Crucifix and Cross: The Different Types

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A Guide to Crucifixes and Crosses

Below are some of the common types of crucifixes and crosses with a brief explanation of their significance.  Find the cross or crucifix that's right for you, your loved one, or your home or office.  Most are available to be hung on the wall, with stands for display, on chains for necklaces, or as part of a rosary.

Latin or Christian

Latin Crucifix This is the basic crucifix or cross.  The term "Latin" and "Christian" differentiates it from the symmetrical crosses used as symbols in non-Christian imagery: the crossbeams are offset higher as in the crosses used by the Romans for crucifixions, and, on which Jesus died.

Pictured: Wall crucifix made in Bethlehem from olive wood.

Many more in: Rosaries - Chain Crucifixes - Wall Crucifixes


The basic design consists of a Latin cross with a circle.  Embellishments include interlacing patterns that range from simple to ornate.  Legend has it that St. Patrick created this image by merging the Latin cross with the sun cross, a symbol recognized by the pagan Irish.

Pictured: Wall knotted Celtic cross with corpus.  Genuine pewter.

See also: Celtic rosary and Celtic cross necklace

Papal or Bent Log

Papal or Bent-Log Crucifix Popularized by Pope Paul VI and used by each succeeding pontiff, the crucifix that appears on this particular papal staff features a bent log as its crossbeam, symbolizing the weight of our sins that Jesus carried to the cross with Him.

Pictured: Papal necklace crucifix.  Also available in silver or gold.

See also: Bent log rosary and wall crucifix

St. Benedict Medal

St. Benedict Crucifix These crucifixes have the symbolic St. Benedict medal embedded into it.  The medal is inscribed with a Latin exorcism prayer that wards off the devil.  It is also given to the dying to bring peace and happiness in their final hours.

Pictured: Wall St. Benedict cross crucifix with medal. 
For the medal only: St. Benedict Medal.

See also: Sterling silver crucifix necklace and St. Benedict rosary

See more crosses and crucifixes in our store:


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San Damiano

San Damiano Crucifix This is the cross to which St. Francis of Assisi was praying when the Lord told him to rebuild the Church.  Franciscans use this cross as the symbol of their mission.  The original can be seen in the Basilica of St. Clare in Assisi, Italy.

Pictured: Wall San Damiano crucifix.  Different sizes available.

See also: San Damiano silver crucifix necklace and San Damiano rosary


Comfort Cross These crosses and crucifixes were designed to fit in the hands to be held during prayer or meditation.  It is usually made of wood from olives that grow in the Holy Land.  It is also called a "holding cross."

Pictured: Wood comfort cross.  Pocket-sized. 

See also: Olive wood comfort crucifix with metal corpus

Orthodox, Byzantine, Patriarchal

Orthodox Crucifix Found in the Eastern Orthodox Church, this type of crucifix features two additional crossbeams standing for the INRI inscription and the footrest, although it is believed the lower crossbeam is a scale for the fate of the two thieves, one of them going to Heaven and the other to Hell.

Pictured: Wall Orthodox crucifix with three crossbeams.

See also: Orthodox cross pendant


Tau Cross This particular cross is named for the Greek letter it forms.  It is most often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, who likened its shape to their monastic habit.  Outside of Christianity, this symbol is associated with sacrifice and resurrection.

Pictured: Wall Tau wood cross of St. Francis.

See also: Olive wood Tau chaplet rosary

Other terms to know:
  • Corpus: the body of Jesus on the cross
  • Oriental: a flourish on the four edges of the cross, each three-piece ornamentation represents the Trinity and the original Apostles
  • Knotting: the lattice-like pattern usually seen in Celtic crosses
  • Inhabited Cross: when someone other than Jesus is portrayed within the image of the cross (as in the San Damiano Cross)
  • Relic Cross: a cross bearing a holy object, such as relics touched to the tomb of Jesus
  • Pardon Crucifix: instituted by Pope Pius X, grants indulgences to those carrying it
  • Penal rosary and cross: specifically designed with shorter crossbeams to make it easier to hide, as used by persecuted Irish Catholics
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