The Maltese Cross
I can’t believe that as I write this newsletter, it will February in a few days. It seems like only yesterday that it was Christmas and I’m still amazed that since July 2021, I have managed to write something each week, although I am starting to find it difficult.
The Maltese Cross is a symbol that is most commonly associated with the Knights of Malta (also known as the Knights Hospitallers), who ruled the Maltese islands between 1530 and 1798. The Maltese cross is today is widely used and associated with Malta as a country, used by the national airline Air Malta as part of its livery, and even features on the Maltese Euro coins.
The Maltese Cross on a 2 Euro coin
The shape of the Maltese cross is star like with four ‘V’ shaped arms that are joined together at the tips. It’s frequently either in black and white, or red and white and is symmetrical vertically as well as horizontally.
Although the Maltese cross is most famously associated with the Knights of Malta, as well as Malta itself as a country, it is thought the symbol evolved from a closely resembling cross found on coins minted in Amalfi (an Italian republic) during the 11th century.
The Maltese Cross was adopted by the Knights Hospitallers of St. John in 1126, and owes its origins to the crosses used in the Crusades, when it was identified as the symbol of the ‘Christian warrior’. Its eight points denote the eight obligations or aspirations of the knights, which were:-
To live in truth.
Repent ones sins.
Give proof of humility.
Be sincere and wholehearted.
The Maltese cross remains the symbol of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which is still in existence and active as an international organisation for medical and humanitarian aid. As part of its modern day teachings, the cross also represents eight beatitudes (or ‘blessings’). A good first aider in the service of the Order of St. John is Observant, Tactful, Resourceful, Dextrous, Explicit, Discriminating, Persevering and Sympathetic.
The Knights of Malta (Order of St John), can trace their origins back to a group of monks attached to a hospice built in the Holy Land to aid pilgrims. Over time, the monks started offering an armed escort to travellers as they passed through perilous Syrian territory. Following the success of the First Crusade, the Knights Hospitallers then became a military order.
The link between the Maltese Cross and Malta was forged with the Knights’ arrival in Malta in 1530. By then, the Cross had become the established symbol of the Order, and as the Knights set about making their mark on the islands through their architectural feats and support of the arts, the Maltese Cross provided the signature to this legacy. The Cross found itself on coats of arms, palaces, hospitals, entrances and gates to forts and towers, on fortifications as well as on coins, cannons, monuments, churches, paintings and frescoes, furniture, silverware and jewellery.
The cross also has a special significance to firefighters around the world. During the Crusades, many knights became firefighters out of necessity, and hundreds of them were burned alive and others risked their lives to save their fellow knights from dying painful fiery deaths. These men became the first firefighters and their heroic efforts were recognised by fellow Crusaders who awarded each hero a Badge of Honour, as a symbol of protection, courage and heroism, and although the design varies today from the original Maltese Cross, you can still see the basic four arms and eight point symbol on firefighting vehicles.
I hope you have a good week.