Jerusalem cross

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The arms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, argent, a cross potent between four plain crosslets[1]
Godfrey of Bouillon as depicted in a late medieval fresco (Castello della Manta, Piedmont, Italy, c. 1420.)
The Jerusalem cross on a 1556 Testoon of Mary, Queen of Scots.

The Jerusalem cross, also known as Crusaders' cross or the "Five-fold Cross", is a heraldic cross or Christian symbol consisting of a large cross potent surrounded by four smaller plain crosses, one in each quadrant. It is not to be confused with the Lorraine cross, which has also been called the "Jerusalem cross".[2]

There are variants to the design, also known as "Jerusalem cross", with either the four crosslets also in the form of Crosses potent, or conversely with the central cross also in the form of a plain cross.[3]

Origins and classical heraldry[edit]

The design originates with the coat of arms worn by Godfrey of Bouillon during the First Crusade, and it remained in use as the arms of the King of Jerusalem throughout their duration (1099–1291).[1]

The symbolism of the five-fold cross is variously given as the Five Wounds of Christ, Christ and the four quarters of the world, or Christ and the four evangelists. The arms of the King of Jerusalem featured gold on silver, a metal on a metal, and thus broke the heraldic Rule of Tincture; this was justified by the fact that Jerusalem was so holy, it was above ordinary rules. The gold and silver were also connected to Psalms 68:14, which mentions a "dove covered in silver, and her feathers with yellow gold".[1] The symbolism of five crosses representing the Five Wounds is first recorded earlier in the 11th century, with the consecration of the St Brelade's Church under the patronage of Robert of Normandy (before 1035); the crosses are incised in the church's altar stone.

The Latin Empire of 1204–1261 used an extended variant of the Jerusalem cross, where each of the four crosslets was itself surrounded by four smaller crosslets (a "Jerusalem cross of Jerusalem crosses").

In late medieval heraldry, after the failure of the Crusades, the Crusader's cross was used for various Crusader states. The 14th-century Book of All Kingdoms uses it as the flag of Sebasteia. At about the same time, the Pizzigano chart uses it as the flag of Tbilisi (based on the latter example, the Crusader's cross was adopted as the flag of Georgia in 2004).

Carlo Maggi, a Venetian nobleman who had visited Jerusalem and was made a knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in the early 1570s, included the Jerusalem cross in his coat of arms.

There is a historiographical tradition that Peter the Great flew a flag with a variant of the Jerusalem cross in his campaign in the White Sea in 1693.[4]

Modern use[edit]

Red Jerusalem cross (Crusader flag) is an official national flag of the republic of Georgia.

A banner with a variation of the Jerusalem cross was used at the proclamation of the Revolution on Mount Pelion Anthimos Gazis in May 1821 in the Greek War of Independence.[5]

The papal Order of the Holy Sepulchre uses the Jerusalem cross as its emblem. It is also used by the Custodian of the Holy Land, head of the Franciscan friars who serve at the holy Christian sites in Jerusalem.

When Albert, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) visited Jerusalem in 1862, he had a Jerusalem cross tattooed on his arm.[6]

In the early 20th century, the Jerusalem cross also came to be used as a symbol of world evangelisation in Protestantism. A derived design known as the "Episcopal Church Service Cross" was first used during World War I by the Anglican Episcopal Church in the United States.[7] The Jerusalem cross was chosen as the emblem of the Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag (German Evangelical Church Congress) in the 1950s, since the 1960s shown in a simplified form where the central Cross potent is replaced by a simple Greek cross.[8]

The Jerusalem Cross has also been accepted to be an unofficial symbol of Christian Deism. It contains memory helps that point to twenty words that paraphrase the statements that Jesus used to describe the essence of his message. The 20 words are: "There is one God. I will love God with all my heart and love all others as I love myself." See Mark 12:28-31 and Luke 10:25-28 for two versions of Jesus' original statements. [9]

The Unicode character set has a character , U+2629 CROSS OF JERUSALEM in the Miscellaneous Symbols table. However, the glyph associated with that character according to the official Unicode character sheet is shown as a simple cross potent, and not a Jerusalem cross.


  1. ^ a b c William Woo Seymour, The Cross in Tradition, History and Art, 1898, p. 364
  2. ^ William Woo Seymour, The Cross in Tradition, History and Art, 1898, p. 356
  3. ^ The design with the crosslets as crosses potent is medieval, e.g. found in 13th-century stonework in the Nor Varagavank monastery, Armenia (image); another example is found in the Norman church at Bozeat, Northamptonshire, England (image).
  4. ^ this is apparently reported in an 1829 vexillological publication (Собрание штандартов, флагов и вымпелов, употребляемых в Российской империи ("Collection of banners, flags and pennants, used in the Russian Empire", St. Petersburg, 1829, reprinted 1833 (facsimile); the historicity of this is doubtful, c.f. Russian Navy: early flags (
  5. ^ [1][unreliable source?]
  6. ^ Hunt Janin , Four Paths to Jerusalem: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Secular Pilgrimages, 1000 BCE to 2001 CE, McFarland, 2002, p. 169.
  7. ^ A Prayer Book for the Armed Services: For Chaplains and Those in Service, Church Publishing, Inc., 2008, p. 10.
  8. ^ the standard version is depicted in this 1961 stamp, the simplified version in a 1963 stamp.
  9. ^ [2].

See also[edit]