During the founding Principality days of the Kingdom of Caid, the leaders created a motif to represent the territory and populace – four crescents conjoined in saltire horns outward argent. This became known colloquially as the Cross of Caid. In the years that followed, the heralds of Caid worked to have this name officially recorded in blazons in the College of Heralds’ armorial, causing a long standing debate on whether or not this motif constituted a cross given the saltire orientation of the four charges which comprise it.
The debate surrounding the “crossness” of Caid’s motif sparked the need for further research on the naming practices of crosses and saltires in medieval heraldic armorials and treatises – could an arrangement of four charges, oriented saltirewise, be construed as a cross to the medieval herald, and would it be blazoned as such? This article investigates the definitions, construction and naming patterns, and the ideology behind charge identity as it applies to the cross and its many variants.
Now I turne againe to the signe of the Crosse and aske a question, how many Crosses be borne in armes? To which question, vnder any certaine number I dare not answere, for Crosses innumerable are now borne daily.Dame Juliana Berners, The Boke of Saint Albans”, Written 1486, Page 60
After combining the data from several sources, four relative construction classifications emerged: Geometric, Cruciform of 2 overlapping charges, Cruciform of multiple conjoined charges, and Non-Cruciform. The scope of this project is not to classify all crosses that existed in medieval heraldry, but rather take a more focused look into those that were specifically named for something other than their arms’ finial treatments.
Per Guillim, “the Cross is an Ordinary composed of a four-fold line, whereof two are perpendicular, and the other two are transverse, for so we must conceive of them, though the are not drawn throughout, but meet by Couples in four Acute Angles.”
A sub-classification of this category would include any crosses that are named for their finial treatments. As this is more of a naming convention, this is addressed in more depth later.
Cruciform, 2 Charges
The next means of constructing crosses conjoins two long skinny charges perpendicularly. The earliest and best example of this is the Cross Moline (as pictured left) which conjoins two millrinds to make the single charge.
This pattern also appears with the cross raguly, a charge we find later blazoned as a Cross of Bourgogne, which conjoins two rough staves.
Cruciform, Multiple Charges
The next pattern is to take four or more repeating charges, arranged in a cross like manner, to create a single charge. This is apparent with the Ermine Cross (four ermine spots), Cross Avelane (four filbert nuts), and the crosses mascly, lozengy, bezanty, and the like. Each of these has the respective charges conjoined, as pictured.
This pattern can also be seen with the cross disjointed, which Legh called “a cross of fower batunes, in true loue,” and the Cross Moline disjointed.
The most famous example of this construction pattern is the Cross of Jerusalem/Saint Sepulcre. This motif has a central cross potent between four crosses couped, and is considered by the medieval herald as a single contained design.
The last construction method contains all crosses that are non-cruciform in shape – that is they do not have four limbs that meet perpendicularly. This category contains the Cross of Saint Anthony, or the tau cross, the Cross of Lorraine, and the cross portate.
The Crosses tau and portate are both three limbed, in the shape of a tau or upper case T, with the latter being oriented bendwise. The Cross of Lorraine, also called the Patriarchal cross, contains two cross bars of unequal length.
It should be noted here that there is a distinction in medieval heraldic treatises and practices between conjoining charges and arranging charges, even in relation to naming crosses. Those that were conjoined were usually given special names, while those that were arranged in cross were not. In Guillim, the author explicitly addresses this and gives the follow example.
He blazons the motif pictured as “a shinbone in pale surmounted by another in Cross[…]”, and continues to elaborate that “[…] they cannot be properly said to be a Cross of Bones, because the be not incorporated one with another, but are dividedly severed by interposing the Purslings.”
This is a very important distinction, as it allows the modern herald to understand the mindset of the medieval herald when constructing and naming crosses. Blazonry is very deliberate, so as the be able to reconstruct an image using only words, and this distinction would instruct the herald or scribe to create a single congruent charge over many in a particular arrangement. The mere arrangement of multiple charges in a cruciform shape is not enough to warrant the motif as being named a cross – the charges must be conjoined to do so.
As the patterns of construction are made apparent, the naming practices of crosses becomes imperative. How does a herald delineate the above mentioned crosses in blazons? Below are several naming patterns, which have been highlighted due to their relevance to the scope of the article.
The predominant naming convention for crosses by medieval heralds is based around the finial treatments of the charge’s arms or line treatments. Some examples of this pattern are:
- cross couped – couped, or plain cut, ends
- cross bottony – three rounded “bulbs”
- cross cletchy – arms are flared and ends are pointed with a single point.
