Cross Symbol Meaning Throughout Cultures & History

Cross Symbol Meaning

The cross, in its most basic form, displays two perpendicularly intersecting beams. There are many different versions of the cross symbol, but the most popular has one line extending longer than the other – the shape we’ve used the most in our cross collection. No matter its avatar, cross symbol meaning recalls faith and a connection to divine belief.

Seen in the four directions that are created by the cross, the history of the symbol has traversed storied ideas, from violence to rebirth. While we tend to associate the cross with Christianity, it actually holds deep association in other cultures around the world as well. 

What holds true across its history and interpretations is that the cross symbolizes in physical form the intersection of humans with the divine, giving us the chance to cherish and protect our sacred relationship with our spirituality and faith.

Start Your Journey Here: Shop Our Cross Wall Blessings & Jewelry

Cross Symbol Meaning Throughout History

Although its important to remember that the cross has significance well beyond the Christian belief system, its history in this faith provides fascinating insight to how our recognition of the cross developed over time.

Early Form

In order to discuss the history of the cross, we must enter into its inception when it didn’t hold the most positive connotations (but don’t worry, we’ll get to the symbolism we know today in just a bit).

Before the cross symbol meaning intersected with the divine, it actually had a cursed, crude connotation. While modern forms of the cross may take tiny, though no less significant, shapes – as seen on the delicate Faith Keeper Cross Necklace – in the early Roman Empire, crosses had no need to morph into small forms.

Crosses in this time were wearable, unfortunately, in a very different fashion. Criminals carried the patibulum, or the cross’ horizontal beam from prison to the execution grounds where they were hoisted onto the vertical beam and fastened there in a grotesque manner. These criminals had been convicted of severe crimes and sentenced to death by crucifixion.

The cross then was seen as an offensive, vulgar sign reserved for evil doers. It had a pagan significance as anyone acting immorally could not possibly respect the divine – predominantly understood as a cosmic world of gods and goddesses.

Its foray into Christianity ties to the law against practicing what the Roman emperor considered a “religion for fools.” Those practicing Christianity faced punishment, and its influence and dissemination eventually led to the punishment of death.

Cross Symbol Bracelet

Connection to Jesus

Thus enters the figure of Jesus Christ in connection to cross symbol meaning. In the Biblical telling, Jesus was sentenced to death for preaching about a single deity separate from those in Roman tradition.

For Christians, Jesus’s death marked the true moment of salvation and unification with God. The subsequent events that led to his resurrection define much of the Protestant belief.

Some forms of the cross seen today still bear the representation of Jesus on a cross. In this case known as a crucifix, it can be seen in churches, as amulets, even as tattoos. It bears a message of sacrifice and humility to stay the course on a spiritual life.

Christian Tradition

Cross symbol meaning has been carried forth into many different variations through the centuries. Some 2000 years ago, Greek tradition used the Tau cross, emblematic of the Greek letter and last letter of the ancient Jewish alphabet. In a T-shape lacking an upper vertical beam, the symbol meant that God’s complete message had been delivered to the earth. 

Most commonly, we recognize the Latin or High cross, first traced to between the second and third centuries. Its lower vertical beam extends much longer than the others, replicated in the Sacred Stability Cross Charm Necklace. This form suggests the steadfast commitment we make to maintain our faith, whether in Christian belief or other forms of the spiritual divine.

Holy Bible

In Christianity, the symbol continued to take on new forms. In recognition of Jesus’s apostle, or follower, Peter, the Cross of St. Peter or the upside-down cross is just that, displayed upside down. According to writings, Peter refused crucifixion in the same style as his revered leader, Jesus, and insisted on execution upside down. Hence, this symbol is worn upside down, connecting to the idea of humility and sacrifice. 

Another commonly recognized rendition of the cross is that of the Knights Templar. Usually, the beams of this cross are all of equal length, and at the end of each segment, the beams flare out into a bugle-like form. An icon for the Knights Templar, they wore it as a symbol that represented their willingness to die as martyrs.

Cross Symbol Across Cultures

The cross has a fascinating history in the Christian faith, but its application in other cultures reveals its rich significance and diverse meanings.

Other Belief Systems

Cross symbol meaning has had a firm hold in ancient cultures as far back as Egypt. The Ankh cross was found drawn in ancient hieroglyphs – its bulbous loop makes the top vertical beam while the rest of the shape takes the traditional Latin cross form. It is believed that this version carries the meaning and essence of eternal life.

In other regions of northern Africa, a form of the Coptic cross can be found that shows the central form of the cross, but with each end separating into 3 points. For Coptic Christianity, a form of Orthodox Protestantism also found in Ethiopia and Eritrea, these points represent the 12 disciples of Jesus.

It is a typically ornate emblem of the cross, which is why we’ve used a slightly softened version for our wall blessings, like the Ultimate Believer Cross Wall Blessing and the Leap of Faith Cross Wall Blessing

Celtic culture may have used the cross to symbolize Odin, the god for the Northmen of Ireland or the Celtic region. This version features a cross with a circle surrounding the point of intersection. While it has largely dropped its ties to Norse mythology within Celtic culture, it still serves to link to and celebrate a person’s Irish heritage.

In some cases, the meaning of the cross has been corrupted from its original symbolism and belief system to represent negative, immoral ideas. In Hinduism, a cross-like symbol with perpendicular beams attached at the end of each segment caught the eye of a historic villain. The Indian swastika showed the intersections of the divine and humans but became a symbol of the Nazi party in World War II. 

Political Symbol

While it can’t be completely separated from faith-based meaning, the cross has found significance in political connotations as well. The Maltese cross, an eight-pointed cross that replaces beams with arrow-shaped segments, came into use in Jerusalem and the island of Malta for the Knights Hospitaller. The 8 points stood as reminders of the Beatitudes, words spoken by Jesus Christ as blessings and examples for humble, moral living. 

It later served as a symbol of the Republic of Amalfi, now a coastal city in Italy. The cross passed through various other applications and has found its way on flags, seals, and other stamps to represent schools, nations, and militaries. For example, in the United States, the Maltese cross was once used in aviation training and on helipads as a distinct shape visible from the sky. 

Cross Necklace

Final Thoughts 

To discuss cross symbol meaning requires peeling back layers of overlapping meaning and history that have imbued this simple shape with powerful resonance. Throughout its use in history, the cross has bridged us to the divine realm so that we can feel secure in our spirituality and willing to live a life of intention and purpose protected in faith and belief.

Start Your Journey Here: Shop Our Cross Wall Blessings & Jewelry

You May Like

How to Shop and Give Back at the Same Time This Holiday Season
16 Men’s New Arrivals for Fall 2021 & Beyond: Ignite Strength, Authority & Style
Our Black Friday Shopping Guide for Spiritually-Centered Gifts
Sexy, Optimistic Sagittarius Season: How Will It Affect Your Zodiac Sign?
How to Use Spiritual Symbols to Live With Intention
10 Top Gifts for Your Kids: From Baby to Teenager, They'll Feel Protected & Loved

Share Your Thoughts

Por favor tenga en cuenta que los comentarios deben ser aprobados antes de ser publicados

0 / 600