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The History and Meaning of the Jerusalem Cross, or the Crusader's Cross

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The Jerusalem Cross is rich in symbolism and meaning and goes by many different names, including the Crusader's Cross.

This Jerusalem cross represents Christ's command to spread the Gospel around the world, a mission that started in Jerusalem. It was part of the coat of arms of the short-lived Jerusalem Kingdom (1099-1203 AD). It is a busy collection of five crosses and the most common interpretations are:

  • A combination of the Old Testament teachings (the four Tau Crosses) and the New Testament teachings (the four Greek Crosses)
  • The four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, with Christ in the center Christianity (central cross) broadcast by missionaries to the four corners of the world
  • Five crosses representing the five wounds of Jesus on the cross (small crosses for the hands and feet, and the large central cross for the spear wound in His side.  

The Crusaders cross is also sometimes referred to as the New Jerusalem Cross, focusing attention on the Divine and heavenly restoration of Jerusalem. New Jerusalem occurs twice in the New Testament.

The Jerusalem Cross is sometimes confused with the Teutonic Cross, assigned by Pope Innocent III to the Teutonic Knights near the end of the 12th century. It can also be confused with St. Julian's Cross.

The Jerusalem Cross is often called the Crusader's Cross because it was on the papal banner given to the crusaders by Pope Urban II in the Middle Ages. Not all these crusading knights were God-fearing Christians - for many it was just a job that would ensure they received rich payment back home. Just as the crusades of today, they were more about economic gains and spreading an empire than spreading Christianity.

Discovery of one of the first Jerusalem Crosses

This Jerusalem Cross was unearthed, by a team of American archeologists, in the hidden tomb of the first Christian King of Jerusalem. Scholars have found that the large central cross represents the strength of Christianity. The four smaller crosses represent the spread of Christianity to the four corners of the earth. And the red of the garnets represent God's sacrifice for man.

The simpler form of the cross is known as the "Crusaders' Cross", because it was on the papal banner given to the Crusaders by Pope Urban II for the First Crusade, and was a symbol of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. The four smaller crosses are said to symbolize either the four Gospels or the four directions in which the Word of Christ spread from Jerusalem. Alternately, all five crosses can symbolize the five wounds of Christ during the Passion. This symbol is also used in the flag of Georgia.

Sometimes the larger cross is in the form of a cross potent or a cross crosslet, and in this configuration is referred to as the "Jerusalem Cross" proper.