Cross Potent – The Heraldic Basis Of The Jerusalem Cross

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There are many cross symbols out there, as many as there are kingdoms and noble lines in Medieval Europe. Here we’ll talk about the cross potent.

This is a cross that’s more a form of cross design that has been used for many other types of crosses, rather than a type of cross in and of itself. 

What is the Cross Potent? 

cross potent symbol

The cross potent is also called a “crutch cross” because potent is basically a late Middle English alteration of Old French potence or “crutch”. In French, it’s called croix potencée and in German, it bears the melodic kruckenkreuz

What stands behind all those names, however, is a simple and symmetrical cross with short crossbars at the ends of each of its arms. This design differs from the traditional Christian or Latic cross that has a shorter horizontal line that sits near the upper end of the longer vertical line.  

red potent cross patch
Simple cross potent patch. See this here.

As for the short crossbars of the cross potent, those don’t seem to have a specific meaning or symbolism and are there mostly for style and aesthetics rather than anything else. 

The simplicity of the cross potent is also its strength, as it has been used by many other types of crosses throughout the ages, from the cross emblems of individual knights or nobles all the way to the famous Jerusalem Cross. This is also a form of cross potent, with four small Greek crosses between each pair of arms. 

Wrapping Up 

The term cross potent may not be well known, but it can be commonly seen used in other types of crosses. The shape has also been found in various pottery decorations and used as a motif.

In Christianity,  the cross potent has been used in Byzantine coins dating back to the 7th century. The cross potent continues to be used in various state symbols, coins, logos, and insignias.  

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.

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