Mobile phone versionWhat is this?

Budded Cross

A stylised cross, common in heraldry as well as Christian iconography

The Budded Cross
also known as the Apostles' Cross, the Treflée, Botonée or Cathedral Cross

Budded Cross Budded Cross
Budded Cross Budded Cross
Budded Cross Budded Cross
Budded Cross Budded Cross
Budded Cross Budded Cross
Budded Cross Budded Cross
Just a few of the dozens of different Budded Cross permutations.

The Budded Cross may have a long stem or all four arms may have the same length. There may be one bud or several.

The arm edges may be straight, convex or oaccasionally concave.

Similarly the arm ends may be straight, convex or concave...

and innumerable other variations.

There is a huge variety of Budded Cross styles, all with slightly different meanings, to suit whatever purpose the church or other organisation may wish to convey.

The discs or circles at the ends of the arms may be spherical or rings, but in artwork they are usually assumed to be solid discs.

The Pagan use of the Celtic Cross is well known, where the circle or disc represented the sun. It is believed that design was copied by the early Christians in Europe.

A cross with three circles or discs on each arm in a Christian context represents the Holy Trinity but was probably also copied from earlier Celtic Druidry, where the circles or rings represent the three dominions of earth, sky and sea.

There are several names for this cross, depending on the interpretation. These include Budded, Apostles', or Cathedral Cross, all implying a religious theme, and Treflée or Botonée1 in a heraldic context.

In Abrahamic religious art, each arm of a Budded Cross may have one or more buds, three buds being the most common. Each arrangement can suggest different meanings:

  1. One bud reminds us of Aaron's staff that budded (see Num. 17) and was preserved in the Ark of the Covenant, showing that life can emerge from death, and renewed life can emerge from difficult circumstances.

    Or like the buds of a flower representing a journey of growth in faith; flowers growing but not yet in bloom.

  2. Full emblem
    (Click image to enlarge)

    Close-up of mitre

    Two buds make the cross arms look a bit like bones (see also Bones Cross).

    An example can be seen on the mitre in the emblem of the world's oldest national Church, the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church.

  3. Where there are three buds, we are reminded of the teachings in 1 Cor. 13: "Faith, Hope, Love; The greatest of these is love."2

    Christians are also reminded of the Trinity by these three buds, or indeed anything else with a triple design, such as the three-leafed clover3

    Since there are four arms, another name is the Apostles' Cross, with one bud for each of the twelve budding Christian apostles.4

    (Click image to enlarge)

    Triple-budded arms feature on the cross in the coat of arms for the Greek Orthodox Church of Constantinople (GOCC)

    A cross with three buds is often an identification mark on signboards and maps for a cathedral, hence it is occasionally named a Cathedral Cross. (Chapel and Church markers are usually less ornate, such as the Latin Cross.)

  4. It is less common to see four buds on each arm, but these, and the four arms themselves, remind us of the four Evangelists.

  5. Even more rare are five buds. Very decorative, and five reminds us of the five wounds suffered by Christ on the cross. (See Passion Cross)

Other terms and styles

Vrnjacka Banja
Vrnjačka Banja
, Serbia

Flag of Sumy Oblast, Ukraine
Sumy Oblast, Ukraine
(Click image to enlarge)

The terms Treflée Cross, Trefoil Cross, Botonée Cross or Bottony Cross are used more in heraldry than a religious context.

They are artistic variations of the Cross Crosslet and usually shown with all four arms the same length like the Greek Cross. Examples are seen on these two Eastern European flags.

Maltese Cross

The shape of the cross arm also has significance. The arm edges are usually either straight, to give more focus on the buds, or Pattée.

Pomme Cross

With larger discs, the cross may be referred to as a Pommee.

There is no standard to determine just how big each disc should be to qualify as a Pommee Cross, (similarly there is no requirement that all discs in a cross have the same diameter); just as there is no standard to determine how large a hill should be before it is called a mountain. But usually the discs are wider than the thickness of the cross arms.

Budded Cross ends

The arms ends can be straight across, concave, or convex, depending on whether the designer wishes to show the bud 'attached' to the arm (as in the concave arm end) or 'leaving' the cross (as in the convex arm end).

See also the related Obelisk, Annulet, Fleur de Lis, Nestorian and the Nasrani crosses.



Fleur de Lis
Fleur de Lis



1: Botonéess is a heraldic term from the French bouton. English: 'button' or 'knob', with various spellings; Bottony and Botonee being the most common. Other spellings include Botonny, Botonnée and Botonné, using mixtures of single and double 't', 'n' and 'e' (with or without an acute).
2: "Faith, Hope, Love; The greatest of these is love." A life of faith, hope and love is necessary to attain everlasting life in heaven. Once in heaven, our faith and hope will have served their purpose, since when the good things believed and hoped for come to fruition, the faith and hope ceases. Love will continue, but not in its earthly, human form. In Heaven, love will be made perfect and we will perfectly love God.
See also the 'lucky' Four-leaf Clover Cross Four-leaf Clover
4: Synonymous with apostle is disciple. (See also the Consecration Cross.)

These apostles and disciples are followers of Christ and usually spelt with an initial capital letter when referring to one of the original twelve Disciples. Of course, discipleship is not restricted to those twelve men. In Matt. 16:24 we all have an invitation to be a disciple of Christ. (For notes regarding the so-called Disciples' Cross used in fund-raising campaigns, see Cross of Hope.)