The Meaning of the Latin Cross

Latin cross
The Latin cross is an ancient symbol most commonly associated with Christianity and represents Jesus Christ's death on a cross. Its shape is a straight vertical line with a crossbar right above the midpoint. 

What Does A Latin Cross Represent?

The cross is one of the oldest symbols in the world. Some believe it even predates Christianity by around 5,000 years. Crosses have taken several forms over the centuries, and they’ve even been spotted on the walls of prehistoric caves as two crossing marks of the same length. 

The Latin Cross is prevalent in numerous faiths, cultures, and regions, although it may have different names. The Latin Cross is a symbol of Christ’s Passion, the atonement, and people also consider it the symbol of Christianity.

Latin cross
The Latin Cross is very common across Christianity as a representation of the death of Jesus.

What Is The Latin Cross?

The Latin Cross, also called Crux Ordinaria, is a stipe or a good post and a patibulum or horizontal beam inserted at 90 degrees. The straight vertical line has a crossbar that goes horizontally right above the middle point. 

The shape creates an elongated lower arm and three equal upper arms, or the upper arm is the shortest in length. When it is inside a circle, it’s called the Solar Cross. This symbol depicts the fire element, and several cultures use it to represent the Sun God.

Even though the Latin Cross was prevalent as a Pagan symbol during ancient times, a millennia before the start of the Christian Church, it is more popular as a symbol of Christianity. 

The cross symbol that we know today came from the original equilateral cross. While the ancient Egyptians made the upper portion of the cross round to make the Ankh, the pagan Celtic Cross had a disc to center the point where the two rods meet.

What Is A Latin Cross Called?

A Latin cross looks simple and is often called the Plain Cross.

Other names used for the symbol include:

  • Church Cross
  • Christian Cross
  • Protestant Cross
  • Roman Cross
  • Western Cross
  • Chapel Cross
Latin cross
The Latin Cross is used in a variety of ways in both traditional and modern worship spaces.

What Does The Latin Cross Symbolize?

The meaning of the Latin cross differs across faiths and regions. There are various examples to consider.

In Paganism 

Evidence of the symbol’s use in China, Africa, and Scandinavian Bronze Age stones depicted Thor’s destructive hammer. People considered it a magical symbol that brought good luck and diverted evil. 

Rock carvings of the Latin Cross represented the solar symbol, or earth, with each point representing the directions: North, South, East, and West. The alchemists considered the cross a symbol of the classical elements: air, earth, fire, and water. 

Meanings of Different Sections

The Latin Cross also represents the human form, where the upper section depicts the North Wind or, the most powerful, the head and intelligence. The lower section of the symbol signifies the South Wind, the Seat of Fire or passion, and melting. 

While the right arm stands for the East Wind, the heart, the source of life and love, the left arm is the gentle wind that comes from the spirit land, the last breath, and the journey into the unknown.

In Christianity

Often referred to as the Western Cross by Christians, the symbol differs from the cross designs adopted in the East. It serves as the floor plan in Western churches. It is also an identification mark on signboards and maps for a chapel and a church, giving it alternative names like the Chapel Cross and Church Cross.

The Latin Cross also represents the Trinity, whose three short parts stand for the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity. At the same time, the longer portion depicts the One Divinity.

The symbol also gets the name of the Protestant Cross since it is plain and there is no corpus, or body, attached. It doesn’t focus on the suffering on the Latin Cross but on Christ’s Resurrection. Protestant churches and Baptist churches use it.

When the cross, as a Christian symbol, also has a corpus, people refer to it as a crucifix. The symbol emphasizes the suffering of Christ and gives meaning to his resurrection.

Many Catholics consider the corpus sacred and its removal as offensive. Crucifixes are present more in Catholic churches than in Protestant churches. However, the resurrection of Christ is the main theme of Christian doctrine, despite the sect.

In Flags

The Latin Cross is a part of the Christian Flag that some Christians, mainly Protestants, use. The color red in the flag stands for the blood shed by Jesus. The blue represents royalty and Christ as a King, while the white represents Jesus Christ’s purity. 

Besides that, the cross is also on many other regional flags, like Recife, Pernambuco (Brazil), and even Tucumán (Argentina). The heraldic version of the Latin cross, such as the Nordic or Greek cross, is present on numerous national flags.

Latin cross
The Christian flag

In Pop Culture 

More people now carry the cross symbol as an icon rather than a religious talisman that is sacred. It’s also a popular tattoo and pendant that people all across the globe opt for. 

Latin cross
Latin Cross necklaces and tattoos are popular in mainstream culture.

Why Is The Cross The Symbol Of Christianity?

The cross, or the Crux Immissa, is an important symbol of the Christian religion as it recalls Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and the benefits of his death and Passion. The cross stands for Christ himself and the faith of the Christian people. 

When it comes to ceremonial use, making a cross sign may be, as per the context, a profession of one’s faith, prayer, or dedication. Lutheran Christians make the sign of the cross to remember their baptismal faith.

For more on Christian symbols, be sure to learn about the meaning of the Jerusalem cross.


Vanessa's liberal arts background has prepared her well for Symbol Scholar. A self-proclaimed theology nerd, Vanessa has interests in world religions, Reformation theology, history, and more. When she's not working, Vanessa enjoys spending time with her family, reading, exercising, and watching professional basketball.

Recent Posts