What Is Cross of Lorraine – History and Meaning

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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 is used today.

History of the Cross of Lorraine

Derived from French heraldry, the cross can be traced back to the Crusades, when Godefroy de Bouillon, the Duke of Lorraine, used it 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, and the icon became known as the Cross of Lorraine, representing the national unity of France.

Lorraine, a region of France, has hosted many wars and battles. In 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 and is considered a national heroine of France, as she led the French army against foreign invaders.

Cross of Lorraine vs. Patriarchal Cross

patriarchal cross vs lorraine cross

The cross of Lorraine is used interchangeably with the Patriarchal cross. However, the latter 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 near the top and one 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 renditions, it can be seen with upper bar being shorter than the other bar, resembling the patriarchal cross.

It is believed that the cross of Lorraine originated from the patriarchal cross. According to The Secret Behind the Cross and Crucifix, the cross was first used in ancient Samaria as an ideogram for rulership, but 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, 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.

Cross of Lorraine Uses Today

At Colombey-les-Deux-Églises in Champagne-Ardenne, you’ll find an incredible monument of the Cross of Lorraine, dedicated to General de Gaulle, as the commander of the Free French Forces. In European heraldry, it 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 Brief

In the past, the cross of Lorraine represented the national unity of France—and its historical significance regarded the two-barred cross as the symbol of freedom and patriotism in our modern times. Today, it continues to be used in Christian contexts and is a highly respected version of the Christian cross.