Maltese cross

The Maltese cross is a cross symbol, consisting of four "V" or arrowhead shaped concave quadrilaterals converging at a central vertex at right angles, two tips pointing outward symmetrically.

It is a heraldic cross variant which developed from earlier forms of eight-pointed crosses in the 16th century. Although chiefly associated with the Knights Hospitaller (Order of St. John, now the Sovereign Military Order of Malta), and by extension with the island of Malta, it has come to be used by a wide array of entities since the early modern period, notably the Order of Saint Stephen, the city of Amalfi, the Polish Order of the White Eagle (1709) and the Prussian order Pour le Mérite (1740).

Unicode defines a character named "Maltese cross" in the Dingbats range at code point U+2720 (); however, the code point is usually rendered as a cross pattée.

Cross of the Order of St. John.


Knights hospitaller
Grand Master Pierre d'Aubusson with senior knights, wearing the "Rhodian cross" on their habits. Dedicatory miniature in Gestorum Rhodie obsidionis commentarii (account of the Siege of Rhodes of 1480), BNF Lat 6067 fol. 3v, dated 1483/4.
Alter Zuerichkrieg Vermittlung Johannes Loesel
Johann Loesel, grand prior of the langue of Germany, shown with the eight-pointed cross on a flag and his habit in his role as mediator in the Old Zürich War in February 1446 (illustration of Gerold Edlibach's chronicle, c. 1500)
San Giovannino dei Cavalieri stemma Cavalieri di Malta
Emblem of the Military Order of Malta on the facade of San Giovannino dei Cavalieri, Florence (1699).
Grandmasters Palace Valletta n04
Fresco on the ceiling of the main corridor in the Grandmaster's Palace in Valletta (Nicolau Nasoni 1724)

The Knights Hospitaller during the Crusades used a plain Latin cross. Occasional use of an "eight-pointed cross" by the order begins in the early 14th century. This early form is a cross moline (ancrée) or cross branchée ending in eight points, not yet featuring the sharp vertex of the modern design. The association of the eight-pointed cross with the southern Italy coastal town of Amalfi may go back to the 11th century, as the design is allegedly found on coins minted by the Duchy of Amalfi at that time.[1]

Eight-pointed crosses appear on coins minted by the Grand Masters of the order, first shown embroidered on the left arm of the robe of the kneeling Grand Master on the obverse of a coin minted under Foulques de Villaret (r. 1305–1319)[2] In 1489, the statutes of the oder require all knights of Malta to wear "the white cross with eight points".[3]

Emergence of the sharp vertex of the modern "four-arrowhead" design is gradual, and takes place during the 15th to 16th century. The "Rhodian cross" of the early 16th century had almost, but not quite, achieved the "sharp arrowhead appearance". The fully modern design is found on a copper coin dated 1567, minted by Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette (r. 1557–1568).[4] In 1577, Alonso Sanchez Coello painted Archduke Wenceslaus of Austria as Grand Prior of the Order of Malta wearing the emblem on his robes.

The design appears appears again on coins minted in the late 17th to 18th centuries. It is shown on a copper coin dated 1693, minted under Grand Master Adrien de Wignacourt.[5] From the end of the 17th century, it is also occasionally displayed as alternative heraldic emblem of the order. Its depiction on the facade of San Giovannino dei Cavalieri dates to 1699.

Johanneskyrkan sigill

Early form of the eight-pointed cross (cross fourchée), seal of the provost of St John's church, Stockholm, dated 1526.

Václav Habsburský

Portrait of Archduke Wenceslaus of Austria wearing the habit of the Order of Malta (Alonso Sánchez Coello 1577)

Detail in der St. John's Co-Cathedral, Valetta, Malta Nov 2014

Ornamental Maltese cross on the ceiling of St. John's Co-Cathedral, Valletta, Malta (Mattia Preti, 1660s).

Gregorio Carafa

Portrait of Grand Master Gregorio Carafa (1680s)

Maltese grano 1726 131240

Maltese grano (1726)

Malta grano 1734 131242

Maltese grano (1734)


The Maltese cross as defined by the constitution of the Order of St. John remains the symbol of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, of the Order of Saint John and its allied orders, of the Venerable Order of Saint John, and of their various service organisations.[6] Numerous other modern orders of merit have used the eight-pointed cross.[6] In Australia, the eight-pointed cross is part of the state emblem of Queensland.

