Jerusalem cross based on a cross potent (as commonly realised in early modern heraldry)

The Jerusalem cross (also known as "five-fold Cross", or "cross-and-crosslets") is a heraldic cross and Christian cross variant consisting of a large cross potent surrounded by four smaller Greek crosses, one in each quadrant. Heavily popularized in the crusades, it was used as the emblem and coat of arms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem from the 1280s. It still continues to be used by Anglicans, Episcopalians, and conservative Catholics today.

There are variants to the design, also known as "Jerusalem cross", with either the four crosslets also in the form of Crosses potent, or conversely with the central cross, also in the form of a plain Greek cross.[1] It is not to be confused with the Lorraine cross, which has also been called the "Jerusalem cross".[2]


Jerusalem cross on a silver coin of James II of Cyprus (1463–1473)
Jerusalem cross of five Greek crosses (late medieval variant)
The conventional arms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem[3]
Depiction of the Jerusalem cross on a red (rather than silver) shield as the arms of Godfrey of Bouillon in a 14th-century miniature.[4]
Godfrey of Bouillon as depicted in a late medieval fresco
The flag of Georgia.

While the symbol of the five-fold cross appears to originate in the 11th century, its association with the Kingdom of Jerusalem dates to the second half of the 13th century.

The symbolism of the five-fold cross is variously given as the Five Wounds of Christ, Christ and the four evangelists, or Christ and the four quarters of the world. The symbolism of five crosses representing the Five Wounds is first recorded in the context of the consecration of the St Brelade's Church under the patronage of Robert of Normandy (before 1035); the crosses are incised in the church's altar stone.

The "cross-and-crosslets" or Tealby pennies minted under Henry II of England during 1158–1180 have the "Jerusalem cross" on the obverse, with the four crosslets depicted as decussate (diagonal).[5] Similar cross designs on the obverse of coins go back to at least the Anglo-Saxon period.[6]

As the arms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, the design is traditionally attributed to Godfrey of Bouillon himself.[3] It was not used, however, by the Christian rulers of Jerusalem during the 12th century. A simple blazon of or, a cross argent is documented by Matthew Paris as the arms of John de Brienne, who had been king of Jerusalem during 1210–1212, upon John's death in 1237.

The emblem used on the seals of the rulers of Jerusalem during the 12th century was a simplified depiction of the city itself, showing the tower of David between the Dome of the Rock and the Holy Sepulchre, surrounded by the city walls. Coins minted under Henry I (r. 1192–1197) show a cross with four dots in the four quarters, but the Jerusalem cross proper appears only on a coin minted under John II (r. 1284/5).[7]

At about the same time, the cross of Jerusalem in gold on a silver field appears as the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in early armorials such as the Camden Roll. The arms of the King of Jerusalem featured gold on silver (in the case of John de Brienne, silver on gold), a metal on a metal, and thus broke the heraldic Rule of Tincture; this was justified by the fact that Jerusalem was so holy, it was above ordinary rules. The gold and silver were also connected to Psalms 68:13, which mentions a "dove covered in silver, and her feathers with yellow gold".[3]

The Gelre Armorial (14th century) attributes to the "emperors of Constantinople" (the Latin Empire) a variant of the Jerusalem cross with the four crosslets inscribed in circles.[8] Philip of Courtenay, who held the title of Latin Emperor of Constantinople from 1273–1283 (even though Constantinople had been reconquered by the Byzantine Empire in 1261) used an extended form of the Jerusalem cross, where each of the four crosslets was itself surrounded by four smaller crosslets (a "Jerusalem cross of Jerusalem crosses").[9]

Classical heraldry

In late medieval heraldry the Crusader's cross was used for various Crusader states. The 14th-century Book of All Kingdoms uses it as the flag of Sebasteia. At about the same time, the Pizzigano chart uses it as the flag of Tbilisi (based on the latter example, the Crusader's cross was adopted as the flag of Georgia in 2004).

Carlo Maggi, a Venetian nobleman who visited Jerusalem and was made a knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in the early 1570s, included the Jerusalem cross in his coat of arms.

There is a historiographical tradition that Peter the Great flew a flag with a variant of the Jerusalem cross in his campaign in the White Sea in 1693.[10]

Modern use

A banner with a variation of the Jerusalem cross was used at the proclamation of the Revolution on Mount Pelion Anthimos Gazis in May 1821 in the Greek War of Independence.[11][unreliable source?]

When Albert, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), visited Jerusalem in 1862, he had a Jerusalem cross tattooed on his arm.[12] German Emperor Wilhelm II visited Jerusalem in 1898 and awarded the Jerusalem-Erinnerungskreuz (Jerusalem Memorial Cross) order in the shape of a Jerusalem cross to those who accompanied him at the inauguration of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem.

