Crosses in S.C.A. Heraldry: Things You Can Do to Modify Crosses

The basic types of crosses seen in period and Society heraldry can be further differentiated in a number of ways. One of the simplest is to stack one cross on top of another, creating what seems to be a single more elaborate cross.

 
Sable, on a cross bottony argent a cross pomelly gules.
BSB Cod.icon. 391, folio 150r
 
Sable, on a cross argent a cross couped gules.
BSB Cod.icon 392 d, folio 91r
 
Argent, on a cross sable a cross potent throughout Or, on an escutcheon of pretense Or an eagle sable.
BSB Cod.icon. 391, folio 268r
 
Gules, on a cross fleury argent a cross mossue gules.
BSB Cod.icon. 290, folio 135r

Another is to add the salient characteristics of one cross to a cross of another type to make a sort of hybrid. (Not every type of cross can be combined with every other, of course. You couldn't make a cross bottony flory, for example, since the defining characteristic of each is the distinctive way the arms end.)

 
Azure, a doubled cross bottony.
BSB Cod.icon. 307, folio 343a
 
Argent, dependent from a Cross of Calvary fleury gules an escutcheon Or charged with [something] sable and an escutcheon Or charged with a lion sable.
BSB Cod.icon. 265, folio 63v
 
Sable, issuant from a mount Or a patriarchal cross potent argent.
BSB Cod.icon. 392 d, folio 91r

 treatment  characteristics  example emblazons  rulings and precedents
bottony Each arm ends in three knobs.      
double-crossed Has two crossbars.      
floretty The top of a fleur-de-lys issues from the end of each arm.      
flory / fleury The end of each arm is split into three petals, reminiscent of the top of a fleur-de-lys.      
formy The arms flare as they approach their ends.      
pomelly at the foot The lowermost limb of the cross ends in a roundel.      
pometty

One or more knoblike protuberances is added to the end of each limb.


I haven't found any information on how one generally blazons the different numbers of knobs. (I've made a guess in the blazon at right, based on the way "doubly pommeled" is used.)

When a cross with complex ends on its limbs has knobs on all the tips, it's blazoned "pometty on the points" (though a cross clechy pometty on the points may alternately be blazoned a "key cross").

Gules, a cross formy pometty fitched at the foot argent.

BSB Cod.icon. 273, folio 22r

Or, a cross formy voided triply pometty gules.

BSB Cod.icon. 392 d, folio 138r

A cross of one tincture pometty of another is a step from period practice, as is a cross of mascles pometty (October, 2000 LoAR).

 

Argent, a cross pointed voided pometty on the points azure.

BSB Cod.icon. 270, folio 323r

 

Gules, a key cross Or.

BSB Cod.icon. 277, folio 123r

potent Each arm ends in a crossbar.      
potent at the foot  The lowermost limb of the cross ends in a crossbar.      
swallowtailed Each arm ends in a V-shaped indent.      


There are any number of additional ways that crosses of most of the individual types and crosses that combine types can be modified. Precedents have been issued related to some of these.

 treatment  characteristics  example emblazons  rulings and precedents
complex lines  The sides of the arms of the cross are not straight, but follow one of the complex lines of division (wavy, indented, embattled, etc.) used in period heraldry.
 
Argent, on a Latin cross couped floretty engrailed sable between four birds azure an escallop Or.
BSB Cod.icon. 291, folio 42r
Argent, a cross raguly gules.
BSB Cod.icon. 291, folio 23v

"Some commenters questioned the use of a complex line on an already complex cross. There is sufficient support for such a treatment from period and post-period non-SCA arms. . .." (October, 1995 LoAR)

"Ideally a cross indented would look like a cross of lozenges, with a center lozenge, two or three lozenges on the top arm and each side arm, and three to five on the bottom arm, except that instead of just touching at the corners the lozenges overlap a bit. (If the lozenges only touch at the corners, then it's a cross of lozenges/fusils or a cross fusilly.)" (March, 2004 LoAR)

cotised The cross is flanked at a small distance by thin lines that mirror its shape.

 

Or, a cross cotised sable.

from SGS Cod. Sang 1084, folio 27

  For purposes of conflict-checking, cotises are treated as secondary charges (September, 2004 LoAR).
disjointed
The cross has been cut in half lengthwise and again widthwise, forming four sections shaped like a letter "L".

