Uppercase T Cross

I’ve heard that Jesus’ cross was most likely not a lowercase, but an uppercase T shape. Is the shape something crucial to the faith? Are both beliefs allowed? If so, why are all crucifixes in a lowercase T shape?

Thank You.

Let’s answer this quickly. :smiley:

“Is the shape something crucial to the faith?” No.
“Are both beliefs allowed?” Yes.
“Why are all crucifixes in a lowercase T shape?” Not all of them do, especially ones from the Middle Ages.

The Franciscan Tau cross



Heck, sometimes you can see a Y-shaped cross or the cross depicted as a tree, especially in medieval art.

As a side note, the cross on the basilica at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament was originally of the traditional (“lower-case t”) shape. However, during a thunderstorm the cross was struck by lightning, and the upper part of the vertical was blown off. Mother Angelica decided to leave it as it was, now in the shape of the “tau” cross, as illustrated in the post above. Now it is well lightning-rodded. I’ll try to attach a photo.

Yes, and being a Franciscan, and the Tau being their traditional cross. she took it as a great sign.
I do too! :thumbsup:

Many believe that the Cross consisted of a crossbeam attached to the victim’s hands and dropped into a notch atop the pernanent upright, therefore an uppercase T.

The art depicts a four-limbed cross or lowercase T in order to show the sign that Scripture says was over our LORD’s head. But as His head and shoulders would both slump down, the cross could have a level top, with the sign at the junction, and still over His head.


I think most crucifixes today are “t” shaped because it’s easier to affix the INRI sign on the upper vertical arm.

I don’t think it matters very much the exact shape, the gospel only call it σταυρὸν=“staurós”, which originally meant “stake” and could mean any number of shapes

Fun fact: “staurós” comes from the Proto-Indo-European root Stā, stha, stao, “stem” or “shoot”

That kind of makes me think of Isaiah 11: 1

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

But that’s probably just a coincidence…


Yep, what in carpentry would be called a ‘mortise-and-tenon joint’.

(Of course, all this is just all speculation, since no cross had ever survived.)

The art depicts a four-limbed cross or lowercase T in order to show the sign that Scripture says was over our LORD’s head. But as His head and shoulders would both slump down, the cross could have a level top, with the sign at the junction, and still over His head.


For a T cross, you have two possibilities really. One is the one you mention:

The other is this:

A little off topic, DaveBj, but just wanted to say hello. I’m in Birmingham. I was jealous of all the snow ya’ll got last week when all we got was rain!!!

Looks like more ice overnight tonight!!

Stay warm and dry, and God bless!!


Its referred to as a tau cross

This reminded me of an article Trent Horn wrote a few months back. Its mainly to do with Jehovah Witness’s beliefs that a stake is correct and a cross is incorrect but I thought it was interesting so I thought I would share the link.


I watched a TV special about this topic recently, I think it was NOVA or something similar, they went thru all the traditonal style crosses, and tried to see how a persons body would hold up to being nailed/ attached to the different shapes. according to them, they say most likely the real cross was an ‘X’, with Jesuss’ limbs spread out on the 4 'sections, and to hold the entire thing up, a single pole was put into the ground, for the X structure to rest on. They claimed this was likely due to the particular catholic symbol, an X with a P going thru it, (not sure of the name of this symbol though).

***the inscription Pilate had written above ***Jesus head Matthew 27:37***] was written in Aramaic/Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. ***John 19:19-20***] ***

I would think based on that ,
*]since the sign was to be put over His head
*]it had to be big enough to handle Pilates message in 3 languages
*]therefore the sign had to be nailed to something wide enough and high enough behind Jesus head, to hold this sign and to also make the sign readable to onlookers.
[/LIST]Therefore, I’m for the shape of the traditional cross we see.†

That last part sounds a little dubious, the Chi rho (PX) are the first two latin letters in the word Christ.

Pardon me for posting more pictures, but just to give folks a sample of the earliest depictions of crucifixions.

This is our earliest possible depiction of a Roman crucifixion, from a tomb in Rome dating from the mid-3rd century BC.

