Tau Cross

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Tau cross/Saint Anthony's cross/Saint Francis' cross
Tau cross variants
Crucifixion scene with a Tau cross, School of Brugge, late 15th or early 16th century

The Tau Cross is a form of the Christian cross symbol, named after the Greek letter it resembles.[1] It is also variously St. Anthony's Cross, Old Testament Cross, Anticipatory Cross, Cross Commissee, Egyptian Cross, Advent Cross, Croce taumata, Saint Francis's Cross, Crux Commissa.[citation needed]

The shape of the letter tau or T was interpreted as representing a crucifix from antiquity. The staurogram, from Greek ΣΤΑΥΡΟΣ "cross", was a tau-rho ligature used to abbreviate the Greek word for cross in very early New Testament manuscripts such as P66, P45 and P75.[2] The tau was also considered a symbol of salvation due to the identification of the tau with the sign which in Ezekiel 9:4 was marked on the forehead of the saved ones (וְהִתְוִיתָ תָּו עַל־מִצְחֹות הָאֲנָשִׁים "set a mark (tav; after the Phoenician cross-shape 𐤕) on the forehead of the men"), or due to the tau-shaped outstretched hands of Moses in Exodus 17:11.[2]

St. Anthony of Egypt bore a cross in the form of a tau on his cloak.[1] The Tau Cross is most commonly used in reference to the Franciscan Order and Saint Francis of Assisi, who adopted it as his personal coat of arms after hearing Pope Innocent III talk about the Tau symbol.[3] It is now used as a symbol of the Franciscan Order.



  1. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Paschal Robinson (1913). "Archæology of the Cross and Crucifix". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  2. ^ a b Hutado, Larry (2006). "The staurogram in early Christian manuscripts: the earliest visual reference to the crucified Jesus?". In Kraus, Thomas. New Testament Manuscripts. Leiden: Brill. pp. 207–26. ISBN 978-90-04-14945-8. 
  3. ^ "The Tau Cross – An Explanation". The Franciscans. franciscanfriarstor.com. Retrieved 2010-07-27. 


  • Webber, F.R. Church Symbolism, 2nd ed. Cleveland: J.H. Jansen, 1938.
  • Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament WordsCross, Crucify