Maltese cross

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

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 and is one of the National symbols of Malta. 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.[2]

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.[3]

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.



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.[citation needed]

The eight points are said to symbolize the eight points of courage:[citation needed]

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

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:[4]

  • 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.


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.


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.

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[5] 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 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.
  • 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.


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.[6] 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

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • maltese cross — n. (Bot.) A Eurasian garden perennial ({Lychins chalcedonica}) having scarlet flowers in dense terminal heads. Syn: scarlet lychnis, {Lychins chalcedonica}. [WordNet 1.5] 2. A cross with triangular or arrow shaped arms and the points toward the… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Maltese cross — Maltese Mal*tese , a. Of or pertaining to Malta or to its inhabitants. n. sing. & pl. A native or inhabitant of Malta; the people of Malta. [1913 Webster] {Maltese cross}. See Illust. 5, of {Cross}. {Maltese dog} (Zo[ o]l.), a breed of small… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Maltese cross — n. [from its use as an emblem by the medieval Knights of Malta] 1. a cross whose arms look like arrowheads pointing inward: see CROSS 2. a perennial garden flower (Lychnis chalcedonica) of the pink family, having brilliant red five parted flowers …   English World dictionary

  • Maltese cross — noun a cross with triangular or arrow shaped arms and the points toward the center • Hypernyms: ↑Cross * * * ˌMaltese ˈcross 7 noun a cross whose arms are equal in length and have wide ends with V shapes cut out of them   Word Origin: [Maltese… …   Useful english dictionary

  • maltese cross — noun Eurasian garden perennial having scarlet flowers in dense terminal heads • Syn: ↑scarlet lychnis, ↑Lychins chalcedonica • Hypernyms: ↑lychnis, ↑catchfly * * * ˌMaltese ˈcross 7 noun …   Useful english dictionary

  • Maltese cross — noun Date: 1877 1. a. a cross formée b. a cross that resembles the cross formée but has the outer face of each arm indented in a V see cross illustration 2. a Eurasian herb (Lychnis chalcedonica) of the pink family cultivated for its usually… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Maltese cross — 1. a cross having four equal arms that expand in width outward. See illus. under cross. 2. See scarlet lychnis. [1875 80] * * * …   Universalium

  • Maltese Cross — Mal|tese Cross [ˌmo:lti:z ˈkrɔs US ˌmo:lti:z ˈkro:s] n a cross with four pieces that become wider as they go out from the centre …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Maltese cross — noun a cross with arms of equal length which broaden from the centre and have their ends indented in a shallow V shape. Origin so named because the cross was formerly worn by the Knights Hospitallers, a religious order based in Malta 1530–1798 …   English new terms dictionary

  • Maltese cross — Mal′tese cross′ n. a cross having four equal arms that expand in width outward • Etymology: 1875–80 …   From formal English to slang

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