Maltese cross

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The Maltese cross (✠), also known as the Amalfi cross,[1] is identified as the symbol of an order of Christian warriors known as the Knights Hospitaller or Knights of Malta, and through them came to be identified with the Mediterranean island of Malta, of which it is a national symbol. The Maltese cross was depicted on the two mils coin in the old Maltese currency and is now shown on the back of the one and two Euro coins, introduced in January 2008.

In the mid 16th century, when the Knights were at Malta, the familiar design now known as the "Maltese Cross" became associated with the island. The first evidence for Maltese Cross on Malta appears on the 2 Tarì and 4 Tarì Copper coins of the Grand Master Jean de la Vallette-Parisot (Grand Master 1557-1568). The 2 and 4 Tarì Copper coins are dated 1567. This provides a date for the introduction of the Maltese Cross.[2]

The cross is eight-pointed and has the form of four "V"-shaped elements joined together at their tips, so that each arm has two points. Its design is based on crosses used since the First Crusade. It is also the modern symbol of Amalfi, a small Italian republic of the 11th century.

Different forms of the Maltese cross; other crosses with spreading limbs are often mistakenly called "Maltese", such as the cross pattée (Tatzenkreuz), used by the Teutonic Knights, Prussia, and Germany.


The insignia of a Serving Brother of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem

In the 15th century, the eight points of the four arms of the later called Maltese Cross represented the eight lands of origin, or Langues of the Knights Hospitaller. The eight points are said to symbolize the eight points of courage:

  • Loyalty
  • Piety
  • Generosity
  • Bravery
  • Glory and honor
  • Contempt of death
  • Helpfulness towards the poor and the sick
  • Respect for the church

Both the Order of Saint John (in German, the Johanniterorden) and the Venerable Order of St John teaches that the eight points of the cross represent the eight Beatitudes. The Order's main service organisation, St John Ambulance, has applied secular meanings to the points as representing the traits of a good first aider:[3]

  • Observant
  • Tactful
  • Resourceful
  • Dexterous
  • Explicit
  • Discriminating
  • Persevering
  • Sympathetic

The Maltese cross remains the symbol of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and other Orders of St John, and St. John Ambulance. In recent centuries, it has come to be adopted as the insignia of numerous orders of chivalry (for example, the Order of Saint Lazarus uses a green Maltese cross). In Australia, the Maltese Cross is part of the state emblem of Queensland.

Modern use


The Maltese cross is used to identify the final approach fix in a non-precision 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.


The flag, badge, and coat of arms of the state of Queensland feature a Maltese Cross. The Maltese Cross is also part of the logo for various ambulance services in Australia, such as the South Australian Ambulance Service, the Queensland Ambulance Service, the Ambulance Service of New South Wales, Ambulance Victoria, St John Ambulance Northern Territory, St John Ambulance Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory Ambulance Service. The Cross, known as the Fire Service Star, is also used by Country Fire Authority in Victoria as an official symbol. It can be seen on uniform hats and on Long Service and Outstanding Service Badges.


The Huguenot cross, a symbol of French Protestants, is a Maltese cross with a dove. The football club AJ Auxerre, founded in 1905 by the priest Abbé Deschamps, has a Maltese cross as its emblem, adapted from that of the Catholic Association of French Youth.


The Johanniter-Unfall-Hilfe and the Malteser Hilfsdienst, the resp. Protestant and Catholic ambulance services in Germany, have a Maltese cross in their emblems. The coats of arms of the former duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and the former Mecklenburg-Strelitz district contained a Maltese cross. Several towns in Northern Germany have a Maltese cross in their coats of arms, including Malchin, Mirow, Moraas, Rastow and Sülstorf.


In India, the Maltese Cross is the symbol used by the Garhwal Rifles.


In Italy, as stated earlier, it is also known as the Amalfi cross.


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The Maltese cross is a national symbol of Malta and is displayed as part of the Maltese civil ensign. The Maltese euro coins of one and two euro denomination carry the Maltese cross. The Malta-based politician Norman Lowell explains in his book Imperium Europa that the Maltese cross can be thought of as a superposition of two swastika-like figures; one spinning to the left and the other to the right; and the symbolism of this.


In medicine, the disease Babesiosis is recognized by the tetrad form that the parasite takes inside red blood cells. This is often referred to as a "maltese cross" sign because of the resemblance of the tetrad to the cross on peripheral blood smear.


In Spain, the Maltese Cross is the symbol used by the military Medical Corps. The cross also forms the basic form for some Spanish orders as the Order of Charles III or the Order of Isabella the Catholic.


In Sweden a Maltese Cross forms the basic form for all the royal orders of merit, The Orders of the Seraphim, Sword, North Star and Vasa. Also the Maltese Cross is used by the Swedish Mounted Royal Guards as their coat of arms.


The Maltese Cross is the Trademark of the oldest Swiss watch manufacturer, Vacheron Constantin.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the Maltese Cross is the symbol used by Rifle Regiments, and has been incorporated into the badges of virtually all rifle units, including officers cross belt of the Gurkha Rifles and now amalgamated, The Royal Green Jackets. The first postmark employed for the cancellation of the then new postage stamps in the 1840s was the shape of a Maltese cross and named accordingly. The Maltese cross also forms the basis for the design of the Order of the Bath. The Maltese cross is also the symbol of Neath Rugby Football Club in Neath, Wales. It is the symbol of the Royal Shrewsbury School Boat Club; although the Maltese Cross is only carried on the oars of, and worn by, the 1st VIII. It is a symbol used by the ATOC on rail tickets, which allows travel on the London Underground between London Rail Terminals (e.g. between Euston and Victoria), when passengers are traveling 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. It is used by the St John Ambulance organisation as their main form of identification.

United States

Motorcycle clubs in the United States often include the Maltese cross, or more often the Cross pattée, in their insignia. The Maltese 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 Maltese cross as 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.[4] 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

Maltese 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.

Another variant, with seven arms and known as the "Maltese asterisk", is used as the basis of Britain's Order of St Michael and St George.

Yet another variant, this time with five arms, is the "Cross" of the French Legion of Honour (Croix de la Légion d'honneur).

Other crosses with spreading limbs are often called "Maltese", especially the 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[7]); 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 Florian cross into their insignia, as does the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Finally, 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 on the flag of Malta.

See also

External links



  2. [ History of the Maltese Cross, as used by the Order of St John of Jerusalem].
  3. The St. John Cross. St. John Ambulance Service. Retrieved on 2010-07-18.
  4. CalFlora Botanical Names: T. crux-maltae