Mobile phone versionWhat is this?

Heraldic Cross

Heraldry is the art form used to identify military and arms bearers, and a Heraldic Cross can be any shape or design.

Heraldic Cross

Pope Paul's Monogram
Arms of Pope John Paul II

Heraldry is the art form used to identify military and arms bearers. It is also used for what have become non-military, such as the Pope's Coat of Arms (an example of ecclesiastical heraldry), family crests, colleges, Masonic lodges, etc. A Heraldic Cross can be any of the designs shown on our main cross index and crosses on flags, and many more besides.

The original reason for painting or somehow marking a symbol on a shield or clothing was to recognise which side the warrior was on. A single colour and/or shape would have sufficed in most situations. These identification markings were later enhanced to show the rank of the bearer, and it wasn't long before logos became popular.

One such logo was the cross, especially for Christians fighting in the First Crusades, which puts the cross as one of the earliest heraldic ensigns. Military divisions of Christian nations would distinguish themselves with specific variations and/or colours of the cross.

St. James's Cross
St. James's Cross

There are several terms which can be used in describing differently named crosses. For example fitched, which means the lower arm of the cross is pointed in order to fix the cross in the ground (see example on the right). This cross is named as "St. James's Cross" but could also be described as a "Fitched Cross", and since each arm is floriated, it could also be called a Fleurie Cross.

Welcome to the muddled world of heraldry!

Fitched Cross

Alternative spellings of fitched are fitchy and the French fichée. Many heraldic terms have alternative spellings and this is NOT designed to flummox the uninitiated. There is no secret society of heraldologist boffins who want to keep their subject known to just an elite few. On the contrary; heraldry, by definition, is meant to advertise information about the arms bearer.

Heraldry took off in the Middle Ages in France at a time when there was little consensus of spelling (in French or English). Who knows, maybe fitchy, which means the cross is shaped like a sword so it can be thrust of fixed into the ground as a makeshift shrine or marker, was originally supposed to be fixy and the spelling mistake has stuck ever since.


Other Heraldic Crosses

Most descriptions of crosses are also cross names, for example the Fleur-de-lis Cross. See Alphabetical Index of Crosses for a complete list. (Well OK, maybe the list is not complete, but there are over 1,600 entries so there's a good chance you'll find what you're looking for.)

The number of different heraldic ordinaries and charges fill several volumes of heraldic reference books, some of which no doubt are featured in the random advertisements placed on this page by Google Ads. See All cross images for several hundred designs in our Cross Reference.