Friday, July 23, 2010


This cross is a cross bottony and is used primarily in heraldry. “Bottony” means button or blossom. At the end of the four arms of the cross three buttons (or the three blossoms) form a sort of trefoil or three leafed plant (such as the clover) – a common symbolic device of Christianity heavily used in Gothic architecture. Most commonly this symbol represents the Trinity – one shape with three parts. Combined with the cross then we have a small catechism. We have one God (the unity of the entire symbol.) This one God is in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (the trefoil.) The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Son, Jesus, took flesh, came among us, and saved us from our sins by dying on the cross. In my opinion this is the most common understanding of this cross but the buttons may have other meanings also.

Considering that there are four branches of the cross each ending in a trefoil it could also be a symbol of Christ and His apostles since there would be 12 “buttons.” It could also remind us of the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love.

As stated above this ornamented cross is a heraldic device. You can most commonly see it on the arms of Saint Philip. It is said that he was crucified upside down though his cross is not portrayed this way as it would be for St. Peter. It is also said that he used a cross as weapon with which he drove away the dragon from the Temple of Mars. If the symbol of this cross is so packed with meaning it is no wonder – even if the dragon would simply symbolize the driving out of the belief of false gods for the One, True God.

This cross can also been seen on the coat of arms for the state of Maryland. According to state law, “Section 13-203. Only a gold cross bottony may be used as an ornament on the top of a flagstaff that carries the State flag.” But at least according to one source the cross has less to do with Christian symbolism and more to do with Lord Baltimore’s wife’s family’s coat of arms. Her last name “Croffland” when transliterated into Latin is “Crossland” and so the used a cross on their arms.

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