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Patriarchal cross

The Patriarchal cross is a variant of the Christian cross, the universal religious symbol of Christianity. Similar to the familiar Latin cross, the Patriarchal cross possesses a smaller crossbar placed above the main one, so that both crossbars are near the top. Sometimes the patriarchal cross has a short, slanted crosspiece near its foot. This slanted, lower crosspiece often appears in Byzantine Greek and Eastern European iconography, as well as Eastern Orthodox churches.

The symbol, often referred to as the patriarchal cross, appeared in the Byzantine Empire in large numbers in the 9th century. In the Byzantine Empire of the 9th century, the double cross was not a religious, but a political symbol used by Byzantine clerks and missionaries.[citation needed]



A three-bar cross (black) inside a cross bottony (the letters are the Greek abbreviation for "Jesus Christ" - ΙΗΣΟΥΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ Iesous Christos).
Saint Stephen, the first King of Hungary (1000–1038). The most ancient element of the Coat of arms of Hungary is the double cross.
Serbian Tsar Stefan Dušan holding the patriarchal cross.

The top beam represents the plaque bearing the inscription "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" (often abbreviated in the Latinate "INRI", and in the Greek as "INBI"). A popular view is that the slanted bottom beam is a foot rest, however there is no evidence of foot rests ever being used during crucifixion, and it has a deeper meaning. The bottom beam may represent a balance of justice. Some sources suggest that, as one of the thieves being crucified with Jesus repented of his sin and accepted Jesus as the Messiah and was thus lifted into Heaven, the other thief rejected and mocked Jesus and therefore descended into Hell.

Many symbolic interpretations of the double cross have been put forth. One of them says that the first horizontal line symbolized the secular power and the other horizontal line the ecclesiastic power of Byzantine emperors.[citation needed] Also, that the first cross bar represents the death and the second cross the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Other variations

The Eastern Orthodox cross, with slanted cross-bar

The Eastern Orthodox cross (also known as Crux Orthodoxa, the Byzantine cross, the Eastern cross, and the "Russian" cross) can be considered a modified version of the Patriarchal cross, having two smaller crossbeams, one at the top and one near the bottom, in addition to the longer crossbeam. One suggestion is the lower crossbeam represents the footrest (suppendaneum) to which the feet of Jesus were nailed. In some earlier representations (and still currently in the Greek Church) the crossbar near the bottom is straight. In later Russian and other traditions, it came to be depicted as slanted, with the side to the viewer's left usually being higher.

One tradition says that this comes from the idea that as Jesus Christ took his last breath, the bar to which his feet were nailed broke, thus slanting to the side. Another tradition holds that the slanted bar represents the repentant thief and the unrepentant thief that were crucified with Christ, the one to Jesus' right hand repenting and rising to be with God, and one on his left falling to Hell and separation from God. In this manner it also reminds the viewer of the Last Judgment.

Still another explanation of the slanted crossbar would suggest the Cross Saltire, as tradition holds that the Apostle St. Andrew introduced Christianity to lands north and west of the Black Sea: today's Romania, Moldova, Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine.

Roman Catholic metropolitan archbishop's coat of arms (version with pallium)


Unicode defines the "Orthodox Cross" in the Miscellaneous Symbols range at codepoint U+2626.

See also



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