The eight points of the eight-pointed cross have been given a number of symbolic interpretations, such as representing the eight Langues of the Knights Hospitaller (Auvergne, Provence, France, Aragon, Castille and Portugal, Italy, Germany, and the British Isles).[7] or alternatively the "eight obligations or aspirations" of the knights:[7]

Websites operated by both the German Order of Saint John (Johanniterorden) and the British Venerable Order of St John associate the eight points with the Eight Beatitudes. An undated leaflet published by The Venerable Order's main service organisation, St John Ambulance, has also applied secular meanings to the points as representing the traits of a good first aider:[8]

Modern use

Republic of Malta

The Maltese cross is displayed as part of the Maltese civil ensign. The Maltese euro coins of 1- and 2-euro denomination carry the Maltese cross. It is also the trademark of Air Malta, Malta's national airline.

The Maltese cross was depicted on the two-mils coin in of the Maltese lira, and on the reverse of one- and two-Euro coins introduced in January 2008.[9]

Military and civil orders

Cross of saint stephen
Cross of the Order of Saint Stephen, founded in 1561
Cross of saints Maurice and Lazarus
Tilted Maltese cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, founded in 1572 as an amalgamation and successor of the Order of Saint Lazarus with the Order of Saint Maurice, founded in 1434.

Regional and municipal heraldry

Flag of the Republic of Amalfi
Flag of the city of Amalfi.


In 1967, flight tests were conducted at Fort Rucker, Alabama, to determine the most highly visible and effective way to mark a helipad.

Twenty-five emblem designs were tested, but the emblem depicting four blurred rotor blades, referred to as the "Maltese cross", was selected as the standard heliport marking pattern by the Army for military heliports, and by the FAA for civil heliports.

However, in the late 1970s, the FAA administrator repealed this standard when it was charged that the Maltese cross was antisemitic.[11] In the United States today, some helipads still remain bearing their original Maltese cross emblems.

The eight-pointed cross is also used to identify the final approach fix in a nonprecision instrument approach (one that lacks precision vertical guidance), in contrast to the use of a lightning bolt-type icon, which identifies the final approach fix in a precision approach.


Several orders that are descended from the original Order of St John set up first aid and ambulance services. These also incorporated the Maltese cross into their logos:


USVA headstone emb-64 (Maltese Cross)
USVA headstone emblem 64
Bermuda Regiment badge
The badge of the British Army's Bermuda Regiment combines the eight-pointed cross of rifle regiments with elements from that of the Royal Artillery.
Blason ville uk Saint-Jean (Jersey)
Coat of arms of Saint John, Jersey
  • In the United Kingdom, the eight-pointed cross is the symbol used by rifle regiments, and has been incorporated into the badges of virtually all rifle units, including the cap badge of the Bermuda Regiment, officers' cross belt of the Gurkha Rifles[12] and now amalgamated, the Royal Green Jackets.
  • The first postmark employed for the cancellation of the then new British postage stamps in the 1840s was the shape of an eight-pointed cross and named accordingly.
  • The eight-pointed cross appears on the shirts of St Mark's FC (West Gorton), the forebears of Manchester City Football Club.
  • The eight-pointed cross is the insignia of Methodist College Belfast, and it appears on the blazers of the sixth-form pupils as its crest.
  • The eight-pointed cross is also the symbol of Neath Rugby Football Club.
  • It is the symbol of the Royal Shrewsbury School Boat Club, displayed on the oars and uniform of the 1st VIII.
  • It is a symbol used by the ATOC on rail tickets which allow travel on the London Underground between London Rail Terminals (e.g., between Euston and Victoria), when passengers are travelling via London. Alternatively, where the destination of the ticket is a London Travelcard Zone, the inclusion of the cross allows a passenger to undertake one single or return journey to any station within that zone from the London Terminal station at which they arrived.
  • The eight-pointed cross with eagle, globe, and anchor in the center is used for the sharpshooter badge in the United States Marine Corps.
  • Malta Boat Club, a sculling club on Philadelphia's Boat House Row, uses the eight-pointed cross as its logo.
  • Phi Kappa Sigma, an international all-male college secret and social fraternity, uses an eight-pointed cross as its symbol.
  • The Yale University School of Nursing uses the eight-pointed cross on its official shield.
  • The Crossmen from San Antonio, Texas use the eight-pointed cross as their logo.
  • The VFW, a military veteran's organization, uses the eight-pointed cross in its official emblem.
  • In US York Rite Freemasonry, the Knights Templar (Freemasonry) use the eight-pointed cross in the Order of the Knights of Malta.
  • The Military Division of the Kappa Alpha Order, composed of members serving in or honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces, uses an eight-pointed cross in the colors of The Order.
  • The Drummoyne Rowing Club, a rowing club in Sydney, Australia uses the eight-pointed cross as part of its logo.


