A simple two-coloured heraldic cross, which gives a 3-dimensional illusion, evolves from one of the simplest shapes: the triangle.
By Paul Harding, with
thanks to Sean Wright
for his inspiration.
A heraldic Gyronny Cross in the style of a Greek Cross
A word with the prefix guro usually means rotation; gyroscope, gyrating, etc.
According to Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, gyron, in the language of heraldry, is:
"A subordinary of triangular form having one of its angles at the fess point and the opposite side at the edge of the escutcheon. When there is only one gyron on the shield it is bounded by two lines drawn from the fess point, one horizontally to the dexter side, and one to the dexter chief corner."
Now, the next really useful word to add to our vocabulary is gyronny. This is where we have more than one gyron. You can have as many gyrons as you wish (nobody will stop you). The dartboard, for example, has ten gyrons, and the shield shown beneath the dartboard has four.
Four gyrons form the centre of a Gyronny Cross (Fr: Croix Gironée). Extending the halves of neighbouring gyrons horizontally and vertically, results in a cross which gives a somewhat bevelled or 3-dimensional appearance. (See the Eastern Orthodox Cross is and other 3-D crosses.)
The Fitched Gyronny Cross, shown on the left, was kindly drawn for us by JS, an aeronautical engineer. (Click the image for a larger view.)
Perhaps more than any other drawing on this page, the Fitched Gyronny Cross has a three-dimensional appearance. As such, this form is often used to depict the Star of Bethlehem at Christmas.
The Gyronny Cross is found in several family coats of arms. In particular, it is displayed in the corporate colours (black and white) used by the Ordo Praedicatorum (Order of Preachers), also known as the Dominicans. (See Dominican Cross)
Another good example of a Gyronny Cross can be seen on the municipal flag of Covilhã, central Portugal.
A similar cross is used in the emblem of the small town of Zaprešić, Zagreb County, Croatia. Strictly speaking, since the centres of the blue and white crosses do not conform to the required triangular shape, giving them the illusion of depth, in heraldry this is called as the Counterchanged Cross.
But whether we call these a Gyronny Cross, Counterchanged Cross or whatever, doesn't really matter. As with all crosses, there is a deeper meaning than whatever is implied by its name.
As seen in their coat of arms, Croatians seem to love squares and symmetry, but the significance of the blue and white (or silver) is uncertain. The Zaprešić flag was designed when the place acquired its own township status, and this coincided with a visit to Croatia by the Marian Pope John Paul II to Croatia in 1994. So the colours may have been chosen in honour of the Virgin Mary, who is traditionally associated by blue and white.
The US Maryland State flag shows two such crosses, which could also be described as Botonée Crosses counterchanged.
This red and white cross was the coat of arms for the Crossland aristocrats in England, whose descendant, the English politician and coloniser George Calvert, sought a royal charter to settle the region of Maryland. His grandson, Leonard Calvert, became the first colonial governor of the state and his great-grandson, Cecil Calvert, became the first Proprietor of the colony. This led to the inclusion of the Crossland emblem in the Maryland flag in 1904. It is the only state flag in the US which is based on a British heraldic emblem.
Red and white happened to be 'secession colours', hence this cross became the banner for Confederate supporters in Maryland.
The word gyron is related to gore, which is a tapered quadrilateral or triangular gusset sewn into to piece of clothing, sail, etc., to increase the width or change the shape.
Depending on how you "see" things, this might not be a cross at all, but simply two solid blue squares, a blue "L" and an inverted blue "L".
To create this particular design, start with a blue cross on a white field, plus a white cross on a blue field. Then superimpose diagonally opposite quadrants from one to the other. Alternatively, copy'n'paste the image on the right!