Skip to content


Cross.  (2) The shape of a medallic item with several arms, from a simple plain cross bar of equal length arms and no embellishment, to multiple and elaborate arms with stylized treatment and shapes. The shape of the cross has appeared in many forms (see chart). It is widely used in orders and decorations in which the cross is modified for artistic and symbolic variations, often in embellishing the cross by placing additional design elements above it, superimposed on it, within the areas between the arms and the end treatment of the arms.

Two of the most popular forms are the Maltese cross and the formée cross (25 and 26 on the chart). The equal length arms in these forms create areas between them that are called angles are often the location of additional design elements (as the Jerusalem Cross, 37 and the U.S. Navy Cross illustrated). In heraldic descriptions an angle area is called a canton.

The ends or terminus of the arms are called the points – even though they may not be pointed, and may even cut off (couped) or have a ball-tip as is often the case with the Maltese Cross. The ends are designed with splayed, wavy, cleft, bowed, and other treatment, including stylized lilies on the ends of the Flory Cross.

Crosses in Orders and Decorations.  The design of the badge of orders and the medal of decorations are based upon a medallic cross. In addition to the chivalrous symbolism, these items take on a distinctive meaning for the order that bestows them.

Decorations are often in several classes but all retain the same cross shape, differing in size, quality of workman- ship, precious metal content and quality and size of any gemstones affixed. The highest grade is always called the grand cross.  The symbolic cross shape is also designed as repeated elements in the design of the collar. See collar (1).


Crosses on coins.  Crosses first appeared on coins in the Byzantine era (about 500

AD). As acceptance of Christianity spread to western Europe, coins of Christian nations appeared with the cross as a design element.

But most interesting was the development of the cross in England. Pennies

beginning 1180 were designed with a cross within a circular panel (annulet) at the center of the reverse. This Short Cross type was retained by a succession of rulers but was susceptible to clipping the edge.

In 1248 the cross on the reverse was extended with splayed arms that terminated at the edge (heraldic term anchored). These Long Cross pennies were a practical design that helped prevent clipping (any missing part of the splayed end would indicated the coin was clipped).

Crosses on coins flourished in medieval Europe but declined in the eighteenth century while use of the cross increased in heraldic designs, which have appeared on coins.

Cross Designs: Symbolism and Shapes

- - - - - - - - - -  Mostly Symbolic  - - - - - - - - - -

1. Latin Cross. Arms on tall stem.

2. Greek Cross. Four equal length arms.

3. Saltire Cross. Also called Saint Andrew's Cross.

4. Tau Cross. Also called Saint Andrew's Cross.

5. Ypsilon Cross. Y-shapped.

6. Constantinian Cross. Monogram chi & rho (Greek letters).

7. Ankh Cross. Also called Ansate Cross.

8. Celtic Cross.

9. Calvary Cross.

10. Patriarchal Cross.

11. Russian Cross.

12. Papal Cross.

13. Pommée Cross.

14. Botonnée Cross. Also called Preflée Cross.

15. Cardinal's Cross.

16. Saint Peter's Cross.

17. Lorraine Cross.

18. Quadrate Cross.

19. Fitchée Cross.

20. Fleury Cross.

21. Burgundian Cross. Double Arm Cross.

22. Double Cross.

23, 24. Swaistika or Fylfot.

- - - - - - - - - - -  Mostly Shape  - - - - - - - - - - -

25. Maltese Cross. Also called Eight-Pointed Cross.

26. Formée or Formy Cross.

27. Leopold Paty Cross.

28. Maria Teresa Paty Cross.

29. Rupert's Paty Cross.


31. Potent Cross.

32. Crosslet Cross. Also called Rumanian Cross.

33. Botonny Cross. Also called Trefle Greek Cross.

34. Arrow Cross.

35. Pisan Cross. Also called Key Cross.

36. Flory Cross.

37. Jerusalem Cross.

38. Gothic M Cross.

39. Moline Cross.

40. Avellan Cross.

41. Fourchée Cross.

42. Patonce Cross.

         Selected Heraldic Terms Describing Crosses       


  Anchored.     Arms extending to edge of shield or flan.

  Ball-tip.         Tiny sphere at sharp pointed ends.      

  Barbée.          Arrowhead at end.                       

  Blunted.         Arms rounded at ends.                   

  Botony.          Arms ending with 3 joined disks.        

  Cléchée.         Arms with points cut off.               

  Couped Fitchée. Pointed notch at ends.                  

  Croisette.       Arms ending in Y shape.                 

  Crosslet.        Tiny cross or serifs at ends.           

  Fichée.           Arms Pointed.                           

  Fleury.           Arms ending in fleur-de-lis.            

  Flourchée.      Arms ending in half an X.               

  Formée.         Widening arms ending with straight edge.

  Lambeauxed.  Three pronged ends.                     

  Lionced.        Arms ending with lion's head.           

  Moline.          Ends shaped like flukes of anchor.      

  Pointée.         Arms with pointed wedge.                 

  Pommée.       Single flat round disk at ends.         

  Voided.         Open area.                              


H2 {1889} Elvin, plates 7-11.

S5  {1974} Stafford and Ware, p 65-67.

excerpted with permission from

An Encyclopedia of Coin and Medal Technology

For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators


Roger W. Burdette, Editor

NNP is 100% non-profit and independent // Your feedback is essential and welcome. // Your feedback is essential and welcome.