Serbian tetragrammatic cross.
The symbols, and/or the cross itself, can also be depicted in gold.
|Heraldic tradition||Central and Eastern European|
The Serbian Cross is a national symbol of Serbia, part of the Coat of Arms of Serbia, and the flag of Serbia. It is based on, and almost identical to, the tetragrammatic cross emblem of the Byzantine Palaiologos dynasty, with the difference that in Serbian usage the cross is usually white on a red background, rather than gold on a red background (though it can be depicted in gold as well). It is composed of a cross symbol with four stylized letters beta (Β) on each of its corners.
The letters beta are sometimes interpreted as Cyrillic letters C (/s/), or as "firesteels" (ocilo), while Serbian tradition attributes to St. Sava, 12th century metropolitan of Žiča and Archbishop of Serbs, creation of the popular motto from those four letters, Only Unity Saves the Serbs (Serbian: Само слога Србина спасава/Samo sloga Srbina spasava). The actual origin of the beta (Β) symbols is with the Byzantine Empire, most often attributed to the motto of the Palaiologoi: King of Kings, Ruling Over Kings (Greek: βασιλεὺς βασιλέων, βασιλεύων βασιλευόντων; Basileus Basileōn, Basileuōn Basileuontōn).
Crosses with firesteels have been used since Roman times, as symbols, but not as coats of arms or emblems. Some historians connect it with the labarum, the Imperial flag of Constantine the Great (r. 306–337). In the 6th century the cross with four fields (with either letters or heraldry), tetragramme, appear on Byzantine coins. The symbol was adopted by the First Crusaders since the first event, People's Crusade (1096). Michael VIII Palaiologos (1261–1282) adopted the symbol when he resurrected the Byzantine Empire, with the initials (letters β) of the imperial motto of the Palaiologos dynasty: King of Kings, Ruling Over Kings (Greek: βασιλεὺς βασιλέων, βασιλεύων βασιλευόντων Basileus Basileōn, Basileuōn Basileuontōn). It was used in flags and coins. The symbol appear on the Imperial flag "Divelion" (διβελλιον), a naval war flag, used in front of all other banners, recorded by Pseudo-Kodinos (fl. 1347-1368) wrongly as "a cross with fire-steels" (σταυρον μετα πυρεκβολων), and depicted in the Castilian Conosçimiento de todos los reynos atlas (ca. 1350). As Alexander Soloviev writes, the use of letters in western heraldry is non existent. In the Middle Ages, both the Greek style, with "closed fire-steels" (β - B), and the Serb syle, with "open fire-steels" (C - S), were used in Serbia.
The four symbols surrounding the cross have thus been interpreted as either letters, or flints or firestones.
Stojan Novaković argues that the recorded use of the Serbian cross, as a national symbol, began in 1397, during the rule of Stefan Lazarević. It was possibly derived from a known candle chandelier from the Visoki Dečani. Serbian historian Stanoje Stanojević argues that it entered its use in 1345, with Dušan the Mighty's raising to a Serbian Empire.
The Serbian cross is found in the Korenić-Neorić Armorial (1595), which shows the coat of arms of Serbia (Svrbiae) as a white cross over a red background, with four firesteels, also depicting the Mrnjavčević noble house with the same design, with inverted colours and the Serbian eagle in the center of the cross. According to Mavro Orbini (1607), it was used by Vukašin Mrnjavčević (King, 1365–1371) and Lazar Hrebeljanović (Prince, 1371–1389). The Serbian cross then appeared on all Serbian coats of arms, except the Serbian coat of arms dated 1974, which had the cross removed, leaving four stylized S; this was done symbolically by the Yugoslav government to "socially curtail and politically marginalize religious communities and religion in general".
A modern interpretation, somethimes attributed to St. Sava is that the four symbols around the cross are Cyrillic letters С, an acronym of a slogan: "Only Unity Saves the Serbs" (Serbian: "Само Слога Србина Спасава" - "Samo Sloga Srbina Spasava"). An alternative is "Saint Sava - Serbian Patron" (Serbian: "Cвeти Caвa - Cpпcка Cлaвa" - "Sveti Sava - Srpska Slava").
Flag of the Serbian Orthodox Church
Cities and municipalities
- Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars
- Atlagic, p. 1
- Atlagic, p. 2
- Atlagic, p. 3
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- . p. 187 http://books.google.com/books?id=rqjLgtYDKQ0C&pg=PA187. "nations (in a symbolical sense as well, for example, by removing the cross from the Serbian coat of arms but keeping the four stylized esses), and to socially curtail and politically marginalize religious communities and religion in general." Missing or empty
- Posebna izdanja 295. Srpska Akademija Nauka i Umetnosti. 1957. p. 133.
- Velikonja, p. 299; footnote 19
- Atlagić, M. 1997, "The cross with symbols S as heraldic symbols", Baština, no. 8, pp. 149-158.
- Atlagić, M. 2007, "Dečanski polijelej", Baština, no. 22, pp. 245-250.
- Palavestra, A. "O ocilima", Glasnik SHD, June 1998
- Mitja Velikonja, Religious separation and political intolerance in Bosnia-Herzegovina, p. 299; footnote 19. Texas A&M University Press, 2003
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