SYMBOLS Stories of cultural life.


Maltese Cross (Knights of St. John – members of the Crusader orders): A form of Greek cross in which the arms have the shape of arrows meeting in the centre.

Each point on the cross stands for one of the Beatitudes (MT 5:8). This cross came to be identified with Malta and the Knights of Hospitaliers (also known as  “the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem” or “the Knights of Malta”). The organization was founded during the Crusades in order to care for pilgrims in the Holy Land and then became one of the militant orders along with the Templars. According to Michael Foster, the Maltese cross was assumed as the Knights’ cross later during their stay in Malta.  

This cross is also known in Italy as the Amalfi cross. In the 15th century, the eight points of the four arms what would later be called the Maltese Cross represented the eight lands of origin, or Langues of the Knights Hospitaller: Auvergne, Provence, France, Aragon, Castille and Portugal, Italy, Germany, and England (with Scotland and Ireland).[3]  

The eight points also symbolize the eight obligations or aspirations of the knights:  
-          to live in truth
-          to have faith
-          to repent of one's sins
-          to give proof of humility
-          to love justice
-          to be merciful
-          to be sincere and wholehearted
-          to endure persecution  

Both the Order of Saint John and the Venerable Order of St John teach that the eight points of the cross represent the eight Beatitudes. The Venerable Order's main service organisation, St John’s Ambulance, has applied secular meanings to the points as representing the traits of a good first aider:  

- Observant (“that he may note the causes and signs of injury”)
- Tactful (“that he may without thoughtless questions learn the symptoms and history of the case, and secure the confidence of the patients and bystanders”)
- Resourceful (“That he may use to the best advantage whatever is at hand to prevent further damage, and to assist Nature’s efforts to repair the mischief already done”)
- Dextrous (“that he may handle a patient without causing unnecessary pain, and use appliances efficiently and neatly”)
- Explicit (“that he may give clear instructions to the patient or the bystanders how best to assist him”)
- Discriminating (“that he may decide which of several injuries presses most for treatment by himself, what can best be left for the patient or bystanders to do, and what should be left for the medical men”)
- Persevering (“that he may continue his efforts, though not at first successful.”)
- Sympathetic (“that he may give real comfort and encouragement to the suffering”)  

The Maltese cross remains the symbol of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, of the Order of Saint John and its allied orders, of the Venerable Order of Saint John, and of their various service organisations. In recent centuries, numerous other orders have adopted the Maltese cross as part of their insignia (the Order of Saint Lazarus, for example, uses a green Maltese cross). In Australia, the Maltese Cross is part of the state emblem of Queensland.    

The Maltese Cross and its significance", History.
Accessed 17 July 2013. The St. John Cross" (PDF).
St. John Ambulance Service. Retrieved 2010-07-18.
Pastoureau, 13-67. Neubecker, 106-107. Murray, 296-297


Linked guides and points map