The papal cross is a Christian cross, which serves as an emblem for the office of the Pope in ecclesiastical heraldry. It is depicted as a staff with three horizontal bars near the top, in diminishing order of length as the top is approached. The cross is thus analogous to the two-barred archiepiscopal cross used in heraldry to indicate an archbishop, and seems to have been used precisely to indicate an ecclesiastical rank still higher than that of archbishop. In the past, this design of the cross was often used in ecclesiastical heraldry as a distinctive mark of his office. It was often merely an artistic device, as use of a staff or crosier was not part of the traditional papal insignia. However, at least one staff surmounted with a papal cross does exist.
Symbolism connected with the papal powers have been attached to the three crossbars, similar to the symbolism attached to the three bands on the papal tiara.
- Bühren, Ralf van: Kunst und Kirche im 20. Jahrhundert. Die Rezeption des Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzils (Konziliengeschichte, Reihe B: Untersuchungen), Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh 2008 (ISBN 978-3-506-76388-4)
- Pope John Paul II carrying a ferula from the time of Leo XIII, with three horizontal bars near the top
- "The Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff: The Staff". Holy See Press Office. Retrieved 2013-05-23.