Primary Idea of the Cross

§1. The primary idea of the plain heraldic cross is that the four arms are equal, and that they meet in the fesse-point of the shield; from the shape of the shield, however, the horizontal bar is generally shorter than the vertical. This even-armed cross is frequently termed the Greek cross, to distinguish it from the Latin cross, it which the lower member is always longer than the other three. The plain cross of gules on a field argent is termed the Cross of S.George, having been assigned to S.George of Cappadocia, or S.George of England. (See Union Jack under Flag.) The plain cross was the most frequent amongst the early arms.

Le Conte de NORFFOLK, d'or a ung crois de goulez--Roll, temp. HEN. III.

Piers de SAUVOYE, goules ung crois d'argent--Ibid.

Robert de VEER d'argent a la crois de goulz--Ibid.

Argent, on a bull statant gules, armed or, upon a mount vert; a plain cross argent at the shoulder--RIDLEY.

As said above, the position of the cross is that the centre should occupy the fesse-point, but in those cases where there is a chief this ordinary must be abased, though it be not mentioned.

Argent, a cross gules, a chief chequy sable and of the first--SCOLYCORNE.

Argent, a cross and a chief sable--JOHN, Bishop of Exeter, 1185-91.

Or, a cross gules, a chief vert--VERE, Suffolk[granted 1584].

The cross admits of great varieties in outline and treatment, and the inventors of heraldic devices have not been slow to avail themselves of this, and heraldic writers have in their ingenuity multiplied the forms. In giving a summary of the chief forms only we are met with the difficulty of many synonyms occurring, for practically the same form is often much varied by incorrect drawing, and much confusion has arisen from blunders of heraldic writers in misreading or misunderstanding the terms employed. The French terms are more varied still than the English, and the correlation of the two series can only be attempted approximately. It is the plain cross which is most frequently made subject to the variations described, §1 to §7, but it will be noted that other forms of the cross are also at times subjected to the same treatment.

In the following classification the varieties have been, as far as possible, restricted to cases of which examples can be founded; and an index at the end(see p. 179) will, it is hoped, render reference easy.

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