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Cross Crosslets – Meaning and History of This Unique Cross Type

The cross crosslet is a unique and intriguing symbol that has been used throughout history in various contexts. Its distinctive design, with four crosses that extend outwards from a central point, has captured the attention of scholars, historians, and enthusiasts alike.

This cross has been used in heraldry, religious iconography, and even popular culture. Its rich history and symbolism make it a fascinating topic to explore, and understanding its significance can shed light on the beliefs and values of the cultures that used it.

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So, let’s delve deeper into the world of the cross crosslet and discover its meaning and symbolism.

What is the Cross Crosslet?

Cross Crosslet symbol

The cross crosslet is a type of Christian cross that features four arms of equal length (like the Greek cross), each of which ends in a smaller cross. These smaller crosses are often referred to as crosslets or crosslets fitchee. The cross crosslet has a long history, with examples of this design appearing in various forms of Christian art and architecture throughout the centuries.

It’s often associated with medieval Europe and has been used by various Christian denominations, including the Anglican and Lutheran churches.

The meaning and symbolism of the cross crosslet have varied over time and across different cultures, but it remains a significant and recognizable symbol of the Christian faith.

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History and Origin of the Cross Crosslet


The history and origin of the cross crosslet is not entirely clear, but it’s believed to have originated in Europe in the Middle Ages, possibly in France or England. The cross crosslet was commonly used in heraldry during this time period, appearing on coats of arms, shields, and other emblems.

The design of the cross crosslet may have been influenced by the Crusades, which occurred during the same time period. The shape of the cross crosslet resembles the shape of a medieval weapon called a crossbow, which was used by both Christian and Muslim armies during the Crusades.

The use of the cross crosslet in heraldry continued into the Renaissance and beyond, with various interpretations and variations of the design emerging over time. Today, the cross crosslet remains a popular symbol, appearing on flags, emblems, and other insignia around the world.

Symbolism of the Cross Crosslet


The symbolism of the cross crosslet is open to interpretation, as with many heraldic symbols. However, some possible interpretations include:

The four ends of the cross represent the four Evangelists or the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance).

The cross crosslet can also represent the spread of Christianity, as the arms of the cross extend outwards.

Another interpretation is that the cross crosslet symbolizes the suffering and martyrdom of early Christians, as the crosslets resemble nails used in crucifixion.

Ultimately, the symbolism of the cross crosslet may vary depending on the context in which it’s used.

Variations of the Cross Crosslet

There are several variations of the cross crosslet, each with its own unique meaning and symbolism, but all share a common theme of representing the Christian faith and its beliefs. Here’s a look at some of the most popular variations:

1. Patriarchal Cross Crosslet

This variation features three cross crosslets and a single upright post above the three arms of the cross. The single post is said to represent the inscription that Pontius Pilate had affixed to the cross of Jesus, while the three cross crosslets are symbolic of the Trinity.

2. Cross Crosslet Fitchee

This variation has a sharpened point at the bottom, which represents the crucifixion of Jesus. The design also features a small cross at the end of each arm of the cross crosslet, which is said to represent the four evangelists of the Christian faith.

3. Cross Crosslet Potent

This variation features potent (or crutch-shaped) ends. It was commonly used in medieval heraldry and is sometimes known as the “crutch cross” or “cross potent.” The potent ends symbolize strength and stability, while the overall shape of the cross is reminiscent of a shepherd’s staff or a bishop’s crosier.

4. Cross Crosslet Quadrat

This variation features a square shape with four arms of equal length, each of which ends in a cross crosslet. The square shape represents stability and balance, while the cross crosslets represent the Christian faith.

5. Cross Crosslet Moline

This variation features bifurcated ends that resemble a heraldic symbol called a moline, which looks like a cross with each arm split in half and ending in a shape resembling a rounded fork or a rounded letter V.

This type of cross is often associated with the Knights Hospitaller, a medieval Catholic military order. The cross crosslet moline is also found in the coats of arms of various families and organizations. The term “moline” comes from the French word “moulin” meaning “mill” and refers to the resemblance of the V-shaped points to the blades of a mill.

6. Cross Crosslet Trefoil

This is a unique variation of the cross crosslet. It features a trefoil, which is a symbol resembling a clover or shamrock, incorporated into the design of the cross. The trefoil is often seen at the end of each arm of the cross, giving it a distinct appearance.

This design has been used by various groups and organizations, including the Girl Scouts of the USA, who use a variation of the cross crosslet trefoil as their emblem.

Modern Use of the Cross Crosslet

Cross Crosslet-pendant
Cross Crosslet Pendant. See this here.