- cross cresently – crescents, horns outward issuant from the ends
- cross crosslet – ends each transfixed perpendicularly
- cross indented – line edges are indented
- cross fleury – fleurs-de-lys issuant from the ends
- cross fitchy – bottom arm is extended and extends to a single point
- cross formy – plain ends, arms are flared
- cross fourchetty – ends terminate with a forked design (often decorative)
- cross pommely – ends terminate in single rounded bulb
- cross potent – ends terminate with a perpendicular end cap
- cross glandular – ends terminate in acorns
- cross gingoly – ends terminate in snake heads
These examples are not comprehensive of this practice. Those pictured above are all crosses couped (equal arm length), but would also have been used to described latin crosses (elongated bottom arm) in the same manner. Also, some of these can be combined for a single design – a cross formy fitchy would have three flared arms with the bottom one extending to a single point.
However, the crosses that fall under this category are cross descriptors, and do not qualify as documentation for “Named Crosses”. This naming convention is only shown for comparison with the following “Named Crosses” – all of which can be blazoned by in a similar manner and yet are still also found in medieval blazons by their special names.
Similar to the final treatments, some Crosses are named for the charges that comprise them. Two of these have already been discussed: the Ermine Cross and the Avellane Cross. It could be argued that the Moline Cross also falls into this category, as it was often also referred to as the Cross Milrind.
Named Crosses received their names through common usage. If enough people associated a particular charge with a territory or person or other usage, that is how the charge became commonly known. In warfare, where heraldry was the most prevalent means of identification, these charges became known with fighting groups – which in feudal times were territorially based.
Examples of this pattern in medieval heraldry include the Crosses of Bourgogne, Malta, Jerusalem, Lorraine, and Calvary. Other example of this pattern can be found in medieval prose, but cannot be found in period blazons: Crosses of Cleves and Toulouse.
Where crosses were named from locations, it follows that some would also be named for families. This makes sense given that several Feudal territories were named for the families that held such lands – or the families took on the name of the territory. Bourgogne and Lorraine are excellent examples of this. Lorraine is the French equivalent of the German “Lothairingen” (belonging to Lothair, the then current Carolingen King). Bourgogne is the French equivalent to Burgundi, the German tribe that evolved into the Kingdom of Burgundy.
And while Cleves and Toulouse likewise also fit this pattern and are readily found in medieval heraldic prose, they have yet to be found in medieval blazons.
Another very popular convention for naming crosses was an association with a saint. This occurred when fighting divisions would carry a symbol of their patron saint as a manner of protection. The most common of these became known as the Cross of Saint George (gules cross on an argent field), carried by the Knights of England. Others that followed in the same vein are the Crosses of Saint Andrew, Saint Anthony, Saint James/Jaques, Saint John, and Saint Julian.
Of these six examples, four are non-cruciform shapes.
The popularity of naming crosses for saints and locations also lead to the practice of naming crosses for merit Orders, as many medieval Orders were also named for such reasons. Examples of this practice include:
- cross of Calatrava
- cross of the Holy Spirit (Saint Esprit)
- cross of Malta
- cross of Santiago
- cross of Saint George
- cross of Saint Sepulcre
The cross of Malta appears as both a location and an order, the cross of Saint George and Saint Sepulcre appear as both saints and orders. We also see the same design with two names: the crosses of Jerusalem and Saint Sepulcre differ only by their tinctures. The latter is gules and the former, while famously Or, can be any tincture. The same goes for the crosses of Santiago and Saint James – the former is gules while the latter can be other tinctures.
The Orders of Santiago and Calatrava have been well documented in period resources, as were their badges, but are not found as such in period blazons in the sources used for this project. The information provided on these come from more modern sources, including the websites of the modern branches of these Orders.
In order to discuss orientation and charge names, the concept of transposition needs to be addressed – this is the fancy word for changing the relative position of a thing. In heraldry, this could be any movement on the x or y plane, a rotation on an axis, or an interchange of axes.
Transposition and Identity
Guillim goes into the idea of transposition and identity thoroughly in his treatise. In paraphrasing, he says that the transmutation or location of an object does not alter the essence or nature of that object and therefore it does not require a new name. He continues, “where there are new names, new things are supposed to be” . Further in his treatise, Guillim continues on this specifically in relation to the Cross and Saltire: “for in all things having conformity, the same reason should hold from one to the other”.
However, in order to distinguish the changes made by transposition, the modifier does need to exist, and they are usually presented in the familiar descriptors like “fesswise” or “saltirewise” and “in chief” or “in base”. These signal to the reader the transpositional modifications to the charge. Other modifiers exist that communicate other changes to charges – tinctures, postures, number, arrangements, etc., but these are less important to the argument herein. Over time, some of these signifiers have been truncated to shorthand versions for various charges due to their infusion with the identity of that charge, and to better emulate the medieval practice of succinct blazonry.
