No symbol is more iconic in Christianity than the cross, and for good reason! Christ’s victory over death and sin at the cross is one of the most important doctrines in the Christian faith. Today the cross is no longer a symbol of death, but instead a reminder of this triumph and the hope that we’re promised.
Over time, a large number of designs have developed around the cross. Most of these are based on the Latin Cross, which remains the most popular design. The other major influence was the Greek Cross, though it’s not anywhere near as common.
Below is an overview of many different designs and what they are meant to symbolize. If the design’s name is a link, follow it to see a tutorial that guides you through drawing it.
The Latin Cross and designs based on it
By far the most common cross design, this cross often becomes the basis of other symbols. Because it’s so common, many meanings have been attributed to it. Thus this design can be used to refer to the Passion, salvation, or Christianity as a whole.
Jesus Christ is our sure anchor in any storm, and this design takes the metaphor literally by merging the Latin Cross with a ship’s anchor.During times of persecution, the Anchor Cross has also been a popular way to hide Christianity in plain sight, as people “in the know” would recognize the cross while others would just see an anchor.
The buds on the arms of this cross bring to mind a flower that hasn’t bloomed yet. Likewise, the Budded Cross represents an immature Christian — that is, someone new to the Faith. They still need to learn more about their faith and build a foundation for themselves.
Sometimes called the Graded Cross, this design shows a Latin Cross raised on a pedestal made from three steps. The name of this symbol comes from Calvary, another name for Golgotha, the place outside of Jerusalem where Christ was crucified.Traditionally, each of the three steps represents one of the qualities mentioned in 1st Corinthians, chapter 13. These are faith, hope and love.
This popular cross design combines the Latin Cross with a circle. Since circles are used to represent eternity, this design represents both Christ and His eternal nature.
|Cross and Crown
You might be expecting this symbol to reference the fact that Jesus is the King of Kings, but according to my sources, this is actually referencing a promise from Revelation 2:10. In this message to one of His faithful churches, Jesus says that those who endure the trials to come and still remain faithful to the end will be rewarded with the Crown of Life.
|Cross of Triumph
You may also know this design as the Orb and Cross or the Cross bearing Orb. A simple globe is an ancient symbol for authority, especially when it’s held by a ruler or important person. This design merges it with the Christian cross to represent Christ’s dominion and authority over the entire world.
|Eastern Orthodox Cross
In the Eastern church, it’s commonly believed that Christ was crucified with His feet side by side rather than on top of each other. Thus this design of the cross also includes a footrest.As is often the case, the smaller crossbar on top represents the inscription that was placed over Jesus’ head.
As with the Budded Cross above, the arms of this cross end in flowers. Now these flowers are in bloom, signifying that the person has become mature in their faith.
This design uses two joined rings and a Latin cross to represent the joining of two lives in the presence of Christ (ie, Christian marriage).There is a similar design that uses the Chi Rho for the same reason.
Also known as the Pointed Cross, Cross of Suffering and the Cross of Agony, this design reflects Jesus’ suffering during the Passion. Symbols that relate to the Passion often incorporate it somewhere.
A slight variant of the Latin Cross, this cross includes an extra bar to represent the inscription that was placed above Jesus on the cross.
|St. Peter’s Cross
According to tradition, the Apostle Peter was martyred by crucifixion. However, he felt he was unworthy to die the same way as his Lord, and asked to die another way. His wish was granted — he was crucified upside-down.Some people may use an inverted cross to represent Satan or other demonic things, but this is a misunderstanding on their part. The actual Satanic Cross has a very distinctive design and does not appear on this website.
The Greek Cross and designs based on it
The Greek Cross differs from the usual designs in that all four arms are the same length. You’ll typically find five of them placed across an altar, where they represent the five injuries that Christ suffered during His crucifixion.
Sometimes a Greek Cross is combined with the Greek letter Chi. Chi is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, making this design into a monogram for Jesus Christ.
I’ve placed this design under the Greek Cross because of how you go about drawing it. Realistically, it’s supposed to be a combination of four Latin Crosses, with each cross facing a different cardinal direction.This is meant to symbolize spreading Christianity to all four corners of the world. For example, this might be used to indicate missionary work.
Designs like this were popular with the Crusaders as the pointed end allowed them to plant a cross anywhere they wanted for a quick prayer or devotion.
Made from four spearheads, this design was used by the Hospitallers during the Crusades.
|St. Andrew’s Cross
Tradition states that Saint Andrew was martyred on a cross like this. Much like St. Peter, he didn’t feel worthy of dying the same way as his Lord, and got his wish.
Named after the letter of the Greek alphabet it resembles, this is the earliest design of a cross. The cross used to crucify Jesus would likely have been similar to this, though with an extension above it to hold the inscription above his head. Hence, we have the Latin Cross.