The Maltese Cross knows its origin to the Knights of the Order of St. John who hailed from Jerusalem. Same as with other Crosses this has Christian connotations. This Cross was the symbol that represented the Order of St. John. During the Knight’s occupation of Malta it became known as the Maltese Cross. This occurred when the Knights took control of the islands in 1530.
The Maltese Cross resembles a star shape with a V-formation at its tips. The Cross is a representation of truth, humility, protection, honour and courage. The Maltese Cross became an inherent part of Malta’s culture and heritage. Today, it is still an appreciated and treasured symbol by the Maltese. Appraised around the world as an emblem of honour and courage.
History of the Knights and Malta
The Order of the Knights of St. John originated in Jerusalem by monks. Their mission was to care for sick or injured pilgrims who visited the Holy Land. Irrespective of their faith. The construction of the hospital commenced in 1080. The monks served in this hospital. They later became known as Hospitallers.
The First Crusade to overthrow the Muslim occupation took place in 1095. During the battles the Hospitallers kept caring for the sick. Yet, at the same time these monks started helping the Knights. Like providing armed escorts to people travelling through non-Christian lands.
By 1148 its members took on a military religious role due to political instability in the Holy Land. Being the first religious military order of knighthood. They were self-named as Knights Hospitaller and set up military and naval services.
In 1291, the Knights were expelled from the Kingdom of Jerusalem. After which they found refuge on the island of Rhodes. In 1522, Suleiman the Magnificent besieged the island and overthrew the Knights. The Knights who survived were granted permission to withdraw from the island.
The displaced and depleted Order of the Knights of St. John headed to the Kingdom of Sicily. To look for new headquarters. It was in 1530, that King Charles V of Spain, at the time ruler of Sicily and the islands of Malta, bequeathed the archipelago to the Knights.
The Knights had no intention to establish a permanent base on the island of Malta. Yet, their plans changed and evolved into a 268 year rule. Throughout their rule Malta became a maritime, heritage and cultural center. Their lasting legacy is still seen throughout the island. Constructed during this period are most of the country’s magnificent and imposing architectural features.
The greatest and most renowned work is the building and construction of Valletta. Today’s capital city. Adorned with impressive palaces and fortified walls throughout the city. Built as a defensive fortification to withstand any future invasions.
The Maltese Cross: its History
Although the Maltese Cross is associated with the Knights of St. John. Its variations date back to the 6th century, the Byzantine time. During the 11th century, it evolved to resemble the Cross found on the coins minted in Amalfi. Known as the Amalfi Cross. In reference to the small coastal town of Amalfi, in Italy.
The Christian Cross made its first significant appearance during the Crusades. As a symbol adorning the Knights armour. When the Hospitallers evolved to a military role they fought alongside the Knights Templar. The Knights of the Order of St. John carried this symbol with them. Later when they occupied Malta the Cross became synonymous with the Maltese. It became known as the Maltese Cross.
Though the Christian Cross of the Knights Templar and that of the Knights of St. John are distinct, they have a past. From its origination this Cross was connected with Christian warriors and Knights. So they share a common definition.
Today, the Cross is the symbol of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. It is an active international organisation which provides medical and humanitarian aid.
The Maltese Cross: its Origin
The Maltese Cross knows its origin to the Knights Hospitaller. Also, known as the Order of the Knights of St. John and Knights of Malta. These Knights were synonymous with the Crusades. In 1530, when they occupied the islands of Malta they took the Cross emblem with them. Thereafter, it became known as the Maltese Cross.
This symbol of the Catholic Cross is often associated with the Knights of St. John and related to the island of Malta. The Cross has eight symmetrical points composed of four arrowhead shapes. Usually depicted in white on a red or black background. Historian’s state that each point represents the lands of origins of the Knights. Or their eight obligations.
The Knights occupied and governed Malta between 1530 and 1798. By 1530, the Cross had become the entrenched symbol of the Order. During the long period of domination their mark was spread throughout the islands. This symbol was a portrayal of their autocratic power. On palaces, hospitals, forts, churches, paintings, furniture, coins and jewelry. Little did they know that they would leave their mark on Malta’s history. The first copper coins circulated in the market with the Cross was in 1567. The same Cross is still used today on the Maltese one and two Euro coins.
