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History and Meaning of the Patriarchal Cross

The Patriarchal, also known as the archiepiscopal cross or the crux gemina, is a variation of the Christian cross. It’s similar to the traditional Latin cross and to the Papal cross, but 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.

Where Does the Patriarchal Cross Come From?

Scholars believe that the Patriarchal cross originated during the Byzantine era, in the 9th or 10th centuries . It’s the official heraldic emblem of archbishops of the Roman Catholic Church.

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IFrom there, the double cross spread to the Western Church and was used in the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Hungary from the late 12th century. It’s one of the national symbols in Belarus and was also used by the Knights Templars during the Crusades.

Meaning of the Patriarchal Cross

patriarchal cross

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. However, there are several interpretations about its possible symbolism.

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 that hung on the cross above Jesus, proclaiming to the world who he was, with the words “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”, the INRI plaque. But this bar could also represent the ecclesiastical power of Byzantine emperors, noting it as second to God, while the long crossbar could represent his resurrection and victory. It could represent secular power or the death of Jesus.

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The Patriarchal cross can be broken down into the following meanings:

  1. Christ’s Dual Nature: The two crossbars can represent Christ’s dual nature as being human and divine. The larger cross symbolizes his divinity while the smaller one represents his humanity.
  2. Crucifixion and Redemption: The patriarchal cross symbolizes the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on a cross. As a cross, it’s a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and how he redeemed humanity through his death and resurrection.
  3. Divine and Ecclesiastical Authority: The Patriarchal cross can also represent the authority and leadership of high-ranking church officials, highlighting their role to guide and govern the faithful.
  4. Unity of Heaven and Earth: The vertical and horizontal elements of the patriarchal cross can symbolize the connection between the heavenly realm (vertical) and the earthly realm (horizontal). It represents the belief that through Christ’s sacrifice, heaven and earth are united, and humanity is reconciled with God.

Is the Patriarchal Cross the Same as the Cross of Lorraine?

patriarchal cross vs lorraine cross

There are many types of crosses in Christianity. Sometimes, some crosses tend to overlap with others, and similar looking crosses can be mistaken for each other. The Patriarchal Cross and Cross of Lorraine are sometimes confused and used interchangeably, but there are clear differences between the two.

The Cross of Lorraine is also a two-barred cross. However, the original version of the Cross of Lorraine features a bottom arm that’s much lower than that of the Patriarchal cross. They represent different things and hold significance in different contexts.

In terms of their origins, the Cross of Lorraine comes from France and Eastern Europe, and became a symbol of French patriotism, especially during World War II. However, today, the Cross of Lorraine is sometimes featured in the exact same way as the Patriarchal cross.

Wrapping Up

The Patriarchal Cross is a particular form of Christian cross that includes an additional horizontal bar or crossbeam above the main crossbeam, although it can vary in appearance. It’s a symbol of high-ranking bishops and patriarchs in the Catholic faith. The interpretation and usage of the Patriarchal Cross can vary among different Christian traditions and individual believers.

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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.