The "Maltese cross flower" (Lychnis chalcedonica) is so named because its petals are similarly shaped, though its points are more rounded into "heart"-like shapes. The flower Tripterocalyx crux-maltae was also named for the Maltese cross.[13] The Geneva drive, a device that translates a continuous rotation into an intermittent rotary motion, is also sometimes called a "Maltese cross mechanism" after the shape of its main gear.

Similar crosses

Standard form of the cross pattée
FlorianCross 1
Cross of Saint Florian, often mistaken for a Maltese cross

Eight-pointed crosses have been adapted for use in the cross of Saint Lazarus and as part of the flag of Wallis and Futuna. It has been the official badge (combined with an ellipsoid in the center) of the Delta Phi Fraternity since 1833. A similar cross is also used by the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization.

A variant of the Maltese cross, with three V-shaped arms instead of four, was used as the funnel symbol of the Hamburg Atlantic Line and their successors German Atlantic Line and Hanseatic Tours in 1958–1973 and 1991–1997.

A five-armed variant is the "Cross" of the French Legion of Honour (Croix de la Légion d'honneur).

A seven-armed variant, known as the "Maltese asterisk", is used as the basis of Britain's Order of St Michael and St George.

Other crosses with spreading limbs are often mistakenly called "Maltese", especially the cross pattée. The royal warrant which created the Victoria Cross prescribed a Maltese cross, but the medal has always in fact been a cross pattée. The official symbol of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity is the cross pattée, though the organization's founder thought it was a Maltese cross when the organization was formed in 1865. The Nestorian cross also is very similar to both of these.

The cross of Saint Florian, patron saint of firefighters, is often confused with the Maltese cross (for example, the New York City Fire Department so calls it);[14] although it may have eight or more points, it also has large curved arcs between the points. The Philadelphia Fire Department, among others, incorporates the St Florian cross into its insignia, as does the International Association of Fire Fighters.

The Maltese cross should not be mistaken for the George Cross, awarded to Malta by George VI of the United Kingdom in 1942, which is depicted, since 1964, on the national flag of Malta. The Maltese cross is depicted on the civil ensign of Malta, shown above.

See also


  1. ^ "The gold tari also had two faces. The capite often had a globe or the Doge's initials, whilst some people claim that the cruce represented an eight-pointed cross, today one of the principle emblems of the city. The Amalfitan Tari circulated throughout the Mediterranean and was for centuries Amalfi's official monetary unit." (
  2. ^ "The cross afterwards termed Maltese, is embroidered on his left arm." Robert Morris, Coins of the grand masters of the Order of Malta : or Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem (1884), p. 12
  3. ^ Statutes of 1489 (Stabilimenta Rhodiorum militum), ed. Jyri Hasecker, V&R Unipress (2007).
  4. ^ [ Accessed: 6/16/2012 Robert Morris, Coins of the grand masters of the Order of Malta : or Knights Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem (1884), p. 25f., plate III. See also: Michael Foster, History of the Maltese Cross as used by the order of St. John of Jerusalem, 2004 (] "The arms Rhodian had almost, but not quite, achieved the straight lined sharp arrowhead appearance, noted from the mid 16th century onwards."
  5. ^ p. 38, plate IV, fig 10.
  6. ^ a b Cassar Pullicino, Joseph (October–December 1949). "The Order of St. John in Maltese folk-memory" (PDF). Scientia. 15 (4): 167. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 April 2016.
  7. ^ a b "The Maltese Cross and its significance", History. Accessed 17 July 2013.
  8. ^ "The St. John Cross" (PDF). St. John Ambulance Service. Retrieved 2010-07-18.
  9. ^ National Euro Changeover Committee - Euro Maltese Coins Archived March 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "The Quezon Service Cross". Archived from the original on 31 October 2013. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
  11. ^ "Safe Heliports Through Design and Planning" (PDF). February 1994. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 29, 2017. Retrieved June 26, 2018.
  12. ^ Royal Gurkha Rifles build on Coldstream Guards' success in southern Helmand Accessed: 6/16/2012
  13. ^ CalFlora Botanical Names: T. crux-maltae
  14. ^ History and Heritage / Origin of The Maltese Cross Archived 2011-06-04 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 17 July 2013.

