What does this cross mean?
Of all the elements of this cross, the most significant is the six-armed symbol in the centre.
It is a variation of the six-armed iota-chi, a cross that is popular in royal awards such as the Ordre national du Mérite (National Order of Merit), the Order of St. Michael and St. George, and each arm is pattéed like the Maltese Cross.
The Iota-Chi is a symbol formed by the overlapping letters "I" and "X", a monogram of "Jesus Christ" (see Iota-Chi for details). As such it points to the Name of Christ moreso than to the Cross of Calvary.
The twelve blobs on the arm ends are similar to those found on the Occitan Cross. These refer to the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ and also to the 12 tribes of Judah (some say that the 12 Apostles and the 12 sons of Jacob are, together, the 24 beings before the Face of God and the Coptic Church has a feast-day in their honour.)
In the centre of each of the six arms is a symbol, which may suggest this particular piece was made for some other esoteric reason. In that case, the twelve blobs may be associated with the twelve houses of the Zodiac. Coupled with the six symbols on the cross arms, this may point to some relation with cartomancy, leading to the idea of a Secret Society, Templar or Masonic Order, and the green colour may be associated with rank. The whole piece is relatively large (about 5 cm x 7.5 cm) indicating ceremonial use rather than ordinary costume jewellery.
This central piece does rotate slightly so the arm position shown on the photo may not be the original position, but for our description of the six symbols below, we're showing the twelve tips of the pattée in the same arrangement as numbers on the face of a clock:
- On the arm pointing to 1 o'clock and 2 o'clock is a shield, implying protection
- On the arm pointing to 3 and 4 o'clock is a Greek Cross
- On the arm pointing to 5 and 6 o'clock is a Maltese Cross
- On the arm pointing to 7 and 8 o'clock is a diamond / lozenge
- On the arm pointing to 9 and 10 o'clock is a club / clover
- On the arm pointing to 11 and 12 o'clock is a disc
The items listed above have links to other pages on this site about their symbolism, which may or may not apply to this piece.
Finally, on the main four-armed cross, the finials at the arm ends appear as flames, a common theme in Christian symbols. (See Flaming Cross)
The flash from the camera makes the golden orb appear black.