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celtic cross

Celtic Cross on Pedestal

The Celtic Cross

If you’re not familiar with the beautiful Celtic cross and its origins, you should be. The popular form of it that most of us know are the elaborately designed stone versions called “high crosses.” 1 The intricate lace-like designs that cover these crosses are called Insular art and date back to the post-Roman history of the British Isles.2 We also see these  spirals, triskeles, circles and other geometric motifs appear in numerous illuminated manuscripts.

Some of the Christianized symbolism of the celtic cross rests in a legend involving Saint Patrick wherein he combined the common “sun cross” (a pagan symbol for the sun deity) with the Latin cross, so as to communicate the life-giving property of the cross as an instrument for our salvation.3



Crusader’s Cross [Jerusalem Cross]

The Crusader’s Cross (a.k.a the Jerusalem Cross) is formed by one large cross in the center and four small crosses, one in each quadrant. The “bars” on the four ends of the large cross are called “crutches” which are atypical of what were known as heraldic crosses.5 These crutches served to help Christians remember to trust “in the virtue and power of the cross.” As well, some believe the five crosses represent the Five Wounds of Christ, Christ and the four quarters of the world for which He suffered,  and Christ and the four evangelists, although this can’t be substantiated.6 It has been purported that Heraldic crosses were placed on shields during war to help those fighting distinguish a fellow soldier from the enemy.7


Benedictine Cross

This medal is deserving of a story to emphasize Christ’s power working through it. Back in my teen years, I purchased a scapular that coincidentally came with the Saint Benedict cross medal. In the small little zip-lock packet there were also paper instructions on how to get the medal installed or blessed. That summer, I was fortunate enough to have it blessed by a Benedictine priest. Now, if your not familiar with the claims made about this medal I will refresh you on them. On those paper instructions, it was claimed that the medal would protect those who wore it from storms, poison, and snakes. It’s not hard not to laugh when I look back on it but within days of getting the medal, I don’t think I’ve ever run into snakes so much in my life. In fact, at one point, I literally almost stepped on one while taking a walk! I also remember heading back to my house after doing some yard work and literally seeing a snake on the steps hissing at me and then slowly slipping beneath the cracks of the stairs! It was as if Satan himself was angry that I had such protection. Talk about the power of Christ!

There is so much awesome symbolism on this medal, I couldn’t possibly cram it all into this post. You can actually learn all about it through this great Saint Benedict Medal Poster from the Faith Explained Series at Catholic to the Max. Just to tease you, I’ll tell about the meaning of the letters surrounding the border of the back of the medal. The letters surrounding the edge of the reverse side of the medal are actually the initials of the Latin prayer of exorcism against Satan. The Latin, Vade retro Satana! Nunquam suade mihi vana! Sunt mala quae libas. Ipse venena bibas! means Begone Satan! Never tempt me with your vanities! What you offer me is evil. Drink the poison yourself!8


Tau Cross

The Tau Cross (as shown on the right) finds its origins in the book of Ezekiel, chapter 9, verse four where it says:

 “Go through the city of Jerusalem and put a TAU on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.” 9

The TAU is also the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, but within Christianity it’s significance came with the words of Pope Innocent III at the fourth Lateran council:

The TAU has exactly the same form as the Cross on which our Lord was crucified on Calvary, and only those will be marked with this sign and will obtain mercy who have mortified their flesh and conformed their life to that of the Crucified Savior.10


San Damiano Cross

The San Damiano cross is perhaps the most heavily symbolic cross that exists in the history of Christianity. The wide catalog of various imagery, people, events, and symbolism the San Damiano cross possesses is remarkable. It is truly an item worth meditating on for prayer as the different messages it communicates run deep.

The good folks at Catholic to the Max have added this cross to theirFaith Explained Poster Series. It provides a very engaging in-depth look at the cross by analyzing each of its elements. You can check it out here.

From the top to the bottom of the cross, there are a total of 33 figures on this icon, notably Mary, the mother of God, John the Beloved Apostle, Mary Magdalene, Mary Clopas, the Centurian,and numerous others. 11