 

cross pomelly disjointed

Volume III of William Berry's 1828 Encyclopædia Heraldica, Plate XXXVII

 

cross couped disjointed

Volume III of William Berry's 1828 Encyclopædia Heraldica, Plate XXXIV

"Crosses disjointed are not considered equivalent to "on a cross, a cross", since the ends of the cross disjointed are open, not closed." (May, 2011 LoAR)


"It should be noted that when charges are put on a cross moline disjointed, they obscure the identifiability of the cross somewhat;. . .Special care should be taken with the artwork to preserve identifiability of all elements of the armory." (April, 2002 LoAR)

"Crosses moline disjointed are period charges. Therefore, the cross flory disjointed is no more than a single step from period practice." (May, 2011 LoAR)

dismembered The limbs of the cross are disconnected from its center, and sometimes additionally divided.

 

Latin cross couped dismembered

Volume III of William Berry's 1828 Encyclopædia Heraldica, Plate XXXVII

 

cross avellane dismembered

based on the image of a cross avellane on Plate XXXIII of Volume III of William Berry's 1828 Encyclopædia Heraldica

There has been one registration of a cross avellane dismembered, and none of any other type that I could find.
elongated

Two limbs (those pointing up and down or those pointing left and right) are longer than the other two.

 

Sometimes Latin crosses have also been blazoned "elongated to base"

 
Or, a cross potent elongated palewise sable.
BSB Cod.icon. 390, folio 603
in chief: Argent, a cross couped elongated fesswise gules.
BSB Cod.icon. 270, folio 176r
A cross doubly pommeled elongated palewise is not significantly different from a cross moline (February, 1997 LoAR).
fimbriated A band of some contrasting tincture runs along the outside edges of the charge.
Argent, a cross Or fimbriated between four crosses formy gules.
BSB Cod.icon. 309, folio 3r
Argent, a cross Or fimbriated sable.
SGS Cod. Sang. 1084, folio 35

"Any charge that may be voided may be fimbriated, and vice versa." To determine whether a charge may be voided, "Start with a picture of the charge and make a photocopy of it at 90% reduction. Cut the reduced copy out close to its outer edge all the way around. Now place it on top of the original picture. If the result looks like that charge voided, then that charge is voidable; otherwise it is not." (June, 2004 LoAR)

". . .[C]harges in overall charge groups will not be allowed to be fimbriated after the September 2011 decision meetings." (April, 2011 LoAR)

"Crosses flory may be both voided and fimbriated. . .." (December, 2009 LoAR)

A key cross is not simple enough to void or fimbriate (November, 1993 LoAR). However, "Since the voiding is acceptable (and necessary) for a cross of Toulouse, the somewhat simpler cross clechy is also voidable." (December, 2007 LoAR)

"A cross formy quadrate is simple enough to fimbriate. . .Since a cross formy nowy is of equivalent geometric complexity with a cross formy quadrate, it is also simple enough to fimbriate." (March, 2011 LoAR)

Neither a cross crosslet (June, 2004 LoAR) nor a cross bottony (December, 1993 LoAR) can be voided in S.C.A. heraldry.

A Cross of Jerusalem cannot be fimbriated (December, 1995 LoAR).

". . .a cross formy fitched at the foot is too complicated to fimbriate." (November, 2009 LoAR)

"we would not register a cross/saltire gringolé voided (with the voiding being gringolé as well)" (December, 2004 LoAR)

An ordinary cross voided is not significantly different from an ordinary cross parted and fretted (March, 1994 LoAR).

fitchy The bottom limb of the cross has been replaced with a spike.
 
Azure, a cross formy fitchy between four crowned heads proper.
BSB Cod.icon. 391, folio 243v
Gules, on a fess between three crosses formy fitchy Or a swan between two annulets azure.
BSB Cod.icon. 291, folio 35v

"We note that a cross fitchy will automatically have a longer bottom limb; it need not be blazoned as a Latin cross." (September, 2007 LoAR)

". . .the fitched limb should look like a smoothly tapering wedge, not a freshly sharpened No.2 pencil" (November, 2007 LoAR)

fitchy at the foot A spike issues from the center of the bottom limb.
 
Gules, a lion's gamb Or maintaining a Latin cross formy fitchy at the foot sable.
BSB Cod.icon. 270, folio 126r
Gules, a doubled cross argent fitchy at the foot.
BSB Cod.icon. 330, folio 13v
". . .a cross formy fitched at the foot is too complicated to fimbriate." (November, 2009 LoAR)
irradiated emitting rays of light
 
cross irradiated
Volume III of William Berry's 1828 Encyclopædia Heraldica, Plate XXXII
 
Vert, a human heart gules irradiated Or.
BSB Cod.icon. 391, folio 18v
"Irradiated charges, when drawn correctly, are a CD from non-irradiated charges." (November, 2003 LoAR). 