After the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, the Knights began the construction of Valletta. Making it a fortified city together with other infrastructural developments. Valletta still holds the world’s largest representation of the Maltese Cross.
The Maltese Cross: its Importance and Appearance
An important heritage left by the Knights of St. John is the Maltese Cross. The Maltese Cross symbol has been carried on through the centuries. It is the only symbol that denotes something as ‘Maltese’. You will find it branded on anything. From the national teams sportswear, business logos, jewelry and souvenirs. To the logo of the Maltese national airline and on the Maltese Euro coins.
The Maltese Cross resembles a star-like shape. It consists of four individual “V” concave quadrilaterals. Which unite at a single point in the center. The outer edge displays eight points. The final shape looks like four arrows meeting in the middle. Depicted in white against either a red or black background. Both its horizontal and vertical view display a symmetrical Cross.
The Maltese Cross is prevalent throughout the world. Its symbol represents courage and honour.
The Maltese Cross: its Meaning
Historian’s gave different interpretations to the eight points of the Maltese Cross.
Some historians state that it stands for one of the eight languages of the Knights. Or for one of the lands of origin of the Knights admitted to the Order. The Knights of St. John came from eight territories. These being Auvergne, Provence, France, Aragon, Castille and Portugal, Italy, Baviere and England.
Other historians say it represents the eight obligations of the Knights of the Order of St. John. These are to be honest, to belief, to repent one’s sins, to give proof of humility, to seek justice, to forgive, to be sincere and loyal, to resist persecution.
The Order of St. John did not end the performance of its duties with the fall of chivalry in Europe. The Order is still present today and known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
The Maltese Cross represents the ultimate goal of human acts in Christian faith. At present, the Order adopts a modern day meaning to the eight-pointed Cross. It signifies the qualities its members must show to help others. These make up the characteristics of a first-aider who serves in the Order of St. John. Each point of the Cross represents the following. To be observant, tactful, resourceful, skillful, clear, discriminating, persevering and sympathetic.
The Maltese Cross: its Connection to Firefighters
Throughout the world this Christian symbol relates with courage, honour and bravery. Many firefighters from all around the globe use the Maltese Cross as their emblem. This represents their institution. To bear a resemblance to the valiant Knights who fought the flames for their beliefs and faith.
At the time of the Crusades the enemy the Knights fought were the Saracens. These had invented a bomb filled with a flammable mixture. So the Knights had to extinguish the fires that erupted on the battlegrounds. Also, in the thick smoke, it makes it harder to differentiate an opponent from an ally warrior. The Knights resolved this by adorning their armour with the Christian Cross. Besides, the Cross was a constant reminder about their undertaking.
This explains the application of the Maltese Cross as a symbol of courage and determination to firefighters. As they put their lives in danger in the face of fire.
The Maltese Cross: its Use Today
The Maltese Cross, a symbol which the brave knights wore with pride centuries ago has found a permanent home in Malta.
The eight point Cross is the only recognisable symbol which represents Malta. You will note that this symbol utilised as a logo for several local organisations. Such as the Malta Tourism Authority, Malta Enterprise and Air Malta. National sports teams have this image present on their kits.
The Maltese Cross is predominant on the island in the middle of the Mediterranean. You will see it adorned on souvenirs. Displayed on medals of honour, coats of arms, architecture, masonry work, jewelry and retail items. Such as on clothing, key-chains, pottery and glassware. A range of local crafts such as lace and filigree products incorporate this Cross. The Maltese one and two Euro coins have the Maltese Cross depicted at the back of the coin. If you are a tourist visiting the islands you are bound to buy something with Maltese Cross as a souvenir.
Nowadays, the Maltese Cross is a popular tattoo symbol. Also, utilised as an emblem by a variety of organisations throughout the world. Such as in the medical field, by firefighters and sports clubs. Germany, France, the Philippines, Sweden, and Poland use the Maltese Cross on their highest medals of honor.
Today, the Maltese Cross is rooted in the Maltese culture. With great historical importance as a symbol which denotes bravery, courage and honour.