Crowns are often spiked, like rays of the Sun. This is no coincidence, since crowns have long been associated with power bestowed on the wearer by the ancient Sun god. Thus they are worn by royalty and those in supreme authority, and granted to those who deserve to wear them.
Several parts of the Bible1 give promises of the ultimate crown to all who are worthy. Interestingly, the first reference in the Bible to 'thorns' is when God created them as punishment to Adam for his disobedience. Christ accepted the crown of thorns as a symbol of sin and punishment to atone for our sins.
The crown of thorns was an attempt by the soldiers to mock Jesus, as they also did by placing a scarlet robe over Him and a rod to hold as a sceptre2. (See also Arms of Christ.) The crown of thorns also reminds us that whilst we might suffer on earth (bear our cross); the ultimate reward to those who believe in Christ will be eternal life in heaven (our crown).
The cross with the crown is sometimes depicted at an angle (see St. Gilbert's Cross), as it would have been when Jesus dragged it up the mound at Golgotha. The crown in this symbol can be in the normal wearing position, as shown in the lower image on the left, or up-ended, as in the upper image on the right and similar to the circle in a Celtic Cross. Whether the cross is adorned with a crown studded with jewels or a rough crown of thorns, the message is the same. (See Unique Crucifixion by Rev. David Linde).
For some Christian monks, it used to be common to shave the crown of the head leaving a circle of hair known as a tonsure. There were several reasons for this and one was to remind the wearer of the crown of thorns.
A relic of the crown believed to have been worn by Jesus is currently housed in Notre Dame, Paris, and has been identified as Zizyphus Spine Christi. This species of thorny bush still grows around Jerusalem.
In various religions, a skull cap (kippah, taqiyah, turban, etc.) may be worn as a mark of humility. For priests, as a mark of their temporal responsibility, headgear is invariably more distinctive and the mitre is a good example of this. In some churches, especially Eastern, the mitre of an archbishop takes the shape of a crown. This is often topped with a small standing cross of whatever style is associated with the denomination.
The crown symbolises the sovereignty of Christ and sometimes features on the coat of arms of churches, including:
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The cross and crown symbol is used by several churches; Baptist, Lutheran and Catholic, for example. However, the symbol is not exclusively Christian – it is also used by the Freemasons3, and from there became a logo for both the Christian Scientists4 and the Jehovah's Witnesses. A related heraldic cross is the Engrailed Cross.