Toulouse Cross

also called Pisa, Cathar, Entrailed or Occitan Cross

Various names - Entrailed, Pisa, and also Cathar, Huguenot, Languedoc, Occitan - which are all French. Yet surprisingly, this is seldom called a French Cross.

Toulouse Cross

Toulouse Cross
Occitan flag of Midi-Pyrenees

The Toulouse Cross was adopted, probably in the 12th century, by the Count of Toulouse from the Occitan Cross. Toulouse is now the capital of Midi-Pyrénées and this cross appears on its flag.

Before the French Revolution, Toulouse was the capital of the Languedoc province. The Languedoc Cross is similar and was adopted by the Huguenots (see Huguenot Cross). Toulouse is the centre of Occitan culture and now the fourth largest city in France. And being also the European centre for the aerospace industry, the city is growing.


The Toulouse Cross is a voided cross (the centre section removed) of four spear-tips or arrow-heads (see also Fusilly Cross) and usually coloured yellow.

There are three blobs at the end of each arm, like the Pommee Cross or Budded Cross. The blobs extend beyond the edge of the cross, giving the name Entrailed Cross. The original purpose of these is unknown. They may have represented Jesus' twelve Apostles or perhaps rays of light emanating from the cross. Alternatively, they may simply have been rivets used to affix the handle on the reverse side of a shield, plus a few decorative rivets for balance.


Pisa Cross
Pisa Cross
Pisa coat of arms
Pisa coat of arms

An almost identical symbol is seen in the coat of arms of the municipality of Pisa in the Tuscany Region, northern Italy (see

Pisa is famous for its leaning tower, and also the apocryphal tale of Galileo Galilei dropping cannon balls of different masses from the tower to demonstrate that their speed of descent was independent of their mass. But the discs on the cross arms have nothing to do with cannon balls - the symbol predates Galileo by about 600 years and predates the tower by over 150 years. Neither were they used beat the daughters described by Edward Lear, rather they are probably the same as those described above for the Entrailed Cross.


The deeply religious yet rather sinister Cathars, also known as the Albigenses, lived in the Languedoc region from about 1100 to 1400. But to name this a Cathar Cross or Albigensian Cross is misleading.

The Cathars believed that Jesus was God's messenger, in human form, but not human. Consequently, they rejected the idea that Jesus' Crucifixion led to salvation. In short, the cross had no meaning for them. Indeed, they saw the cross as one of the idols worshiped by the Roman Catholics, the very people who were hunting them down as heretics.

The Catholic inquisitors spared the lives of Cathars who recanted their beliefs, but they were forced to identify themselves as undesirables by wearing a Yellow Cross on their garments – just as the Nazis forced Jews to identify themselves with a yellow star sewn onto their outer clothes. Nevertheless, the association with Cathars and the Languedoc region led to the name 'Cathar Cross'.

Since the Catholicism of those times was the cross the Carthari had to bear, perhaps it's not an entirely inappropriate symbol for them after all.

One of the most popular stories of the French Revolution; Les Misérables


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