Latin

 

In a few registrations such crosses are blazoned as "passion crosses", and in some cases as "elongated to base". Some early registrations also used the term "long crosses", which has since fallen into disfavor.

The lower limb is longer than the other three.
Or, a chief azure and overall a Latin cross bottony gules.
BSB Cod.icon. 267, folio 64r

Argent, a Latin cross couped sable.

BSB Cod.icon. 267, folio 93r

The term "long" has been superceded by "Latin" for reasons of "period usage and unambiguity". (May, 2004 LoAR)

 

Azure, a wooden Latin cross couped argent.

BSB Cod.icon. 391, folio 26r

 

Argent, a lion salient Or maintaining a Latin cross gules.

BSB Cod.icon. 391, folio 10r

mossue The limbs of the cross are rounded on the ends.
Gules, on a cross fleury argent a cross mossue gules.
BSB Cod.icon. 290, folio 135r
cross mossue
Volume III of William Berry's 1828 Encyclopædia Heraldica, Plate XXXII

"Elvin, Parker, and Franklyn (Shield and Crest) all treat mossue (which appears to be restricted in mundane usage to the arms of crosses) as meaning 'rounded'." (July, 1985 LoAR)

 

Note: Crosses with this treatment have a great deal in common with some quatrefoils, as shown at left.

 

Or, on a chief gules three quatrefoils argent.

BSB Cod.icon. 274, folio 68r

 
nowy

a bulge, like a knot in a tree limb, at the intersection of the arms of the cross

 

By default the bulge is circular, but it can also be lozenge-shaped, in which case the cross is blazoned "nowy of a lozenge", or square, in which case it's blazoned "nowy quadrate" or occasionally just "quadrate".

There was one registration, in 1974, of a cross "quadrate by estoile".  On the January, 2011 LoAR, it was reblazoned as simply "quadrate", though the letter explains, ". . .the cross is not actually quadrate. The 'corners' are actually acute angles, and the whole somewhat resembles the minor points we sometimes see on a compass star. The cross, however, is functionally and heraldically equivalent to a cross quadrate, and we have changed the blazon so that future heralds are not confused by the old blazon."

"The term concave, as found in a few previous SCA registrations, appears to apply to a cross that is somewhat nowy lozengy (or nowy of a lozenge).. . .Because the blazon term concave is not well-defined in real-world or SCA armory, it should be avoided in the future." (March, 2004 LoAR)

cross nowy

Volume III of William Berry's 1828 Encyclopædia Heraldica, Plate XXXII

 

Per pale argent and gules, a cross potent nowy quadrate counterchanged.

BSB Cod.icon. 391, folio 191v

". . .[W]e do not register crosses nowed of a lozenge. . .." (March, 2012 LoAR)

"There is a step from period practice for the use of a cross nowy."  (April, 2016 LoAR)

"We have no evidence of the nowy portion of a cross being further modified by a complex line of division. We would like to see period evidence of such treatment before we will register." (July, 2001 LoAR)

"A cross quadrate must. . .be considered an artistic variant of the underlying cross type, blazonable, but not significant for purposes of conflict." (September, 2009 LoAR) However, "The SCA has historically granted a CD for a cross throughout versus a cross nowy or nowy quadrate." (January, 2010 LoAR)

An ordinary cross nowy is simple enough to fimbriate (February, 2008 LoAR), as are an ordinary cross nowy quadrate (July, 2005 LoAR), a cross formy nowy quadrate (July, 2004 LoAR), and a cross formy nowy (March, 2011 LoAR).

An ordinary cross is significantly different from an ordinary cross nowy (July, 2003 LoAR) and from an ordinary cross nowy quadrate (November, 2003 LoAR). An ordinary cross nowy is not significantly different from an ordinary cross nowy quadrate (September, 2000 LoAR).

A cross nowy has a distinct change from a Celtic cross  (April, 2016 LoAR).

cross nowy of a lozenge

Volume III of William Berry's 1828 Encyclopædia Heraldica, Plate XXXV

 

cross concave
(as seen in S.C.A. registrations)

 
cross quadrate by estoile

????

BSB Cod.icon. 333, folio 33r

parted

The vertical and horizontal member are each split, lengthwise, into two strips, and the strips are all conjoined.

 

If the cross is blazoned "treble parted" or "tripartite", each member is split into three strips instead of two.

 

Or, a saltire parted sable.