A 2nd-century graffiti found in Pozzuoli (ancient Puteoli). Most likely depicts a crucified woman named Alcimilla (based on said name being scratched just above this one).

This meanwhile is our earliest depiction of the crucified Jesus: a graffiti mocking a Christian named Alexamenos from ca. the 3rd century.

And this is a carved gemstone from ca. 2nd/3rd century depicting the crucified Jesus, most likely used as a talisman.

The so-called Staurogram, consisting of the Greek letters tau (T) and rho § superimposed upon each other: http://dbcfaa79b34c8f5dfffa-7d3a62c63519b1618047ef2108473a39.r81.cf2.rackcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/staurogram-tau-rho.jpg. The device is found in some early manuscripts of the gospels, where it abbreviates words like ‘cross’ (stauros) or ‘crucifiy’ (staur). (This particular manuscript is Papyrus 75, dating from AD 175-225). New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado believes that the staurogram counts as some of the earliest Christian depictions of the crucified Jesus.


Enjoying the pictures. Thank you!

Patrick is very talented. He painted almost all of them himself. He didn’t do the 3rd century graffiti however.


Hey now, no I didn’t. :eek: :blush:

Again, this would not totally preclude a T cross, especially if you allow for the possibility that the sign was fitted into some sort of handle. So it would be a T cross that becomes a † with the addition of the sign.

(That is the only picture in this thread that I actually drew.)

You mean something like this?


Frankly, I didn’t even know about the documentary until you posted and then, just now, I found this picture at random. Apparently this was from a four-part series documentary by Simcha Jacobovici called Biblical Conspiracies. I’ll be honest, one part of me is highly skeptical since this is Simcha Jacobovici - he of the outlandish theories such as Jesus being married to Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ crucifixion nails being found in Caiaphas’ tomb - we’re talking about, but the other half of me is curious about the documentary. (For the record, here’s a bigger screenshot from Mr. Jacobovici himself.)

All I can say for now is, Jacobovici ignores some pieces of evidence that would deal a blow to this theory - that Jesus’ cross was actually X or asterisk-shaped and that all of Christian iconography up to now have been wrong.

Men weep and bewail their lot and curse Cadmus over and over for putting Tau into the alphabet, for they say that their tyrants, following his figure and imitating his build, have fashioned timbers in the same shape and crucify men upon them; and that it is from him that the sorry device gets its sorry name (stauros, cross). For all this do you not think that Tau deserves to die many times over? As for me, I hold that in all justice we can only punish Tau by making a T of (i.e. crucifying) him.

-Pseudo-Lucian (ca. 125-after 180), Trial in the Court of Vowels aka Consonants at Law

Add to this the graffiti and the staurogram (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/29/Christliche_Symbolik_(Menzel)_I_193_2.jpg/20px-Christliche_Symbolik_(Menzel)_I_193_2.jpg) I posted in one of my earlier posts and the early Christian sources which imply that Jesus’ stauros or cross was T or t-shaped. The Epistle of Barnabas for instance (ca. AD 70-131).

(9:7-8) Learn fully then, children of love, concerning all things, for Abraham, who first circumcised, did so looking forward in the spirit to Jesus, and had received the doctrines of three letters. For it says, “And Abraham circumcised from his household eighteen men and three hundred.” (Gen. 17:23) What then was the knowledge that was given to him? Notice that he first mentions the eighteen, and after a pause the three hundred. The eighteen is I (=10) and H (=8) - you have ‘Jesus’ (IHCOYC) - and because the cross was destined to have grace in the T (=300) he says “and three hundred.” So he indicates Jesus in the two letters and the cross in the other.

The Chi-Rho http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/96/Christliche_Symbolik_(Menzel)_I_193_1.jpg/20px-Christliche_Symbolik_(Menzel)_I_193_1.jpg and the IX (iota-chi) http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/99/Christliche_Symbolik_(Menzel)_I_193_4.jpg/20px-Christliche_Symbolik_(Menzel)_I_193_4.jpg monograms are abbreviations of Jesus’ name (XPICTOC Christos and IHCOYC XPICTOC Iēsous Christos, respectively). They are not seen as ‘crosses’.

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