Many were 'borrowed' or drawn from early pre-Christian traditions. The cross took the form of a gibbet, consisting of two pieces of timber placed transversely upon one another, in various forms, as a T, or +, with the horizontal piece below the upper end of the upright, or as an X. It was anciently used in the execution of criminals.
The Definition and Meaning of the Cross as a Christian Symbol
Catholic Christian symbolism in art provides a clear graphic illustration which represents people or items of religious significance. What is the definition and the meaning of the Cross? The Cross represents the symbol of Christ's death; the ensign and chosen symbol of Christianity and of a Christian people. The sign or mark of the cross is made during Catholic devotions.
The Cross as a Christian Emblem
After the conversion, so-called, of Constantine the Great (B.C. 313), the cross first came into use as an emblem of Christianity. He pretended at a critical moment that he saw a flaming cross in the heavens bearing the inscription, "In hoc signo vinces", i.e., By this sign thou shalt conquer, and that on the following night Christ himself appeared and ordered him to take for his standard the sign of this cross. In this form a new standard, called the Labarum, was accordingly made, and borne by the Roman armies. It remained the standard of the Roman army till the downfall of the Western empire. It bore the embroidered monogram of Christ, i.e., the first two Greek letters of his name, X and P (chi and rho), with the Alpha and Omega.
Different Forms of the Cross
The forms in which the cross is represented are these:
1. The crux simplex (I), a "single piece without transom."
2. The crux decussata (X), or the St. Andrew. Saint Andrew's or saltire is a cross with diagonal bars of equal length
3. The crux commissa (T), or St. Anthony. Saint Anthony or the Tau cross resembling the Greek letter tau
4. The crux immissa (t), or Latin cross, which was the kind on which our Saviour died. Above our Lord's head, on the projecting beam, was placed the "title." The inscription that Pontius Pilate ordered that "Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews" was displayed. The Latin is a cross with the lowest arm being longer than the others
5. The Calvary is the Latin style set on three steps
6. The Celtic is a Latin style with a ring surrounding the intersection
7. Crucifix is a representation of the cross on which Jesus died
8. The Greek is a cross with each of the four arms the same length
9. The Jerusalem is a cross with equal arms, each terminating in a small crossbar
10. The Lorraine is a cross with two crossbars, one above and one below the midpoint of the vertical, the lower longer than the upper
11. The Maltese is a cross with triangular or arrow-shaped arms and the points toward the center
12. The Patriarchal is a cross with two crossbars
Reference to the Cross Christian Symbol in the Bible
The Easton Bible Dictionary provides the following definition, meaning and emblem for the Cross Christian Symbol in the Bible. In the New Testament the cross was the instrument of crucifixion, and hence used for the crucifixion of Christ itself (Eph. 2:16; Heb. 12:2; 1 Cor. 1:17, 18; Gal. 5:11; 6:12, 14; Phil. 3:18). The word is also used to denote any severe affliction or trial (Matt. 10:38; 16:24; Mark 8:34; 10:21).