Crosses in S.C.A. Heraldry

Note: The information here is current through the June, 2017 Laurel Letter of Acceptances and Returns, so far as I was able to make it.

When the term "cross" appears in a blazon and no type is specified, it refers to an ordinary made up of two lines, one horizontal and one vertical, that overlap at the center of the field. Like most other ordinaries, a cross can can use complex lines. It can be divided into two or more tinctures. It can be be fimbriated, voided, or cotised. Other charges can be placed on it, or it can overlie other charges. There are no special rules for blazoning these particulars; it works the same way it works for any other ordinary.

 

Gules, a cross argent.

from BSB Cod.icon. 390, folio 44

 

Or, a cross cotised sable.

from SGS Cod. Sang 1084, folio 27

 

Argent, a cross engrailed gules.

from BSB Cod.icon. 390, folio 792

Sable, a cross compony counter-compony Or and gules.

from SGS Cod. Sang 1084, folio 35

 

Gules, on a cross argent five roundels gules pierced Or.

from BSB Cod.icon. 291, folio 26r

A cross, like a fess, a saltire, or a chevron, can be also be couped. That is, the ends of the arms can be cut short, so that they don't reach the edges of the shield. Such crosses are simple variants of the ordinary.

Where things really begin to get complicated is in the plethora of specialty crosses that were recognized in period heraldry as independent charges, the smaller but significant number of modern crosses inspired by these or by period motifs or artifacts that are part of S.C.A. heraldry, and all the optional treatments that can be used to distinguish crosses of the same types from one another. Add in the fact that the characteristics of certain types of crosses can be combined, with or without additional treatments, to create doubly- and triply-complex variants, and dealing with crosses as a category quickly becomes one of the most befuddling aspects of heraldry in the Society.

 

Per pale argent, in pile ten torteaus, and Or, on a cross couped engrailed sable five mullets argent.

from BSB Cod.icon. 291, folio 15v

 

Per fess sable and argent, a cross moline countercharged.

from BSB Cod.icon. 273, folio 126r

 

Gules, a bend between six crosses crosslet fitchy argent.

from BSB Cod.icon. 291, folio 24r

Argent, a cross bottony nowy quadrate and on a chief Or an eagle sable. 

from BSB Cod.icon. 270, folio 164r

 

Quarterly argent and gules, four crosses formy counterchanged.

from BSB Cod.icon. 291, folio 22r

To simplify the conflict-checking process, the sovereigns at arms have grouped a number of the most common period cross types into "famillies". Any cross included in one of these families is considered to be substantially changed (as defined in Part A.5 of the S.C.A's Standards for Evaluation of Names and Armory) from any cross in any other family. But not every sort of cross that can be registered is included in this list, and not every pair of types that are substantially changed from one another is represented. Crosses that aren't part of any family must be compared one-to-one with each other and with family crosses when conflict checks are done. Comparisons that have been weighed by the sovereigns at arms in the past are mentioned in the precedents, but there are plenty of types of cross that they've never had reason to constrast with one another.

The sovereigns at arms have established a few general principles that can be applied when crosses are checked for conflict.

"Standard period variants of a particular style of cross will not be considered separate; no difference is granted for fitching, changing between equal-armed and Latinate, etc." (cover letter to the May, 2009 LoAR)

"While we give a CD for a standard cross throughout versus a cross couped, for most crosses. . .we do not give such difference for couped versus throughout." (February, 2002 LoAR) [There are some exceptions.]

"Adding or removing a. . .tertiary. . .charge group is a distinct change (DC)." (SENA Part A.5.G.2) [A tertiary charge group is any group of charges placed entirely on other charges, which includes charges on crosses.]

And there are some general rules about crosses and period style, including these:

"A cross of any type should either be throughout on all arms or not throughout on any of them." (July, 2004 LoAR)

"The default crusilly is of crosses crosslet." (August, 2002 LoAR) ["Crusilly" means "semy of crosses"--that is, 'having multiple crosses scattered over it.']

"While SCA-variant charges are often considered acceptable ('period-compatible', as it were), we draw the line at variants of SCA-variants." (November, 1992 LoAR)

"The SCA allows crosses of all sorts to be charged. . .." (April, 2002 LoAR)

"A cross throughout which overlies the line of division on a quarterly field does not remove the appearance of marshalling by quartering, even if the cross throughout is treated with a complex line (such as engrailed) or has complex ends (such as formy or moline.) A cross which is not throughout, or which does not overlie the quarterly line of division (such as a Tau cross), will remove the appearance of marshalling unless evidence is presented that the cross under discussion was used for marshalling in period heraldry." (June, 2003 LoAR)

Because, "It is poor style to use two similar but non-identical charges in a single group," the use of two different types of crosses in a single charge group is grounds for return. (July, 1991 LoAR, June, 1995 LoAR)

"[A]ny non-ordinary cross used as a charge, is not an ordinary and thus cannot be counterchanged over an ordinary. . .." (May, 2006 LoAR)

On a tower or castle, "Cross that appear to be arrow slits, such as plain crosses and crosses pometty, will be treated as architectural details - not as tertiary charges," (January, 2008 LoAR), and "artistic details are allowed to have poor contrast," (November, 2009 LoAR).

These broad ideas, combined with the precedents related to specific cross types that I've collected in the tables that make up the bulk of this article, should help anyone who's considering submitting armory that contains one or more crosses get a head start on researching any issues with them that are likely to arise. Use the lists below to navigate directly to information on a cross type that interests you, or browse through the images on the table pages if you aren't sure what the cross you're considering is called.

