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The Patriarchal, also known as the archiepiscopal cross or the crux gemina, is a variation of the Christian cross, believed to have originated during the Byzantine era. It’s the official heraldic emblem of archbishops of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Patriarchal cross is similar to the traditional Latin cross and to the Papal cross in design. However, while the Latin cross has only one crossbar and the Papal cross has three, the Patriarchal cross has two. The second crossbar is shorter in length and is located above the main crossbar, nearer to the top.
Meaning of the Patriarchal Cross
The exact meaning of the double cross is unknown. Unlike the Latin cross, which represents the cross on which Jesus was crucified and by extension symbolizes the significance of his death and victory over sin, the symbolism of the double-barred cross is not clear.
Here are some meanings associated with the Patriarchal cross:
- During Roman times, when people were crucified, a plaque with their name would be hung on the cross for all to see and identify the convicted person. The shorter crossbar on the Patriarchal cross is believed to represent the plaque which hung on the cross above Jesus, proclaiming to the world who he was, with the words “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”.
- The main crossbar represents secular power while the second bar represents the ecclesiastical power of Byzantine emperors.
- The first bar represents the death of Jesus while the second cross bar represents his resurrection and victory.
The Patriarchal cross features in the coat of arms of Hungary. It’s one of the national symbols in Belarus. It was also used by the Knights Templars during the Crusades.
Is the Patriarchal Cross the Cross of Lorraine?
There are numerous types of crosses in Christianity, that sometimes some crosses tend to overlap with others.
The Cross of Lorraine is also a two-barred cross, very similar to the Patriarchal cross. These two crosses are sometimes used interchangeably. However, the original version of the Cross of Lorraine features a bottom arm that’s much lower than that of the Patriarchal cross.