BSB Cod.icon. 390, folio 115

 

cross treble-parted

Volume III of William Berry's 1828 Encyclopædia Heraldica, Plate XXXVI

 ". . .we grant no heraldic difference between a cross parted and fretted and one voided. . ." (March, 1995 LoAR) I would therefore expect no difference to be granted between a cross parted and either a cross voided or a cross parted and fretted.
parted and fretted

The vertical and horizontal member are each split, lengthwise, into two strips, and the strips interlace where the members overlap.

 

If the cross is blazoned "triple-parted and fretted" or "triparted and fretted", each member is split into three strips instead of two.

cross parted and fretted
Volume III of William Berry's 1828 Encyclopædia Heraldica, Plate XXXII 

cross triple-parted and fretted

Volume III of William Berry's 1828 Encyclopædia Heraldica, Plate XXXVII

". . .we grant no heraldic difference between a cross parted and fretted and one voided. . ." (March, 1995 LoAR)

There is one registration of a cross triple-parted and fretted in which the center traits (i.e., the middle pallet and the middle barrulet) are of a different tincture than the rest.

There has also been registered one cross of four pallets fretted with four barrulets, which is equivalent to an ordinary cross quadruple-parted and fretted.

pierced

with a hole where the vertical and horizontal members overlap

 

When the hole takes up the entire area of overlap, the cross is blazoned "quarter-pierced".  When it is square but does not take up the entire overlap, it's "square-pierced".

When the hole is lozenge-shaped, the cross is blazoned "pierced of a lozenge". (I don't know whether this is a period practice, but there are a couple of items registered 15-20 years ago that reflect it.)

 
Or, a cross gules pierced.
BSB Cod.icon. 390, folio 612
 
Or, a cross azure quarter-pierced.
BSB Cod.icon. 270, folio 37r

"A cross quarter-pierced may also be blazoned as a cross charged with a delf throughout," (October, 2003 LoAR). Because it is visually equivalent to adding a tertiary charge, quarter-piercing can constitute a Clear Difference (October, 1992 LoAR).

A cross quarter-pierced drawn so that each arm is one-third the width and height of the field must also be considered as a field checky of nine parts when conflict checks are done (August, 2004 LoAR).

 

Azure, a cross moline square-pierced argent.

BSB Cod.icon. 291, folio 49v

 

cross moline pierced of a lozenge

Volume III of William Berry's 1828 Encyclopædia Heraldica, Plate XXXIII

throughout  reaching all the way to the edges of the field

 

Argent, a cross potent throughout gules.

SGS Cod. Sang. 1084, folio 31

Azure, a doubled cross throughout gules.

BSB Cod.icon. 266, folio 169r 

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

An ordinary cross is significantly different from a cross formy throughout (November, 2003 LoAR).

"While we give a CD for [an ordinary cross] versus a cross couped, for most crosses (such as crosses fleury) we do not give such difference for couped versus throughout." (February, 2002 LoAR).

A cross formy is significantly different from a cross formy throughout (May, 1997 LoAR).

voided

with an opening identical in shape to its outer edge through which the tincture(s) behind it can be seen

 

A cross "voided per pale" is voided only along its vertical axis.

There has one registration of a cross "voided in the arms". There's also been one of a cross "contrevoided", defined in the March, 1978 LoAR as having just its arms voided. The latter is blazoned as "counter-voided" in the online O&A.

 
Azure, a cross fleury argent voided.
BSB Cod.icon. 291, folio 26r

 

Gules, on a cross Or a cross bottony gules voided.

BSB Cod.icon. 391, folio 153r

"Start with a picture of the charge and make a photocopy of it at 90% reduction. Cut the reduced copy out close to its outer edge all the way around. Now place it on top of the original picture. If the result looks like that charge voided, then that charge is voidable; otherwise it is not." (June, 2004 LoAR)

"Any charge that may be voided may be fimbriated, and vice versa." (June, 2004 LoAR).

"We consider voiding to have the same visual weight as adding a tertiary charge -- i.e. Sable, a cross Or voided gules and Sable, a cross Or charged with another gules are interchangeable blazons, yielding the same emblazon." (cover letter to the November, 1992 LoAR)

". . .we have examples of the simpler period crosses being voided and then having some elaborate treatment applied to the ends... . .What is not obvious is whether these were being treated as a complex cross charged with a simpler one, or as a for-real voiding. . ." (December, 2004 LoAR) (I have included an example to the left, and made my best guess as to how it would be blazoned if it is, in fact, voided.)

