Cross tattoos are a popular choice if you’re looking for a design that’s iconic and rich with symbolism. But the origin of the cross design is unknown. The cross is one of the oldest and most basic designs known to humans. It has been used to decorate all manner of things including pottery and cloth for as long as humans can remember.
In ancient times the cross was used as part of the Aztec, Egyptian, Greek and Norse cultures for many centuries. The symbol of the cross was also used by various pagan religions that pre-date Christianity by thousands of years, and as a consequence cross tattoos are almost as old as the cross design itself.
Eventually, due to the rise of Christianity and the cross being a sign of execution by crucifixion, it became a symbol of Jesus’s death and subsequent resurrection. The Christian cross (a vertical line intersected at right angles approximately one third from the top) is used by followers to profess their faith and the clergy to bestow blessings. These days Christian tattoos are an exceptionally popular way for people to express their Christian faith
So why are cross tattoos so popular?
The cross design has a number of practical advantages. To begin with, it’s widely recognised and socially acceptable in most places. But beyond that it can be scaled to almost any size, placed anywhere on the body and can be combined with virtually any tattoo design. For example, it could be used in conjunction with flowers, words, animals etc to add greater meaning and individuality to the design. For these reasons a cross design is a popular choice of first tattoo with millions of people.
And finally, as already mentioned they convey a wide range of meanings to a wide range of people. However, cross tattoos are not only a sign of religious faith. Due to the number of symbolic meanings that can be held by the wearer of a tattooed cross, one person may use it to represent their religious beliefs while another person may just like the design. However, for the purposes of this article, we’ll consider the main types of religious cross tattoo designs.
1) The Latin Cross
The design of the Latin cross is one of the most instantly recognisable in the world. It consists of a vertical line that is intersected at right angles by a shorter horizonal line about one third of the way from the top, and as such is the design most closely connected with Christianity.
This simple cross design is a good choice for a first time tattoo. The design can be scaled to any size, it’s socially acceptable, it has a wide range of religious and spiritual meanings and it can be added to by further designs in the future. For example, if you have a basic latin cross, you could add a dove to the design to symbolize peace, you could add a shamrock to represent the Irish culture, or you could add the name and date of death to pay tribute to someone special who has died.
2) The Celtic Cross
Celtic cross tattoos are one of the best looking and most symbolic designs available. The basic design involves a standard latin style or Christian cross with a Celtic knot placed over the area where both lines cross over. Alternatively the border of the cross is surrounded by a series of Celtic knots.
These Celtic knots are designed in such as way that the strands of the design have no beginning and no end. This simple and elegant design is taken as a powerful symbol of the never ending nature of human life, while the knot itself represents the joining together of the physical and spiritual worlds.
The Celtic cross makes a great tattoo design and thanks to its long and symbolic history it is extremely popular among people from Scotland, Ireland and Wales who have pride in their Celtic heritage.
3) The St. Andrew’s Cross
The St Andrew’s cross differs from the traditional style of cross as it is shaped more like an X than a T. History says that the St Andrew’s cross came about after St Peter (who felt he was unworthy of the same death as his Lord) was crucified upside down. St Andrew followed the same belief and so the modified cross became linked to his name.
So these cross tattoos are great if you want to be slightly different from the rest of the crowd. And as St Andrew is the Patron Saint of Scotland, these cross tattoos are ideal for people with Scottish links who want to pay tribute to their ancestors.