The cross of the Holy Land, a Greek cross in red on a white background with four smaller crosses, one in each quadrant, also known as the “Jerusalem cross”, is the symbol of the Custody of the Holy Land.
Origins and History
There is no reliable information on the origins of the famous symbol. The sign that many have been associated with the kingdom founded by the Crusaders in 1099, actually appears on coins, seals and flags, which have nothing to do with the world of the Crusades. However, it is true that with the Crusades, the Jerusalem cross took on a political meaning, alongside its religious meaning, as well as one of territorial identity.
It is more probable that the Jerusalem cross evolved from a Greek cross with dots in place of the small crosses used by the very first Christian community in the Middle East in Roman times, a thousand years before the Crusades. Indeed, many of the signs found in different places in the Holy Land are reminiscent of the Jerusalem cross, including some mosaics where it is identical to the current one. This is the link underlying the basis for the adoption of the symbol by the Franciscans of the Holy Land.
The meaning for which the Franciscan Custody adopted it lies in its evocation of the Passion of Christ and his universal supremacy. For many, the number of crosses (four small ones plus a large one) symbolizes the five wounds of Jesus on the cross. The cross, which has always been a cosmic symbol of the number four referring to the four cardinal points and to the infinite, represents the cosmic presence of the Divine Power.