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The Jerusalem Cross

Take a look at our wonderful collection of antique pendant models ranging from a 15th Century Jerusalem cross to a Medieval Knights Templar crucifix!

Cross Jerusalem

The Jerusalem cross consists of a large central cross surrounded by four smaller crosses, one in each corner.

The Jerusalem cross is a Christian cross, a heraldic or wartime cross that originated in the 11th and 12th century when the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099, establishing Christianity in the area.

Also known as the Crusader cross, the Jerusalem cross dates back to the 11th and 12th century when the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099, establishing Christianity in the area.

It was used as the emblem and coat of arms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem since the 1280s, and during the Crusades as a symbol by which Christian crusaders could be easily recognized.

Jerusalem Crusader Cross

The Jerusalem Cross is often called the Crusader’s Cross because it was on the papal banner given to the crusaders by Pope Urban II at the start of the First Crusade in 1095.

Pope Urban II officially instituted a cross as a military distinction and as a reminder to Christian knights that they were fighting for a cause beyond them: the glory of God.

The Pope was responding to a request from the Byzantine Emperor for help in repelling the advancing Turks. The first Crusade ended with the retaking of Jerusalem by the Crusaders.

A Frankish who was one of the leaders of the Crusades, Godfrey de Bouillon, was a nobleman and one of the pre-eminent leaders of the first crusade. He was the first to use the Jerusalem Cross as a distinct symbol of the new Crusader state, known as the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem.

De Bouillon believed that the cross symbolized Jesus Christ and the city of Jerusalem which is the root of Christianity. As the arms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the design is traditionally attributed to Godfrey of Bouillon himself. 

It was not used, however, by the Christian rulers of Jerusalem during the 12th century. A simple blazon of or, a cross argent is documented by Matthew Paris as the arms of John de Brienne, who had been king of Jerusalem during 1210–1212, upon John’s death in 1237.

The emblem used on the seals of the rulers of Jerusalem during the 12th century was a simplified depiction of the city of Jerusalem itself, showing the tower of David between the Dome of the Rock and the Holy Sepulchre, surrounded by the city walls.

Coins minted under Henry I (r. 1192–1197) show a cross with four dots in the four quarters, but the Jerusalem cross as we know it today appears only on a coin minted under John II.

Jerusalem Cross Meaning Catholic

The Jerusalem Cross is often called the Crusader’s Cross because it was on the papal banner given to the crusaders by Pope Urban II at the start of the First Crusade in 1095.

Pope Urban II wished the people of Europe to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

This turned into a Crusade to liberate all of the Churches in the “East”, meaning present day Turkey east of the Bosporus, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Israel.

These lands had all fallen to invasions by the Seljuk Turks, who closed, desecrated, converted, or destroyed the Churches in those lands.

Jerusalem Cross Knights Templar

It was Pope Urban II who officially instituted the cross both as a military distinction and as a reminder to Christian knights that they were fighting for a cause beyond them: the glory of God. During the Crusades, the pope ordered that the sign of the Christian cross be cut from any piece of cloth to be sewn into the tunics and coats of those who went out to fight. However, all of these crosses were quite disparate: no indication of its shape or color was given.

The significance of the cross of the Knights Templar proudly wore on their tunics and armor in battle was that of martyrdom: this Christian symbol evoked the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

Jerusalem Cross Meaning

While the symbol of the five-fold cross appears to originate in the 11th century, its association with the Kingdom of Jerusalem dates to the second half of the 13th century.

The symbolism of the five-fold cross is variously given as the Five Wounds of Christ, Christ and the four evangelists, or Christ and the four quarters of the world. The symbolism of five crosses representing the Five Wounds is first recorded in the context of 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.

Jerusalem Cross in History

The “cross-and-crosslets” or Tealby pennies minted under Henry II of England during 1158–1180 have the “Jerusalem cross” on the obverse, with the four crosslets depicted as decussate (diagonal). Similar cross designs on the obverse of coins go back to at least the Anglo-Saxon period.

At about the same time, the cross of Jerusalem in gold on a silver field appears as the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in early armorials such as the Camden Roll. The arms of the King of Jerusalem featured gold on silver (in the case of John de Brienne, silver on gold), 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 68:13, which mentions a “dove covered in silver, and her feathers with yellow gold”.

The Gelre Armorial (14th century) attributes to the “emperors of Constantinople” (the Latin Empire) a variant of the Jerusalem cross with the four crosslets inscribed in circles. Philip of Courtenay, who held the title of Latin Emperor of Constantinople from 1273–1283 (even though Constantinople had been reinstated to the Byzantine Empire in 1261) used an extended form 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 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 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.

Symbol of the Jerusalem Cross

Historians note that the four crosses surrounding the large center cross represent the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Some see it as representing the Bible, with the Old Testament in the four Tau Crosses, the T’s that make up the center cross, and the New Testament’s four gospels in the smaller crosses.

Or, the main cross may represent the idea of Christ in the center of everything, surrounded by the four evangelists; Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Some believe that it represents Christ’s command to spread the Gospel around the world; a mission that started in Jerusalem which is represented by the large, center cross. In this interpretation, the four small crosses represent the four corners of the world, to which the good news of the Gospel was to be preached.

The four crosses also are believed to represent the four corners of the earth, in which Jesus desired His word to be proclaimed by His disciples. The large cross symbolizes Christ.

Other historians believe that the five crosses together symbolize the five wounds Jesus suffered on the cross. The four small crosses represent the four wounds of Jesus’ hands and feet, while the large cross signifies Jesus’ pierced heart.

 it is a potent symbol of the “Church militant”, where that term means the faithful here on earth who are struggling against sin, the devil, and “the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

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