Black Cross

In heraldry, a black cross is known as a Sable Cross, named after the Eurasian martin, which supplies the luxury trade with a high-value glossy black fur.

Black Cross

Black Cross

For too long, "black" has been a synonym for "bad", and the luxury association with fur coats has made 'sable' a preferred alternative term in heraldry.

More recently in many cultures, however, sable fur coats have become synonymous with decadent and obscene self-indulgence.

Things are not always black and white. The Black Cross has symbolised both support of the State and anarchy. +ve and -ve.


In the Middle Ages, a Black Cross on a white background was the design for the Kroaz Du, one of the official flags of Brittany, a large peninsula in northwest France. The Duke of Brittany, Pierre Mauclerc, made peace with the Church by joining the crusade against the Albigenses and was awarded the Black Cross by Pope Gregory IX in 1236 or 1237. This became the standard of the Breton Army and was the national flag of Brittany until 1532.

The black Iron Cross (das Eiserne Kreuz) entered the German military some two hundred years ago, long before Hitler adorned it with a Swastika in WWII. Even though it was an egalitarian military decoration, it was awarded for bravery in battle or successful leadership. In other words, for remarkable efforts to support the State.


In contrast, the design has been adopted as the emblem of the Anarchist Black Cross, a human rights, anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian and anti-prison movement which admits to tolerating violent action to get its message across.

With the burgeoning prison population in the US and the disproportionate number of black inmates, there's a significant number of people who the movement consider to be incarcerated simply to achieve State social control and political repression. For the same reasons, the group also considers the death penalty to be an instrument of class repression, political constraint, and racial genocide. The Black Cross, therefore, reflects the struggle of coloured people. 

The movement began as a communist group known as the Anarchist Red Cross in Tsarist Russia but changed its name to avoid confusion with the Red Cross humanitarian organisation. For anarchists, the black colour symbolises dried blood, hunger, misery and death. The interpretation of the cross in their symbol, however, is not so straightforward.

anarchist symbol
anarchist symbol

The cross is universally seen as an emblem of Christianity and there are some people who label themselves as Christian Anarchists.

Rejecting State control, they believe that God is not merely the supreme authority, rather He is the only authority. Therefore they are anti-state, and even sometimes anti-Church, a hierarchical and dogmatic institution.. 

The Black Cross is not the normal identifying emblem for Christian Anarchists, rather they might merge the standard Anarchist symbol with a Latin Cross, borrow the Alpha-Omega Cross, or some other variation. Red and black are popular choices.

See also Black Death Cross.

It is interesting to note that scientifically, a black object absorbs all the colours of the visible spectrum

Biblical references supporting the Christian anarchist view: Matt. 4:8-10, 5:34, 7:1, 20:24-28, Mark 10:42-45, Acts 5:29, Gal. 3:27-28, Eph. 6:12, the whole book of Exodus from the Old Testament, plus Judg. 9:7-15 and 1 Sam. 8.

Biblical references opposing the Christian anarchist view: Mark 12:13-17, Rom. 12:8, 13:1-2, 1 Tim. 5:17, Heb. 13:17 and 1 Pet. 2:13-14.


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