Other charges cannot be positioned within a voided cross unless evidence of that practice in period is found. (January, 2015 LoAR)

"Crosses flory may be both voided and fimbriated. . .." (December, 2009 LoAR)

A key cross is not simple enough to void or fimbriate (November, 1993 LoAR). However, "Since the voiding is acceptable (and necessary) for a cross of Toulouse, the somewhat simpler cross clechy is also voidable." (December, 2007 LoAR)

Neither a cross crosslet (June, 2004 LoAR) nor a cross bottony (December, 1993 LoAR) can be voided in S.C.A. heraldry.

A Cross of Jerusalem cannot be fimbriated (December, 1995 LoAR).

". . .a cross formy fitched at the foot is too complicated to fimbriate." (November, 2009 LoAR)

"we would not register a cross/saltire gringolé voided (with the voiding being gringolé as well)" (December, 2004 LoAR)

". . .we grant no heraldic difference between a cross parted and fretted and one voided. . ." (March, 1995 LoAR)

 

Or, a cross voided per pale gules.

BSB Cod.icon. 308 u, folio 221r

 

a cross couped contrevoided

 

Gules, a cross voided fleury.

BSB Cod.icon. 307, page 96

 
winged
The cross has wings, usually positioned as though they are growing from its back.


a winged Latin cross couped

made with wings excerpted from Volume III of William Berry's 1828 Encyclopædia Heraldica, Plate XXVIII, Figure 5
The general practice of adding wings to inanimate objects in heraldry is period.  (May, 2013 LoAR)

 

Only modifications deemed consistent with "period style" are permitted, however, and there are some specific modifications the sovereigns of arms have ruled not to be so.

 

Things You Can't Do to Crosses

 modification example   rulings and precedents
barbed at the foot
"We contemplated considering this as a modification of a cross barby and calling it a step from period practice, but we also have no evidence of crosses barby in period heraldry at all." (June, 2013 LoAR)
bearing a figure of the same tincture as the cross
 
BSB Cod.icon. 391, folio 128r
"While evidence was produced that crucifixes were used in period, they had the figure of Jesus in a different tincture than that of the underlying cross. With the entire crucifix in one tincture, it blurs into one amorphous mass." (January, 1997 LoAR)
draped of a cloth
 
"No evidence was given, nor could the College provide any, that draping a cloth over a cross was a motif found in period heraldry.. . .Any future submission should document the particular depiction to period, preferably in heraldry. Moreover, it should limit the amount of overlap so that both charges are clearly identifiable." (March, 2001 LoAR)
ending in spirals   "The SCA does not have a defined charge of a spiral, and spiral ends are not standard for other charges (such as crosses)." (December, 2003 LoAR)




This page was written and is maintiained 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.

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You can see most of the illustrations I didn't make myself in their original contexts by clicking on them. The cited manuscripts are:

BSB Cod.icon. 265: a Flemish chorography made in the Netherlands in 1562, now in the collection of the Bavarian State Library
BSB Cod.icon. 266 & 267: books of arms of Roman pontifs and cardinals made in Italy in the 16th century, now in the collection of the Bavarian State Library
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. 274: a book of Venetian, Mantuan, Bolognese, Anconian, Urbinoan, and Perugian arms made in Italy in the 16th century, now in the collection of the Bavarian State Library
BSB Cod.icon. 277: a book of Florentine arms made in Italy in the 16th century, now in the collection of the Bavarian State Library
BSB Cod. icon. 290: a book of arms of the counts, vicounts, etc. of Cataluna, Castille, and Portugal made in Spain in the15th-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. 307: a collection of arms from various (predominantly German) lands made in Germany around 1600, now in the collection of the Bavarian State Library
BSB Cod.icon. 309: a book of German arms made between 1475 and 1560, perhaps in southern Germany, now in the collection of the Bavarian State Library
BSB Cod.icon 308 u: the Ortenburg armorial, made in Bavaria between 1466 and 1473 and now in the collection of the Bavarian State Library
BSB Cod.icon. 330: a book of portraits of the Habsburg rulers of the 14th century, based on the stained glass in Königsfelden Abbey in the canton of Aargau, made in southwest Germany in the middle of the 16th century and now in the collection of the Bavarian State Library
BSB Cod.icon. 333: a large armorial containing arms of Holy Roman Emperors, European noble houses, popes, cardinals, bishops, and abbots, up to the time of Emperor Rudolf II and Pope Gregory XIII, made in southern Germany in 1583 and 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
BSB Cod.icon. 391: various armorials collected in a single volume in southern Germany (possibly Augsburg) around 1530, now in the collection of the Bavarian State Library
BSB Cod.icon. 392 d: an armorial made in southern Germany in the first half of the 16th century, 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