In this article, we will examine one of the most popular Christian cross variants of history; the Jerusalem cross. Here is everything you need to know about the origin and history of the symbol known as the cross of Jerusalem as well as meanings and symbolism associated with it.
The Origin and History of The Jerusalem Cross
Also known by many other names such as the crusader cross, the cross and crosslets, the Cantonese cross and the five-fold cross, the Jerusalem cross is a symbol that originated in the 11th century.
The symbol was commonly associated with the Crusader state called the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem established by Godfrey of Bouillon at the end of the 11th century after the First Crusade. Some sources suggest that Godfrey actually adopted the Jerusalem cross as his personal coat of arms.
Later, it became the official coat of arms for the kingdom by the end of 13th century almost a decade before its fall in 1291 with the loss of Acre after it was destroyed by Memluks.
The Appearance and Variations of The Crusader Cross
The Crusader cross is a heraldic cross with a cross potent in the center with four Greek crosses between each of its arms/in each of its quadrants.
A ‘cross potent’ is a cross with arms that have horizontal crossbars at the end (think of a cross made of four capital ‘T’ letters).
That said, this is only the main variation of the symbol.
Some other variations display all five crosses in the symbol as crosses potent or the main cross in the center as a Greek cross and smaller ones as crosses potent. There is also a fourth variant where all the crosses are shown as Greek crosses.
The Jerusalem Cross Meaning And Symbolism
There are several interpretations regarding the meaning and symbolism behind the Jerusalem cross. The most common one is about the Five Holy Wounds of Jesus Christ.
The Jerusalem Cross and The Five Holy Wounds of Jesus Christ
It is believed by many people that the five crosses comprising the Jerusalem cross represent the five wounds suffered by Jesus Christ when he was crucified by the Romans.
While smaller crosses represent the wounds caused by the nails on his hands and feet, the main cross in the middle represents the wound caused on his side (or heart according to some sources) by the Holy Lance, also known as the Spear of Destiny and the Lance of Longinus, when a Roman soldier stabbed him to make sure he is dead.
Spreading The Word of Jesus Christ
According to another interpretation, the Crusader cross represents Jesus’s command to spread the Gospel around the world. While the four crosslets symbolize the four corners of the world, the cross potent in the center represents Jerusalem where the mission of spreading the Word of Christ began, although some sources suggest that it actually represents Jesus Christ himself.
Jesus Christ and The Four Evangelicals
Another similar interpretation suggests that the main cross represents Jesus Christ while the four crosslets represent the four evangelicals who wrote the gospels, namely, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
As A Symbol of The Old and New Testaments
Some people believe that the cross of Jerusalem symbolizes the Bible. The cross potent in the middle, which is considered to be made of four tau crosses (in the shape of T letters), is seen as the representation of the Old Testament while the four crosslets are seen as the representation of the New Testament and its four gospels.
The Five Crusader Nations
The five-fold cross is also considered to be the symbol of the five nations involved in the Crusades, namely, France, Great Britain, Italy, Spain and Germany.
Modern Uses of The Five-fold Cross
Today, perhaps the most popular use of the five-fold cross can be seen on the national flag of Georgia that was adapted from the historical flag of Tbilisi (the capital of the country) and officially introduced in 2004.
It is also featured on the coat of arms of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, also known as the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre or the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, a Catholic order of knighthood under the protection of the Holy See of Rome.
This wraps up our post on the cross of Jerusalem, its origin, history and meaning. If you liked this article, you will probably enjoy reading our detailed piece covering all the different variations of the cross symbol here. Thanks for reading with us!