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Historic Cemeteries: So Many Types of Crosses!

April A to Z Challenge 2020: It’s that time of year! Every April, bloggers around the world make posts for each letter of the alphabet. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to make friends online. Here’s my post for today:

[The following is an adapted excerpt from my book, Understanding Cemetery Symbols. I hope you enjoy it! Also, full disclosure: that’s an Amazon affiliate link. If you buy stuff after clicking it, I make a few pennies at no additional cost to you.]

There are over 300 different kinds of crosses! photo (c) Tui Snider
More than 300 Types of Crosses

Did you know there are over 300 different types of crosses? Each variation of cross usually goes by two or three different names, depending on what it represents and which religion or group or historic era it is associated with.

In today’s post, I will give you a very brief description, along with a photo, for 5 different types of crosses. Here we go:

There are over 300 different kinds of crosses! photo (c) Tui Snider

Greek Cross

If you’re familiar with the emblem for the Red Cross, then you already know what a Greek Cross looks like. This type of cross dates back to ancient Egypt. It is a simple looking cross with arms that are all the same size. As a Christian symbol, the four equal sides represent the four elements: earth, air, water, and fire.

There are over 300 different kinds of crosses! photo (c) Tui Snider

Celtic Cross

The Celtic Cross features a distinctive circle, called a nimbus. Depending on the source, this circle symbolizes either the union of Heaven and earth or the union of the moon and earth. Celtic crosses are often seen on graves of those with Irish descent.

The one in this photo has a shamrock worked into its design. (To learn more about the symbolism of shamrocks, check out my podcast: Tombstone Tuesday with Tui Snider: Shamrocks, Etiquette & Fish Sticks?) I must admit, this is probably my favorite style of cross. I just love the way they look!

There are over 300 different kinds of crosses! photo (c) Tui Snider

Agony Cross

Each end of the Agony Cross, (aka Cross of Suffering, Pointed Cross) comes to sharp points to symbolize the suffering of Christ. The one in this photo is made of wood, but I have also seen ones made of metal and stone.

There are over 300 different kinds of crosses! photo (c) Tui Snider

Glory Cross a.k.a. Rayed Cross

Last but not least, we have the Glory Cross, which is also known as a Rayed Cross. This type of cross design depicts the rays of God’s glory emanating from its center.

Tip of the Iceberg

The examples I’ve shared here are the tip of the iceberg! There are so many different types of crosses: Latin, Calvary, Bottonee, Anchor, Eastern, Ionic, Labarum… I could go on and on. Isn’t it fascinating? I think so. In fact, I’m currently writing a book about crosses commonly found in historic cemeteries. (To see all my books, go here.)

Learn more at my Historic Cemetery Podcast & Facebook Page:

Do you have questions about symbols you’ve seen on headstones? Drop by Exploring Historic Cemeteries on Facebook and let me know! And tune in to my 30-minute historic cemetery podcast on the first Tuesday of each month: Tombstone Tuesday with Tui Snider.

READ MY BOOK: If you enjoy historic cemeteries and want to learn more, check out my book: Understanding Cemetery Symbols. It’s available on Amazon in paperback and ebook form.

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Tui Snider
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  1. I am reading and following your A to Z posts with great interest! I’m going to have to go back and look at all my cemetery records after this challenge!

    • Hi Dianne! Your comment makes me happy. I hope my posts are helpful for your research. Genealogy is an area I really need to learn more about. I’m enjoying your posts, too! :)

  2. These are really fascinating posts! I read the other two, but somehow forgot to comment. (Sorry!)
    I really love the way you’re digging into the symbolism.

    • Yeah, symbolism fascinates me and I guess it shows! I see that you’re sharing a serial story. I need to get caught up and leave some comments on your blog!

  3. Fascinating! You can go your whole life thinking a cross is a just a cross, and then…

    • Exactly!!! That happens to me so often when I research something that I *think* I already know about. Keeps me humble – lol!

  4. Well, I’ve seen all those types of crosses and never imagine each one had its own name and symbolism.

    The Old Shelter – Living the Twenties

    • Isn’t it amazing? And there’s so much more…

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