Cross Tattoo History & Meanings

On June 7, 2012, in Cross Tattoos, by Tristan G

The cross is one of the most recognized symbols in the world. They date back thousands of years and have an extensive history that is both gruesome and holy. For millions of people the cross is a strong symbol of their faith. People have died on them, worshipped them, been buried under them, fought wars over them, and loved them for as long as history has been recorded. Held aloft in a church they mean one thing, turned upside down, something else. Burned, a message of hate. On a grave, a message of faith.

There are literally thousands, if not millions, of variations to the cross. It’s no wonder the Cross Tattoo is so popular!


Writing about the history of the cross would take about as much time as writing a history of the world. Well, perhaps not that long, but you get the picture. As a symbol that’s been around for thousands of years, all over the globe, the cross has a violent, sad, and colorful history.

Most of you know that the cross is basically THE symbol of Christianity. Jesus was crucified on a cross, and since then it’s become a representation of his suffering for the sake of man and proof that God does love us. It’s there as a reminder of his sacrifice, and that we need to always keep in mind what he gave up for our sins.

Cross Tattoo - History and MeaningTurned upside down, however, it’s widely recognized today as the symbol for Satanism. However, the upside down cross, like its right side up cousin, existed long before Christianity (or Satanism for that matter). It’s said that Peter, Jesus’ disciple, requested on his own to crucified upside down because he thought himself so unworthy to die the same death as Jesus himself. As a result, the upside down cross is traditionally known as Peter’s Cross, or the Cross of St. Peter.

Many people don’t realize, however, that the cross existed long before Jesus ever walked the earth. Even the ancient Egyptions had a cross of their own, the ankh, which symbolized the key to life.

In ancient Asian and European countries some cultures used the cross to denote solar power (worshiping of the sun, that is, not the environmentally friendly way to get energy) and movement.

Many pagan religions used some form of the cross as well, so associating this symbol with Christianity only is a common mistake. Lots of different people in many different religions have associated themselves with the cross throughout history.

What does a Cross Tattoo Mean?
As a tattoo, crosses can mean lots of different things. People get them to mourn the passing of a friend or loved one. They can signify suffering, faith, or as reminders to be good in life.

As far as the different styles well, rest assured you’ve got a lot to choose from.

If you’d like to keep things simple, a monochrome tribal cross might be the way to go. These are simple black crosses paired with the swirling, spiky designs of a tribal tattoo. They make a very powerful statement because of their simplicity.

Victorian-style crosses are also pretty popular, especially with women. These feature very ornate shapes within the cross itself as well as outside the cross. If you can picture a cross made out of scrolled ironwork then that will give you a good idea of this style of cross.

Celtic crosses are also immensely popular. These are often very thick crosses with many celtic knots located on the inside or outside the cross. Many Welsh people, commoners, warriers, and royalty alike, were buried under this style of cross thousands of years ago, and many graveyards and churches in Scotland, England, and Ireland still feature these designs. Celtic crosses are also sometimes designed with zoomorphic shapes, such as cats, dogs, or birds, and this gives them a very unique look. They can be very stunning when done well, hence their popularity. People will also pair certain other designs with the traditional cross such as flowers, praying hands, thorns, angel wings, swords, beads, or hearts.

Whatever your reasons for wanting a cross tattoo, there are plenty of designs and meanings to choose from. Good luck, and happy hunting!


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