwith District Council, England.

Cross-Potent-Heraldry.svg Cross potent

This cross has a crossbar at the end of each of its arms. "Potent" is an old word for a crutch, and is used in heraldic terminology to describe a T shape. It is used by many, mostly Roman Catholic, Scouting and Guiding organisations in their logos and insignia. Found in the coat of Stevan Bradley Graeme Ralph and the badge of Fr. Mark Lowell Sargent (both Canada), it was also the symbol of Austrofascism.

Quadrate.gif Cross quadrate

A cross with a square at the intersection point (sometimes with a smaller relative size than shown in the illustration); found in the coats of Francesco Maestri (Canada) and Warwick District Council, England.

Cross-Triple-Parted-Fretted-Or.svg Cross triple parted and fretted

A cross "parted and fretted" is divided and interlaced; if no number is specified, it has two strips in each direction. Found (triple parted) in the coat, flag and badge of the Greater Vancouver (British Columbia) Transportation Authority Police Service; and (double) in the coat of Croydon County Borough Council, England.

Cross-Voided.svg Cross voided

A "cross voided throughout" has the central parts of the limbs cut with the colouring behind it showing through—as in the coat of the City of Lacombe, Alberta. The centre may be filled with another tincture as in the coat of the Town of Abbotsford, British Columbia.

Regulation WW II Upperwing Balkenkreuz.png Beam-cross (Balkenkreuz)

Nazi German military vehicle emblem.

Coa Illustration Cross Pierced round.svg Cross pierced

A cross pierced has a circular void at the intersection. c.f. cross pierced quarterly.

Coa Illustration Cross Pierced quarter.svg Cross pierced quarterly

A cross pierced quarterly (or cross quarter pierced) has a square void at the intersection. c.f. cross pierced (no qualification), which shows a circular void. Media related to Crosses quarter pierced at Wikimedia Commons

Coa Illustration Cross Fitchy 2.svg Cross fitchy A cross fitchy has the lower limb pointed, as if to be driven into the ground.[1][2]
Cross-Crosslet-Heraldry.svg Cross crosslet

A cross with the ends of each arm crossed. A prominent early example is in the arms of the Beauchamp earls of Warwick. In early armory it is not always distinguished from a cross bottony. A variant is the cross crosslet double crossed,[3] with two bars crossing each arm, as in the arms of Robert Willoughby, 1st Baron Willoughby de Broke(d.1502) sculpted on his tomb at Callington Church, Cornwall. It appears in the canon of the arms and flag of the Episcopal Church.

Croix recroisetée au pied fiché.svg Cross crosslet fitchy

Shown here is a cross crosslet fitchy, a very frequent charge in British and French armory, appearing in the arms of the House of Howard, the Marquess of Ailsa, the Earl Cathcart, Macpherson of Cluny, Rattray of that Ilk, among many others. This is probably the most common form of the cross fitchy but others do exist, such as the crosses formy fitchy found between the antlers of the stag supporters of South Buckinghamshire District Council, England.

Cross Santiago.svg Cross of Saint James

The Cross of Saint James is similar to a cross flory fitchy, but is more sword-like. (The version shown on the left is the one used by the order of Santiago.) Found in the Scottish arms of Mulino from Venezuela (Scots Public Register volume 87, page 20) and in the coats of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain; and Caracas, Venezuela; Santiago de Tete, Mozambique.

Cross erminée.png Cross erminée

A cross erminée is a cross of four ermine-spots, with the heads meeting, sharing their spots. Historically borne by Hurston (Cheshire, England) c. 1490 and others[4]

Badge of the Order of Alcantara.svg Cross of Saint of Julian
Cruz de San Julián

Used by the Spanish Order of Alcántara

Cerdaña cross.png Cross of Cerdanya or Cruz de Cerdaña

Defined as a square set on one corner with a semi-circular notch in each side.

Cruz de Asturias.svg Victory Cross

The Victory Cross (Asturian and Spanish: Cruz de la Victoria) is an early 10th century Asturian Christian ornamented processional cross, which was, as an inscription says, made in 908 in the Castle of Gauzón (Avilés, Asturias, Spain). It is a crux gemmata or jewelled cross, given by King Alfonso III of Asturias, who reigned from 848 to 910, to Cathedral of San Salvador of Oviedo (Asturias, Spain).

There are numerous other variations on the cross in heraldry. See heraldry for background information.

James Parker's A Glossary of Terms Used in Heraldry (1894) is online, and contains much information about variants of crosses used in heraldry.


Several flags have crosses, including all the nations of Scandinavia, whose crosses are known as Scandinavian crosses, and many nations in the Southern Hemisphere, which incorporate the Southern Cross. The Flag of Switzerland since the 17th century has displayed an equilateral cross in a square (the only square flag of a sovereign state apart from the Flag of the Vatican City); the Red Cross emblem was based on the Swiss flag.

Sovereign state flags with crosses[edit]

Other selected flags and arms with crosses[edit]


  1. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Fitchy". New International Encyclopedia. 1905. 
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Fitché". Encyclopedia Americana. 
  3. ^ Terminology of Robson, Thomas, The British Herald
  4. ^ "A Glossary Of Terms Used In Heraldry By James Parker". Retrieved 2013-06-13.