In the early 20th century, the Jerusalem cross also came to be used as a symbol of world evangelisation in Protestantism. A derived design known as the "Episcopal Church Service Cross" was first used during World War I by the Anglican Episcopal Church in the United States.[13] The Jerusalem cross was chosen as the emblem of the Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag (German Evangelical Church Congress) in the 1950s, since the 1960s shown in a simplified form where the central Cross potent is replaced by a simple Greek cross.

The modern flag of Georgia was introduced in 2004 on the basis of the flag of Tbilisi shown in the Pizzigano chart.

The papal Order of the Holy Sepulchre uses the Jerusalem cross as its emblem, in red, which is also used in the arms of the Custodian of the Holy Land, head of the Franciscan friars who serve at the holy Christian sites in Jerusalem, and whose work is supported by the Order. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, affiliated with the Order, also uses the Jerusalem cross in its emblem.[14]

The Jerusalem cross is also the symbol of Kairos, a four-day Jesuit retreat that is held for youth in high schools and parishes around the world. The four crosses are used to symbolize the motto of the retreat, "Live the fourth".

The Unicode character set has a character ☩, U+2629 CROSS OF JERUSALEM in the Miscellaneous Symbols table. However, the glyph associated with that character according to the official Unicode character sheet is shown as a simple cross potent, and not a Jerusalem cross.

Frequency selective surfaces

The Jerusalem cross is often used in frequency selective surface applications. The Jerusalem cross is an attractive choice for the periodic element because such a choice makes the frequency selective surface less sensitive to angle of incidence.[15]

See also


  1. ^ The design with the crosslets as crosses potent is medieval, e.g. found in 13th-century stonework in the Nor Varagavank monastery, Armenia; another example is found in the Norman church at Bozeat, Northamptonshire, England.
  2. ^ William Woo Seymour, The Cross in Tradition, History and Art, 1898, p. 356.
  3. ^ a b c William Wood Seymour, The Cross in Tradition, History and Art, 1898, p. 364
  4. ^ BNF Français 22495, fol. 78; the same ms. also has the Jerusalem cross in a silver field (fol. 36) and in a blue field (fol. 115).
  5. ^ T.C.R. Crafter,A re-examination of the classification and chronology of the cross-and-crosslets type of Henry II, British Numismatic Journal 68.6 (1998), pp. 42–63 and plate 6; see also: Richard Kelleher, Kings and Coins in Medieval England VI - Henry II's Cross-and Crosslets coinage (1158–80), (February 2014), Figs. 10, 11, 14, 17–20.
  6. ^ Edward Hawkins, The silver coins of England (1841), plate 1 (facing p. 8), no. 12: pre-Roman British coin: a cross with the four letters C, R, A, B placed in the four quadrants; plate 3 (facing p. 16), no. 36: early Saxon sceat: diagonal cross with four dots in the four quadrants, no. 47: cross crosslet superimposed on a diagonal cross; plate 4 (facing p. 18); plate 5 (facing p. 22) no. 66: penny of Offa of Mercia: cross with four dots in the four quadrants (etc.)
  7. ^ Hubert de Vries, Jerusalem ( The design is also found on coins minted under his successor, the last king of Jerusalem, Henry II (
  8. ^ No.1484. Die Keyser v. Constantinopel gules, a cross or, in each canton a crosslet in an annulet of the same.
  9. ^ Hubert de Vries, Byzantium: Arms and Emblems ( (2011).
  10. ^ This is apparently reported in an 1829 vexillological publication (Собрание штандартов, флагов и вымпелов, употребляемых в Российской империи ("Collection of banners, flags and pennants, used in the Russian Empire", St. Petersburg, 1829, reprinted 1833; the historicity of this is doubtful, c.f. Russian Navy: early flags (
  11. ^ "The banner of Anthimos Gazis, 1821". Mailink SA. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  12. ^ Hunt Janin, Four Paths to Jerusalem: Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Secular Pilgrimages, 1000 BCE to 2001 CE, McFarland, 2002, p. 169.
  13. ^ A Prayer Book for the Armed Services: For Chaplains and Those in Service, Church Publishing, Inc., 2008, p. 10.
  14. ^ "Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem". Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Retrieved 2024-03-27.
  15. ^ Melais, Sergio E.; Cure, David; Weller, Thomas M. (2013). "A Quasi-Yagi Antenna Backed by a Jerusalem Cross Frequency Selective Surface". International Journal of Microwave Science and Technology. 2013: 1–8. doi:10.1155/2013/354789.