Cross of Saint Peter

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A Cross of Peter is an inverted Latin cross

The Cross of Saint Peter or Petrine Cross is an inverted Latin cross, traditionally used as a Christian symbol, but in recent times also used as an anti-Christian symbol. In Christianity, it is associated with the martyrdom of Peter the Apostle. The symbol originates from the Catholic tradition that when sentenced to death, Peter requested that his cross be upside down, as he felt unworthy of being crucified in the same manner as Jesus. The Petrine Cross is also associated with the papacy, reflecting the Catholic belief that the Pope is the successor of Peter as Bishop of Rome.

In Christianity[edit]

Peter's Cross on a Lutheran church

The origin of the symbol comes from the belief that Peter the Apostle was crucified upside down,[1] as told by Origen of Alexandria. The tradition first appears in the "Martyrdom of Peter", a fragmented text found in, but possibly predating, the apocryphal Acts of Peter, which was written no later than 200 A.D. It is believed that Peter requested this form of crucifixion as he felt he was unworthy to be crucified in the same manner that Jesus died. As such, some Catholics use this cross as a symbol of humility and unworthiness in comparison to Jesus.

According to Roman Catholicism, the pope is Peter's successor as Bishop of Rome. Therefore, the Papacy is often represented by symbols that are also used to represent Peter, one example being the Keys of Heaven and another the Petrine Cross.[2]

In popular culture[edit]

The inverted cross is a recurring motif in metal music. One well-known example is Glen Benton of the band Deicide who branded an inverted cross onto his forehead.[3]

Former Black Sabbath drummer Bill Ward suggested that the use of an inverted cross on the inner gatefold sleeve of their debut album by their label Vertigo may have been a promotional ploy or a misunderstanding of the nature of the group.[4]

Many horror films use inverted crosses as part of their imagery and marketing, especially if the film involves demonic themes.

In the music video for the Lady Gaga song "Alejandro", Gaga's robes featured inverted crosses over her crotch to resemble a penis.[5]

In the Chemin de la Croix by French composer Marcel Dupré, at the part where Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross, an inverted cross motif appears at bar 7 and then twice more before it is replaced with a pastoral theme.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Our Christian Symbols by Friedrich Rest (ISBN 0-8298-0099-9), p. 29
  2. ^ Olderr, Steven. Symbolism: A Comprehensive Dictionary, 2d ed. North Carolina: McFarland & Company. p. 62. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  3. ^ "The 50 Most Evil Songs Ever". Kerrang!. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  4. ^ O'Neill, Christine. "Bill Ward: Black Sabbath inverted cross was a promotional ploy", Louder Sound, August 26, 2016
  5. ^ Pickard, Anna. "Who's most offended by Lady Gaga's Alejandro?". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 July 2019.
  6. ^ Steed, Graham. The Organ Works of Marcel Dupré. Pendragon Press. p. 66. Retrieved 20 July 2019.

External links[edit]