The Greek (Byzantine) Cross - Vladimir Mikhailov

The cross is a symbol that carries deep significance for every person of faith and comes in a wide variety of forms. The Greek cross form is the simplest, consisting of two crossbars and, consequently, four points. Unlike the traditional Orthodox four-point "Latin" cross, the arms of the Greek cross are of equal length. The Greek cross is believed to be the oldest. It is also known as the square cross or, alternately the Saint Gregory Cross.

This form of cross was traditional in Byzantium, which is why it was named Greek. The modern-day Greek flag displays this cross of equal lengths. Russian princes later adopted this cross form along with Byzantine Christianity. Prince Vladimir was the first to bring the Greek cross to Ancient Rus' following his baptism in Korsun. It is often found enclosed within a circle in churches and cathedrals today and is universally recognized as a symbol of Christ's Cross.

Despite the fact that the Greek cross is not encountered very frequently in modern-day Orthodox traditions, it carries substantial symbolic weight throughout the world. Having become a symbol of Jesus Christ in early Christianity, it later became widely used in emblems and on armory. The Greek cross is often encountered on coats-of-arms, including those of modern states. It is also the central component of the International Red Cross' emblem. Among the many states whose flags feature this cross are Greece, Malta, and Switzerland. The Greek cross also underpins that most famous of Russian honors — the Saint George Cross. Classical Byzantine churches were constructed based on the Greek cross design, and some notable Russian churches were also designed in this way. For example, the plan for Moscow's main cathedral — Church of Christ the Savior — resembles the Greek cross.

One doesn't often encounter this form of baptismal cross in Russia, since it doesn't factor into modern Orthodox traditions. Nevertheless, the beauty and elegance of Greek cross designs are worth noting. Take a look, for example, at some of the pieces on display at our jewelry shop. The Greek cross may not be the most popular design in Russia today, but it has not lost its significance as a symbol of global Christianity.