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What Is Cross of Lorraine and What Does it Symbolize?

Often confused with the Patriarchal cross, the Cross of Lorraine is a two-barred cross, that comes in a few variations. It’s a popular variant of the Christian cross and is also known as the Cross of Anjou. Let’s take a look at several interpretations of the symbol, its origins, and how it’s used today.

History of the Cross of Lorraine

joan of arc on cross of lorraine medal
Joan of Arc on Cross of Lorraine medal. See it here.

The Cross of Lorraine comes from French heraldry, and goes back to the time of the Crusades. But we don’t really know when exactly it was created or for what purpose.

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By the time the time this specific two-barred cross comes on the scene, it’s in relation to Godefroy de Bouillon. He was the Duke of Lorraine, a historically contested region of France. He used the cross during the capture of Jerusalem in the 11th century. The cross was then passed on to his successors as heraldic arms. By the 15th century, the Duke of Anjou inherited it. It was only after this time that it became known as the Cross of Lorraine, representing the national unity of France.

Lorraine has hosted many wars and battles. During the Second World War, when Hitler took control of the region, General de Gaulle chose the cross as a symbol of French resistance against Germany. The cross was used as a symbolic reference to Joan of Arc, who was from the Lorraine region. She’s considered a national heroine of France, as she led the French army against foreign invaders. In this way, this cross became associated with French unity and identity.

How Is It Different from the Patriarchal Cross?

patriarchal cross vs lorraine cross

While the Cross of Lorraine is sometimes used interchangeably with the Patriarchal Cross, the two have some differences. The Patriarchal Cross has two bars nearer the top, with the upper bar being smaller than the lower bar.

The cross of Lorraine, however, has two bars of equal length. One is near the top and the other is near the bottom, placed equidistant from the center. However, while the original version of the cross of Lorraine consists of horizontal bars of equal length, in some versions, it can be seen with upper bar being shorter than the lower bar, resembling the patriarchal cross.

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There’s some speculation that the Cross of Lorraine originated from the Patriarchal Cross. According to the book The Secret Behind the Cross and Crucifix by the religious scholar Nwaocha Ogechukwu,, the cross was first used in ancient Samaria as an ideogram for rulership. However, it was eventually adopted for use as a Patriarchal cross, forming a part of the heraldic arms of an archbishop. Later, it was adopted as the emblem of the Knights Templars, a Catholic military order.

Symbolic Meaning of the Cross of Lorraine

The Cross of Lorraine has a long history, and has been chosen by various groups to represent various ideals. Here are some of its meanings:

  • A Symbol of Patriotism and Freedom: The Cross of Lorraine has remained a meaningful symbol for the French after it was used by General Charles de Gaulle during World War II. In fact, you can find the distinctive cross on the many French battlefields and war memorials.
  • An Emblem of Christianity: In religion, it can be regarded as another representation of the cross on which Jesus was crucified. The cross of Lorraine might be political in origin, but the thought that the symbol originated from the patriarchal cross, a variation of the Christian cross, associates it with the religious symbol for Christianity.
  • The Symbol of Global Fight against Lung Diseases: In 1902, the International Tuberculosis Congress adopted the cross of Lorraine for people to associate the fight against tuberculosis to a war, where the symbol represents French victories.

How Is the Cross Used Today?

jewelry design of cross of lorraine
A popular symbol for jewelry. Source.

Today, the Cross of Lorraine continues to inspire awe and respect. An impressive large Cross of Lorainne is dedicated to General de Gaulle. It stands tall in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises, Champagne-Ardenne.

In European heraldry, the cross can be seen on the coat of arms of Hungary, Slovakia and Lithuania. The symbol can also be seen in jewelry designs, such as necklace pendants, earrings, and signet rings.

In Freemasonry, the Cross of Lorraine is often interpreted as a symbol of god and religion. It’s known as a “patriarchal cross” within the fraternity and can be found in a variety of Masonic documents and regalia.

In Brief

The Cross of Lorraine is a deeply symbolic icon whose meanings and uses are as diverse as they are significant. From its roots in French history to its roles today, it is a fascinating symbol that continues to hold relevance in many different contexts.

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History and Meaning of the Patriarchal Cross

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Affiliate Disclosures
Dani Rhys
Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education, and has also studied Political Science, Ancient History and Literature. She has a wide range of interests ranging from ancient cultures and mythology to Harry Potter and gardening. She works as the chief editor of Symbol Sage but also takes the time to write on topics that interest her.