External links

Bolnisi cross

The Bolnisi cross (Georgian: ბოლნისის ჯვარი bolnisis ǰvari) is a cross symbol, taken from a 5th-century ornament at the Bolnisi Sioni church, which came to be used as a national symbol of Georgia.

It is a variant of the Cross pattée popular in Christian symbolism of late antiquity and the early medieval period. The same symbol gave rise to cross variants used during the Crusades, the Maltese cross of the Knights Hospitaller and (via the Jerusalem cross and the Black cross of the Teutonic Order) the Iron cross used by the German military.

The four small crosses used in the Georgian Flag are officially described as bolnur-kac'xuri (bolnur-katskhuri, ბოლნურ-კაცხური) even though they are only slightly pattée.

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, Mata-Utu

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption (French: Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption de Matâ'Utu), also known as Matâ'Utu Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral, and a national monument of France, located in the town of Matâ'Utu on Uvea, in Wallis and Futuna. It is a dominant edifice in downtown Mata-Utu town, capital of Wallis Island. It bears the royal insignia of Wallis, a Maltese cross between its towers. The cathedral is also known as the "Our Lady of Good Hope Cathedral". It is the seat of Bishop Ghislain Marie Raoul Suzanne de Rasilly.

Christian cross variants

This is a list of Christian cross variants. The Christian cross, with or without a figure of Christ included, is the main religious symbol of Christianity. A cross with a figure of Christ affixed to it is termed a crucifix and the figure is often referred to as the corpus (Latin for "body").

The term Greek cross designates a cross with arms of equal length, as in a plus sign, while the Latin cross designates a cross with an elongated descending arm. Numerous other variants have been developed during the medieval period.

Christian crosses are used widely in churches, on top of church buildings, on bibles, in heraldry, in personal jewelry, on hilltops, and elsewhere as an attestation or other symbol of Christianity.

Crosses are a prominent feature of Christian cemeteries, either carved on gravestones or as sculpted stelae. Because of this, planting small crosses is sometimes used in countries of Christian culture to mark the site of fatal accidents, or, such as the Zugspitze or Mount Royal, so as to be visible over the entire surrounding area.

Roman Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran depictions of the cross are often crucifixes, in order to emphasize that it is Jesus that is important, rather than the cross in isolation. Large crucifixes are a prominent feature of some Lutheran churches, as illustrated in the article Rood. However, some other Protestant traditions depict the cross without the corpus, interpreting this form as an indication of belief in the resurrection rather than as representing the interval between the death and the resurrection of Jesus.

The cross we list as ‘patriarchal’ is actually the Cross of Lorraine in France.

Several Christian cross variants are available in computer-displayed text. The Latin cross symbol ("✝") is included in the unicode character set as "271D". For others, see Religious and political symbols in Unicode.

Coat of arms of Queensland

The coat of arms of Queensland is the oldest in Australia, and was first granted by Queen Victoria in 1893 through the simplest form of heraldic grants; with the shield of arms, motto, helmet, mantling and crest.

Flag and coat of arms of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

The flag and coat of arms of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta display a white cross on a red field (blazon gules a cross argent), ultimately derived from the design worn by the Knights Hospitaller during the Crusades.

The State Flag represents the Sovereign Military Order of Malta as a sovereign institution, and it bears a Latin cross that extends to the edges of the flag. The Flag of the Order's Works represents its humanitarian and medical activities, and it bears a white Maltese cross on a red field.

Both flags together represent the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Its constitution states: "The flag of the Order bears either the white latin cross on a red field or the white eight-pointed cross (cross of Malta) on a red field."

Flag of Queensland

The state flag of Queensland is a British Blue Ensign defaced with the state badge on a white disc in the fly. The badge is a light blue Maltese Cross with an imperial crown in the centre of the cross. The flag dates from 1876, with minor variations, and the badge was designed by William Hemmant, the Colonial Secretary and Treasurer of Queensland in 1876.

Geneva drive

The Geneva drive or Maltese cross is a gear mechanism that translates a continuous rotation movement into intermittent rotary motion.

The rotating drive wheel is usually equipped with a pin that reaches into a slot located in the other wheel (driven wheel) that advances it by one step at a time. The main wheel also has an elevated circular blocking disc that "locks" the rotating driven wheel in position between steps.