This idea is not new to heraldry, and not limited to the Cross and Saltire. This argument holds for other ordinaries. We see this with the, as Guillim names, twofold variants: the Pale, Bend, Bend Sinister, and Fess. Guillim refers to these ordinaries as subdivisions of the Pale. The Bend gets its denomination from the French word bender (to bend), wherein the Pale is bent across the escutcheon. The sinister version is further modified by being a Bend drawn traverse – or to sinister.
Each of these is constructed in the same manner – two parallel lines, approximately one-third of the width of the field, extending through the full length of the escutcheon. The only difference among the four is their orientational transposition. Essentially, these could each be respectively blazoned as a Pale bendwise, a Pale bendwise sinister, and a Pale fesswise. If the reader is assumed to accept these as the same charge transposed, then the shorthand versions of Bend, Bend Sinister, and Fess remove redundancy and save space in the blazon for more important, and explicitly required, terms.
This pattern also appears in the handling of the Chevron variants: the Chevron, the Chevron inverted, and the Chevron couched. The ordinary construction itself does not change, but the term is modified to reflect the orientational transposition.
Another example of this are the field treatments Fretty and Grillage. These two are identical in construction, yet the names given to these treatments indicate their different orientations.
This idea also extends to non-ordinary charges, and is most notable in the naming practices of the Crescent variants. Depending on the orientation of the crescent, the charge has a shorthanded term detonate the variance akin to the Pale example previously noted. The practice for this charge slightly differs, as it follows the orientational transposition of the “horns” to guide the difference. The default position has the horns “to chief”. Horns “to base” denote the inverted transposition of the Crescent, or better known as a Crescent Pendant. Horns to either Dexter or Sinister denote the respective transposition of the better known Increscent and Decrescent.
This brings up the heart of the matter – how does the saltire charge relate to the cross, if at all?
The main basis for the objections to the “Cross of Caid” being considered and blazoned as a cross is that the charges that comprise this motif are oriented saltirewise. Most modern heralds are taught that the Cross and the Saltire are two distinct ordinaries. However, as seen earlier in this article, some charges that are blazoned as crosses are clearly arranged saltirewise – is this an error or a “special case”, or could the saltire be a cross variant?
When reviewing available medieval heraldic sources, one thing is consistent across all authors – each provides the construction of a saltire to be “made in the manner of a cross” or “no diversely made in respect of the lineaments thereof, than the Cross before handled.”
In medieval indices, the saltire was even defined as “a kind of cross.” These examples support the idea that medieval heralds categorized the saltire in the cross family, at least in terms of their construction. As such, the modern herald can also apply any of the previous construction patterns to the saltire.
The idea of a saltire being a cross variant is also carried through in the naming practices. Several medieval sources have examples where medieval heralds would blazon saltires as crosses/cruxes. This practice is found to stem from the days of crucifixion, where people would be mounted to x-shaped frames. These frames were called the crux decussata, which would later become known as the Cross of Saint Andrew – as he was crucified in this manner.
This shape became so famously known as the Cross of Saint Andrew, that all saltires soon became known as such, and the terms became synonymous. The Cross of Saint Andrew became the definition of a saltire in period dictionaries and heraldic treatises – so common that no less than eight sources from this resource project contained this definition in same manner: from “as it is called” to “called commonly” to “which is named” to ”tearmed so by the heralds” to “called also” to being the defining header to “shaped as” to “named.”
Saltires as Named Crosses
Just as the named crosses above had specific names for particular motifs, several specific saltires had distinct names. In addition to the above mentioned cross of Saint Andrew, examples also include: The cross of Saint Julian (a cross crosslet saltirewise), the cross of Saint Patrick (a plain red saltire on an argent field), and the cross of Bourgogne (a raguly gules saltire on an argent field). The cross of Saint Patrick is found named in medieval prose, but not yet found in medieval blazons.
Saltires as an Orientation
Medieval heralds continue this practice beyond the context of charges. At least four sources used for this article also had several examples of the saltire field division blazoned as “quarterly in saltire”. The field division “quarterly” is a derivative of the cross charge.
Based on this, it is evident that “saltire” was considered by medieval heralds as an orientation, or transpositional, modifier for the cross, or any cross-like line divisions or charges, when turned 45-degrees off axis. It because shorthanded in the case of the Saltire as a charge due to the medieval heraldic practice of succinct blazonry.
The Cross of Caid
Turning back to the question that sparked this article – would the motif used by Caid be considered a cross to medieval heralds, and does it qualified to be blazoned with a special naming pattern?
- Crosses made of four charges is good medieval heraldry.
- Crosses turned saltirewise were blazoned as crosses.
- Crosses turned saltirewise were also given special names, like the Crosses of Saint Andrew and Saint Julian, with their orientation as part of their identity.
- Crosses with special names were most often named for locations.
Therefore based on these patterns, a cross of four conjoined charges turned off axis could still be plausibly blazoned as a cross named after a location.
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