What Does the Cross Symbolize?

To Christianity, the cross symbolizes redemption through the sacrificial death by crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It stands for suffering, triumph and victory. The Celtic cross represents the unfolding mystery of life and personal navigation through the spiritual, cyclical and time-oriented journey to know self, wisdom, nature and God.

The earliest use of the cross symbol was found in Egypt before the Christian era. The Egyptian cross, called the ankh, has a loop above the crossbeam and symbolizes life. This style of cross is known as the "Coptic Cross" in Coptic Christianity and as the handled cross in Catholicism. A red cross with three crossbars of varying widths is symbolic of the Roman Catholic papacy. It is only officially used by the Pope. The crossbars are said to represent the Pope's authority over the church, the world and heaven.

The cross of Calvary sits atop a three-stepped pedestal representing the hill of Calvary where Jesus was crucified. The three steps symbolize faith, hope and love. The triumphant cross includes an orb and depicts Christ's reign over the earth. An inverted cross is called the cross of St. Peter. According to tradition, the apostle Peter felt unworthy to be executed as Jesus had been, so he asked to be crucified upside down.