Lychnis chalcedonica

Lychnis chalcedonica (Maltese-cross, burning love, dusky salmon, flower of Bristol, Jerusalem cross, nonesuch; syn. Silene chalcedonica) is a species of flowering plant in the family Caryophyllaceae, native to central and eastern Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and northwestern China.

Maltese euro coins

Maltese euro coins feature three separate designs for the three series of coins. Malta has been a member of the European Union since 1 May 2004, and is a member of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union. Malta adopted the euro as its official currency on 1 January 2008, replacing the Maltese lira. For a period of one month until 31 January, there was a dual circulation for Malta where the Euro and Maltese lira were used alongside each other.

Mounties Wanderers FC

Mounties Wanderers FC is a semi-professional soccer club based in Mount Pritchard, New South Wales, Australia. They currently play in the National Premier Leagues NSW 2 competition after being promoted at the conclusion of the 2011 season. They were formed in 1978 as Mount Pritchard Soccer Club, changing their name to Mounties Wanderers for the 2008 season after being sponsored by the Mounties Group. The Mounties group also sponsors the Mount Pritchard Mounties rugby club.

Their current Head of Football is Brian 'Bomber' Brown who was appointed in October 2018.The club is historically linked with the Maltese-Australian community, and features a Maltese cross on its logo.

Mounties are currently going through a wind up of their licenced club which is closing due to financial stress.

It is unknown at this stage if the football club will be sold off as part of the financial recovery process or be disbanded.

National symbols of Malta

This article is a vexillological summary of all flags and symbols in current use by the island nation of Malta. More information on the history of the various flags and emblems, as well as on their equivalents which are no longer in use, is found on the specific articles, linked to in the subtitle headings.

Order of the White Eagle (Poland)

The Order of the White Eagle (Polish: Order Orła Białego) is Poland's highest order awarded to both civilians and the military for their merits. It was officially instituted on 1 November 1705 by Augustus II the Strong and bestowed on eight of his closest diplomatic and political supporters.It is awarded to the most distinguished Poles and the highest-ranking representatives of foreign countries. The Order of the White Eagle is attached to a blue ribbon slung over the left shoulder to the right side. The star of the Order, once embroidered, is worn on the left side of the chest.

Rubin vase

Rubin's vase (sometimes known as the Rubin face or the figure–ground vase) is a famous set of ambiguous or bi-stable (i.e., reversing) two-dimensional forms developed around 1915 by the Danish psychologist Edgar Rubin. They were first introduced at large in Rubin's two-volume work, the Danish-language Synsoplevede Figurer ("Visual Figures"), which was very well received; Rubin included a number of examples, such as a Maltese cross figure in black and white, but the one that became the most famous was his vase example, perhaps because the Maltese cross could also be easily interpreted as a black and white beachball.

Rubin presented in his doctoral thesis (1915) a detailed description of the visual figure-ground relationship, an outgrowth of the visual perception and memory work in the laboratory of his mentor, Georg Elias Müller. One element of Rubin's research may be summarized in the fundamental principle, "When two fields have a common border, and one is seen as figure and the other as ground, the immediate perceptual experience is characterized by a shaping effect which emerges from the common border of the fields and which operates only on one field or operates more strongly on one than on the other".

Saint Florian

Saint Florian (Latin: Florianus; 250 – c. 304 AD) was a Christian holy man, and the patron saint of Linz, Austria; chimney sweeps; soapmakers, and firefighters. His feast day is 4 May. St. Florian is also the patron of Upper Austria, jointly with Saint Leopold.

Student cap

In various European countries, student caps of different types are, or have been, worn either as a marker of a common identity, as is the case in the Nordic countries, or to identify the wearer as a member of a smaller body within the larger group of students, as is the case with the caps worn by members of German Studentenverbindungen.

Theodore Roosevelt's Maltese Cross Cabin

The Maltese Cross Cabin is a cabin used by Theodore Roosevelt, before he was President. The cabin is currently located at the visitor center at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, just outside the town of Medora, North Dakota.

World War I Victory Medal (United States)

The World War I Victory Medal (originally known as the Victory Medal) was a United States World War I service medal designed by James Earle Fraser.Award of a common allied service medal was recommended by an inter-allied committee in March 1919. Each allied nation would design a 'Victory Medal' for award to their military personnel, all issues having certain common features, including a winged figure of victory on the obverse and the same ribbon.The Victory Medal was originally intended to be established by an act of Congress. The bill authorizing the medal never passed, however, thus leaving the military departments to establish it through general orders. The War Department published orders in April 1919, and the Navy in June of the same year.

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