also known as the Khachkar Cross or Siroun Cross
In the early years of the 4th century, Armenia became the first country to accept Christianity1. It is not surprising then that the Armenian Cross mirrors some of the designs favoured in those days: vines and floral swirls.
The winged Armenian Cross has a busy design where the lower shaft is usually just slightly longer than the arms and top, and each member is always seen with the distinctive double tips. An alternative name is the Siroun Cross. Siroun (pronounced "see-roon") is a girl's name in Armenian and means lovely. On the original stone crosses (Khachkar) we invariably see intricate carving, like the interlacing pattern seen in Celtic knots. Apart from the distinctive 'wings', Armenian Cross designs are quite individual.
This cross is sometimes confused with the Snowflake Cross and simpler versions of the Armenian Cross can be confused with the fishtail St. John's Cross. There are a similar forked heraldic crosses, like the Croix Fourche, or crescents, as in the Croix Croissant (known in witchcraft as the Lunate Cross), which in turn are similar to the Teutonic Cross. But on the Armenian Cross we see no forks or crescents. In fact, rather than moons, we can often see Suns.
The cross is usually shown without a corpus. At the end of each arm is usually a small disc (sometimes more than one, as seen in the example above) and each of these are suns, which represent the light of Christ. In the Armenian Church this symbol is emphasised during morning services. The intersection of the bars signifies the four corners of the world meeting at life's centre.
Whether the Khachkar is used by the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Armenian Catholic Church or the Armenian Evangelical Church, the cross always features the double-tipped arms. These eight points, as with the St. John's Cross, represent the eight beatitudes2. Multiples of eight are significant in Armenian church architecture. The churches are built on sixteen pillars, consecrated to the twelve apostles and four evangelists, and the churches are often topped with an octagonal dome.
But all these interpretations of the cross design are relatively recent. The cross is truly ancient and was used by Armenian Pagans long before Christians adopted the cross in the 9th century.
Old Pagan fertility dragon stones (vishapakar) can be seen in Armenia near lakes, rivers and springs, where they represent the Tree of Life and the biblical Garden of Eden. These fish-shaped vishapakars were carved and erected thousands of years before the Christian khachkar stones.
Although the vishapakars evolved into khachkars, the fish tail was retained along with its Tree of Life and Wisdom interpretation. An addition was the equilateral geometry which symbolizes harmony. (See also Sacred Geometry.) Such geometry is typical of Caucasian art, as seen in the Kazak nomad's horse rug on the right.
Sadly, in the past few years, invaders have looted and vandalized many khachkars, destroying thousands of these stone treasures.