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:
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.
- Bones Cross).
Two buds make the cross arms look a bit like bones (see also
An example can be seen on the mitre in the emblem of the world's oldest national Church, the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church.
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
Triple-budded arms feature on the cross in the coat of arms for the Greek Orthodox Church of Constantinople (GOCC) www.ec-patr.org/.
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.)
It is less common to see four buds on each arm, but these, and the four arms themselves, remind us of the four Evangelists.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.