Religious Symbols: Different Types of Crosses and Their Meanings

different types of crosses and their meanings

Different religions use different symbols to signify certain aspects of their spirituality. In Christianity, the cross has been held in high regard. Christians consider it one of the most important religious symbols. Since the cross comes in many variations, this article seeks to discuss different types of crosses and their meanings.

History of the Christian Cross


As mentioned above, Christianity uses the cross as its primary symbol, signifying the instrument of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This cross is a three-dimensional symbol of the body of Christ as it was crucified on the cross. There are two main forms of crosses in Christianity: the Greek cross and the Latin cross.

However, there’s a vast body of proof that the cross existed many years before the emergence of Christianity. Many historians claim that the cross initially came from the ancient Babylonians and later spread to other countries including Egypt, Greek, Mexico, India, Syria, Latin, among others. Before Christianity, the crucifix was used in different parts of the world as an ornament.

In fact, the Egyptians, Syrians, Persians, Europeans, Greeks, and some Africans were using it as a religious symbol before Christianity. Therefore, the cross was already a universal symbol before Christians adopted it. But even in the pre-Christian era, the cross was mainly used for worship purposes.

The ancient cross came in two main forms: the svastika (fylfot) cross and the tau cross. The svastika cross resembles four Greek capital letters G put together, while the tau cross resembles the Greek capital letter T.

The tau cross was mainly associated with the pagans but it has since been adopted by Christians in Egypt where it’s now very common. It’s commonly referred to as the Egyptian cross.

The Roman Empire used the cross for executing capital punishment, where criminals and dissenters were hung on the cross in public places. This punishment was mainly meant to instill fear in the people and demand respect for the authorities and the rule of law.

After the crucifixion of Jesus, Christians believed that Christ died for their since and therefore they transformed the cross into a representation of God’s love and ultimate sacrifice.

In Christianity, the use of the cross as a spiritual symbol started during Constantine, which came three centuries after the birth of Christ. But it became more significant after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Before the crucifixion, Christians used the cross privately, and its purpose was mainly restricted. But it was not until Constantine that the cross was recognized as an important symbol of Christianity.

Modern Usage of the Christian Cross


Currently, the Christian cross is universally recognized as the emblem of Christianity. Most churches across the world have placed carved crosses on their rooftops, walls, door, and windows. Many Christians, especially Catholics, wear rosaries, rings, necklaces, and bracelets that have the cross.

Catholics also make the sign of the cross during worship by touching their foreheads, chests, and each shoulder. Many Christians use the sign of the cross to seek protection from harm and drive away evil spirits.

The Christian theology defines the cross as a symbol of God’s self-sacrificing love (agape), with its vertical and horizontal axis representing the two main teachings of Jesus Christ: the love of God and your neighbor.

The vertical dimension of the Christian cross represents the love of God while the horizontal dimension represents the love of your neighbor. But even with its inspiring religious meaning, the Christian cross continues to evoke mixed reactions across the world. It also has different interpretations among different groups, with some people associating it with violence and imperialism.

For instance, the cross evokes painful memories of the deadly campaigns against certain ethnic and religious groups like Muslims and Cathars. It’s also not lost on many people in the United States that the cross was used to inspire racist attacks against the people of color by the Ku Klux Klan. It’s also a symbol of aggressive missionizing in different parts of the world.

Also, many countries that are predominantly Christian have incorporated the cross in their flags, especially the Scandinavian countries and other nations in the South of the Hemisphere. Since the 17th century, the Swiss flag has always had an equilateral cross in a square.

This flag inspired the creation of the Red Cross emblem. The Georgian flag also has a red Jerusalem cross, which is also referred to as St. George’s cross.

19 Different Types of Crosses and Their Meanings

The cross is now one of the most popular symbols of religion and primeval history. Different religions, cultural groups, and civilizations have placed different meanings on the cross. If you want to buy women’s or men’s cross pendants, you also need to know the meanings beforehand. Here are the 19 different types of crosses and their meanings.

1. Greek Cross

Greek Cross

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The Greek cross was initially used by Christians for various purposes, but it has been adopted by many other religious and cultural groups. Although some of its aspects are similar to those of the Latin cross, it has several unique aspects including the four arms that are equal in length.

