Thursday, 2 May 2013

Heraldry 101 part 10 - Crosses

So having picked up some Fireforge Templars at Salute, I figured it would be good if I got the article on crosses squared away for everyone else who's succumbed :D

The basic heraldic cross we actually should have already covered as one of the ordinaries, but somehow (in fact, deliberately) I missed it. Specifically, here are the two main ordinaries I missed, the cross and the saltire:

Argent, a cross gules
Azure, a saltire argent,
No prizes for recognising the above as the cross of St. George, and what should properly be called the saltire of St. Andrew.

But now the fun starts. Because, as I'm sure you've realised if you've studied any mediaeval coats of arms, crosses come in a ridiculous number of variants, which would keep me amused in Coat of Arms Design Studio for a good while longer than I have time for this evening!

I'm going to cheat, and refer you to Wikipedia, which for once has a handy and extensive catalogue of heraldic crosses. So as not to be accused of a complete copout, though, I'll flag a few of the popular ones.

The cross patée or paty - as seen in a number of places, most commonly German aircraft, and some variants of the arms of the Knights of the Teutonic Order.

The Maltese cross, as seen on the arms of the Knights of Malta.

The cross potent: you'll find this all over the place, to be honest! Famously, though, in the arms of the Crusader kings of Jerusalem, which we mentioned back when we were discussing the rule of tincture, which it breaks. Hopefully, though, the blazon - argent, a cross potent or between four crosslets or. - will make more sense now!

The cross of St. Julian: I really don't fancy painting this one! It is, though, the arms of the Spanish Order of Alcántara, and I really fancy an El Cid unit with this on their shield!

A few other terms you will come across:

  • A cross fitchy or fitchée has its bottom limb replaced by a point, as if to be fixed in the ground.
  • A cross that doesn't reach the edges of the shield is referred to as couped  
  • A cross couped with its bottom limb longer, as per a 'standard' Christian cross, is sometimes referred to as a passion cross.
Anyway - that's crosses, although as should be obvious, you can dig much much deeper - try the index of crosses here if you want to keep busy for a while.

I'm mostly done on the basics now - there's three more areas I want to cover before I'm done, plus (as usual) anything else that I'm reminded of as I write. Those are an article on borders and backgrounds, one on the fascinating subject of marks of cadency, and one on the odds and sods I deliberately glossed over at the beginning.

See you then!

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