What does this cross mean?

(Puzzle 025)

This has been described as a Lorraine cross, but we offer an alternative description on this page

Mystery cross

American Hospital Association
AHA logo
Blue Cross
Blue Cross logo
Cape button
(Click any image to enlarge)

This cross was noticed on early logos of the American Hospital Association (AHA), the Blue Cross and on the button of a nurse's cape. The cross may look like the silhouette of a jet fighter but these logos pre-date such technology by several decades.

Blue Cross

The AHA website describes the cross as a Lorraine ( but we question this because usually the Lorraine Cross arms are either of equal length, or the shorter arm is above the main crossbeam.

Worthy of note are the aiguisé (equilateral triangles) at the top and bottom of the vertical, the sharper points (isosceles right triangles) of the main crossbeam, and the square ends of the shorter crossbeam. More usually, a cross has the same style for each member, so what is the significance of these different ends?

We had a couple of suggestions:

  • In the context of a hospital, the upper arm ends might represent scalpels, and the upper and lower points of the vertical may represent suture needles. These implements are used for the opening and closing of surgery.

    (No explanation for the lower beam.)

...and moving from medical to spiritual:

  • The upper arm ends might represent wings, not of a jet fighter, but of a sin fighter - the dove, which is often used to symbolise the Holy Spirit.

    Those angled ends align with the triangle of the pointed 'cap' of the cross, so it forms another, larger triangle, perhaps a symbol of the Holy Trinity.

    The lower, smaller bar could represent the hilt of a sword. The Trinitarian sign combined with a sword leads us to the 'Sword of the Spirit', mentioned by Paul: "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Eph. 6:17).

    Those three words (Spirit, Word, God) appear frequently when considering the Holy Trinity, and yet the symbols are not to be viewed as simply religious abstract forms. The helmet is protective armour, prepared for us by God and meant to be worn. The sword is not for combat against human enemies, but against evil; evil in all its forms - hatred, jealousy, envy... And the cross is there to remind us of what it's all about.

Viking coin
(Click to enlarge)

All quite plausible, but for us the most likely interpretation from Dr Alex Roman, who explains that this is a form of the Templar Cross, granted to them by Rome and which was often inscribed on their shields and other things.

The lower bar is simply the foot-rest of Christ, as is to be obtained in Eastern Orthodox Crosses. Thus the symbol is sometimes seen in Templar regalia, copied perhaps, from relics such as the coin shown on the right.

The lower beam is known as a suppedaneum. See Suppedaneum Cross for more details.

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