The cross crosslet remains a popular symbol in modern times and is often used in heraldry, especially in the UK. It has also been adopted by several military and government organizations as part of their insignia, including the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force.

In recent years, the cross crosslet has also gained popularity in fashion and design. It has been seen on everything from clothing to jewelry to home décor. In fact, the cross crosslet is often used as a decorative element in modern interior design, lending a sense of history and tradition to contemporary spaces.

The cross crosslet has become a popular tattoo design, often chosen for its elegant and intricate appearance. Many people choose to get the cross crosslet tattooed on their body as a symbol of their faith or as a nod to their heritage.

Overall, the cross crosslet’s rich history and striking appearance continue to make it a beloved symbol in both traditional and modern contexts.

Cultural Significance of the Cross Croslet

Flag with crosslet

The cultural significance of the cross crosslet is primarily tied to its historical and religious symbolism. As a Christian symbol, the cross crosslet represents the Holy Trinity and is associated with concepts such as faith, devotion, and sacrifice.

It is often used in religious iconography and artwork, as well as on flags, coats of arms, and other heraldic designs.

Beyond its religious significance, the cross crosslet has also been adopted by various organizations and institutions as a symbol of their identity and values.

For example, the cross crosslet is featured on the coat of arms of the town of Barrow-in-Furness in England and the logo of the US-based organization, Cross International, which works to alleviate poverty and support sustainable development in underprivileged communities.

Religious Significance of the Cross Crosslet

Crosslet Necklace
Crosslet Necklace. See it here.

The cross crosslet has deep religious significance, particularly in Christianity. Its shape, with its four arms of equal length, is reminiscent of the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified, serving as a symbol of his sacrifice and resurrection.

One interpretation of the cross crosslet’s design is that it represents the four evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – who spread the Gospel message to the four corners of the world. Another interpretation is that it symbolizes the four cardinal virtues – prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude – that Christians are called to embody in their lives.

In medieval Christian art, the cross crosslet was often used as a decorative element in illuminated manuscripts and religious paintings. It was also frequently incorporated into the design of church architecture and liturgical objects, such as chalices and crosses.

Today, the cross crosslet remains a popular symbol in Christianity, and it is often used as a design element in church logos, jewelry, and other religious items. It’s timeless design and rich symbolism continue to inspire and captivate people of faith around the world.

FAQs about the Cross Crosslet

What is the cross crosslet?

The cross crosslet is a type of Christian cross that has four arms of equal length with a shorter crossbar at the end of each arm.

What is the origin of the cross crosslet?

The cross crosslet has its roots in medieval Europe and was used by several different groups, including the Knights Templar.

What is the symbolism of the cross crosslet?

The symbolism of the cross crosslet includes the four directions of the compass, the idea of spreading the Christian faith, and the concept of self-sacrifice.

What is the difference between the cross crosslet and the cross pattee?

The cross crosslet has a shorter crossbar at the end of each arm, while the cross pattee has a wider crossbar that is flared at the ends.

What is the cross crosslet fitchy?

The cross crosslet fitchy has a pointed foot at the bottom of the cross, which symbolizes the idea of being “rooted” in the Christian faith.

What is the cross crosslet moline?

The cross crosslet moline has an additional crossbar on each arm that is angled in a “V” shape, resembling the tips of a plowshare.

What is the cross crosslet trefoil?

The cross crosslet trefoil has three rounded lobes at the end of each arm, which can symbolize the Holy Trinity.

What is the cross crosslet potent?

The cross crosslet potent has a T-shaped design on each end of the crossbar, which can represent the power of God.

Where can the cross crosslet be seen today?

The cross crosslet can be seen in various churches, flags, and coats of arms around the world, particularly in Europe and Latin America.

What is the significance of the cross crosslet in heraldry?

The cross crosslet is a common symbol in heraldry, often representing courage, faith, and devotion.

Wrapping Up

The cross crosslet is a fascinating symbol with a rich history and diverse cultural significance. Its unique design and variations have captured the imaginations of people for centuries and continue to be used in various contexts today.

Whether as a religious symbol or a decorative element, the cross crosslet remains a powerful representation of faith, courage, and perseverance.

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Yordan Zhelyazkov
Yordan Zhelyazkov

Yordan Zhelyazkov is a published fantasy author and an experienced copywriter. While he has degrees in both Creative Writing and Marketing, much of his research and work are focused on history and mythology. He’s been working in the field for years and has amassed a great deal of knowledge on Norse, Greek, Egyptian, Mesoamerican, Japanese mythology, and others.