2. Latin Cross

Latin Cross

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Also referred to as the Crucifix, the Latin cross is the most common type of cross. It is commonly used by Christian to symbolize the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This cross is mainly defined by its long arm at the bottom.

3. Upside-Down Cross

Upside-Down Cross

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This cross is deeply rooted in Christianity. It signifies the martyrdom of Apostle Peter. Peter was one of the trusted disciples of Jesus Christ, and he wanted to be crucified upside-down. It’s a Latin cross placed upside-down.

4. Tree of Life Cross

Tree of Life

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This cross is a more basic form of the Tree of Life symbol that signifies several things, such as life, family, and ancestry. It shows how everything in the world is intertwined.

5. Tau Cross


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Also referred to as Saint Anthony the Abbot cross or Crux Commissar, this type of cross is reserved for Saint Anthony – a catholic saint who is referred to as the Father of All Monks.

6. Wooden Cross


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The Wooden cross is commonly used in Christianity and it holds the same meaning as the Latin cross. However, it has a deeper connection to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ than the Latin cross because Jesus was crucified on a wooden cross.

7. Maltese Cross


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Also, referred to as the “Eight Pointed” cross, this cross is very exclusive, especially since it’s made up of four unique V shapes. It is commonly associated with the Knights Hospitaller.

8. Celtic Cross


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Although the Celtic cross is similar to the Latin cross, it features a circle at the center of the four arms, which are equal in length. But it holds the same significance as the Latin cross in Christianity. The Celtic cross was commonly used in Ireland, France, and Great Britain between the 9th and 12th centuries.

9. Orthodox Cross


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This is the Orthodox alternative of the Latin cross and it signifies the crucifixion in the same manner as the Latin cross. However, the Orthodox alternative has additional details, including the slanted arm at the bottom that symbolizes the two thieves that were crucified at the side of Jesus Christ during the crucifixion.

10. Cross of Saint Aemilian of Cogolla

This cross signifies the saint it’s named after. Saint Aemilian lived between the 5th and 6th centuries in Spain.

11. The Coptic Cross


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This cross signifies the Coptic Catholic Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church. There is an older version of the Coptic cross which was straightforward with four T-shapes surrounding the cross with a circle in the middle. The latest version of this cross has more complex colors and shapes.

12. Marian Cross


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This cross is an alternative form of the Latin cross. However, this cross, which was invented by Pope John Paul II, comes with the letter M beside it or below it. This letter symbolizes Mary, who was present during Calvary.

13. Anchor Cross


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This cross is among the oldest types of crosses that are related to Christianity. However, several aspects separate it from other types of crosses, including the protrusions at the bottom that resemble the anchor’s hook.

14. San Damiano Cross

San Damiano

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This cross is a bit exclusive, especially because it’s the cross that Saint Francis of Assisi prayed to when he received instructions from God to reconstruct the Lord’s church. Therefore, this cross is highly treasured by the Franciscans.

15. St. Andrew’s Cross

St. Andrew

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Also referred to as Saltire, this cross signifies the crucifixion of Saint Andrew, the patron of Scotland. Its four arms are slanted because it’s believed that Saint Andrew was crucified in that manner.

16. Jerusalem Cross


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This is a unique cross with four small crosslets on either side of the main cross. It symbolizes Jerusalem’s coat of arms in the 1820s.

17. Templar Cross


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This cross was usually worn by knights. It represented their martyrdom when they died in combat. Knights believed that the cross sent them to heaven when they died in combat.

18. Egyptian Hieroglyph


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Also referred to as the “anch” or “ankh”, the Egyptian cross features a circlet at the top. In ancient Egypt, this cross symbolized life. That’s why it was commonly used in writings and illustrations.

19. Cross with Trilobed Terminals

This cross is commonly found in the Russian Orthodox churches. It features lobes that symbolize the Holy Trinity (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

Nicole Middleton
Nicole calls herself a typical millennial girl and thrives on her share of social media, celebrity gossip, and all things viral content. She’s a big fan of pop music and plays the guitar as a hobby.