Note: I've tried to index every term that appears in a registered blazon or precedent, so that someone looking for more information on one can easily find it. That means that some types of crosses are listed more than once, under different terms that have been used to describe them. So if you click on one term and find yourself routed to a table entry headed with another, read the entry. Odds are the term you're investigating is an alternate blazon.

 

Crosses and Modifications Mentioned in Precedents or Registered without Comment by the S.C.A. College of Arms

 Period Crosses

(those marked "F" are included in conflict-checking families)

 Modern Crosses

(including those used only in the S.C.A.)

Disallowed Crosses Modifications
cross anchory [F]
cross annulety
cross avellane
cross billety [F]
cross bottony [F]
cross bourdonny [F]
Cross of Calatrava [F]
Cross of Calvary [F]
Cross of Cleves [F]
cross clechy [F]
cross couped [F]
cross couped of three crossbars, missing the dexter base arm
cross crescenty
cross crosslet [F]
doubled cross [F]
double-fitched
doubly pommeled
cross erminy
fillet cross
cross floretty [F]
cross flory / fleury [F]
cross formy [F]
cross fourchetty [F]
cross fourchy [F]
cross of four ermine spots
cross glandular
cross graded [F]
Greek cross [F]
Greek Orthodox cross
cross gringoly [F]
Cross of Jerusalem
key cross 
Cross of Lorraine [F]
cross lozenged
Maltese Cross [F]
miller cross [F]
cross mill-rind [F]
cross moline [F]
Norse sun cross 
passion cross
cross patonce [F]
patriarchal cross [F]
cross pointed 
cross pomelly [F]
cross pommy [F]
cross portate
cross potent [F]
cross potent rebated in annulo
cross paty [F]
cross recercelly [F]
Russian Orthodox cross
Cross of Santiago [F]
Cross of St. Ant[h]ony [F]
Cross of St. Julian
cross sarcelly [F]
four serpents entwined in cross
cross swallowtailed
tau cross [F]
Cross of Toulouse [F]
cross trefly [F]

Crosses Not Composed of Other Charges

cross alisée
ankh
crux ansata
cross arrondi 
cross barby 
Bowen cross
Canterbury cross
Celtic cross
Cross of Coldharbour
Coptic cross
cross ending in four pheons
cross estoile
cross gurgity
cross potent arched
cross potent rebated in annulo
Cross of Saint Brigid
Cross of Samildanach
crux stellata  

Crosses of Charges

Joined End-to-End

arrowheads
annulets
anchors
birds
bows and arrows
caltrops
Cavendish knots
crescents
cubit arms
demi-fleurs
dragonflies
drinking horns
eel-forks
fleurs-di-lys
grenade
hearts
horse's heads
keys
leaves
lozenges
mascles
passion nails
pheons
piles
quatrefoils
rose
rustres
seaxes
seeblätter
swords
Thor's hammers
tulips
whitebased opals

Crossed at the Middle

arrows
barrulets
bones
bows
cables
cartouches
chains
links of chain
lute
key
millrinds
musical note
nails
needle
pallets
ragged staves
sickle
smith's tongs
spear
spoons
staff
swords

 

 

cross alisée formy
capital cross
Cross of Cerdaña
crosshair cross
cross crosslet with extra crossbars
cross enflamed
cross of flames
cross formy convex
fylfot cross
Latin cross shifted to dexter or sinister
non-cross
Papal cross
cross patee botonny
cross patée concave
cross patty convex
Red Cross cross
San Damiano cross
star-cross
Ukranian sun cross

"stacking" crosses of different types


Based on Characteristics of Named Cross Types

bottony
double crossed
fleuritty
flory
formy
pomelly at the foot
potent
swallowtailed


Other Registered Modifications

complex lines
concave
cotised
disjointed
elongated
fimbriated
fitchy
fitchy at the foot
irradiated
Latin
long
mossue
nowy
parted and fretted
pierced
pometty
quadrate
quadrate by estoile
throughout
treble parted
triparted and fretted
tripartite
triple-parted and fretted
voided
winged


Disallowed
Modifications

barbed at the foot
bearing a figure of the same tincture
draped of a cloth
ending in spirals



 



This page was written and is maintained by Coblaith Muimnech, who created and owns the copyright to all portions not attributed to others. You may print or electronically copy it for your own use or to pass on to others, provided you do not seek to profit from its distribution.

Click to visit Coblaith's homepage or the index to her heraldry articles.


Click any of the above illustrations to see them in thier original contexts. The cited manuscripts are:

BSB Cod.icon 270: a book of arms of northern Italian cities and Milanese nobility made in Italy in the 16th century, now in the collection of the Bavarian State Library
BSB Cod.icon. 273: a book of arms of the Venetian nobility made in Italy in the 16th century, now in the collection of the Bavarian State Library
BSB Cod.icon. 291: a book of English arms made in England in the middle of the 16th century, now in the collection of the Bavarian State Library
BSB Cod.icon. 390: an armorial of the Holy Roman Empire made by Stephen Brechtel in Nürnberg between 1554 and 1568, now in the collection of the Bavarian State Library
SGS Cod. Sang. 1084: an armorial made by Hans Haggenberg for Ulrich Rösch, abbot of Saint Gall's, in the 15th century, now in the collection of the St. Gall abbey library