Teutonic cross

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Krzyż teutoński, Sobótka
2. A monolithic stone cross in Sobótka, in the shape of a Teutonic cross

The Teutonic cross is a form of the Latin cross used by the Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem (Teutonic Order, German Order), established in 1198. The term comes from the Latin name of the order - Ordo fratrum domus hospitalis Sanctae Mariae Theutonicorum in Jerusalem in short Ordo Theutonicus.

The cross of the Teutonic knights described here, which is a religious symbol of the Teutonic Order, should not be confused with another symbol of the Teutonic Knights - the coat of arms (photo 3), which is a white shield with a black Greek cross (a cross with equal arms).

Krzyż krzyżacki, teutoński
1. Teutonic cross

The genesis of the Teutonic cross

The inspiration for the cross of the German order in Jerusalem was the cross of one of the older Jerusalem hospitals - the Templar cross with arms extended around the circumference (photo 4). The color of the Teutonic cross was changed to black on a silver field (or with a silver border), which was a tribute to the then reigning Hohenstauf dynasty in Germany, whose coat of arms was a black eagle on a silver background. The widening characteristic of the Templar cross, starting in the second half of the arms, was transformed in the Teutonic cross into the cross beginning from the center, which made the Teutonic cross closer to the version of the cross described in heraldry - the knight's cross (knight's cross) than the classic paw cross, which it was templar cross. The name cross pattée (French: cross pattée, German: Tatzenkreuz) refers to its appearance resembling the paw of a walking animal. Such a cross, the various forms of which were assumed by knightly orders (Knights Hospitallers, Templars, Teutonic Knights), is also called a knight's or a knight's cross, in its variation, in which the arms expand along their entire length, not at their end.

Teutonic cross as a symbol

The popularity and importance of the Teutonic Order popularized its religious symbol. Some medieval stone crosses, colloquially but often wrongly in specific cases, are called penitential crosses in the form of a Teutonic cross (including Gola Świdnicka, the Ślężański Museum in Sobótka, Sobótka Strzeblów (photo 1), Proszkowice, Rogów Sobócki).

In 1813, the Teutonic Cross became a model for the most famous Prussian and then German military decoration, awarded for bravery on the battlefield and for successes in command - the Iron Cross (photo 11). The order was established on March 10, 1813 in Wrocław by the Prussian King Frederick William III in connection with the war with Napoleon Bonaparte. The designer of the Iron Cross, architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, adjusted the Teutonic cross in such a way that it changed its proportions so that the cross would fit into the shape of a square. The Teutonic cross, transformed in this way, became one of the most important German symbols. The Iron Cross, established as a decoration for the struggle for liberation from Napoleonic sovereignty, underwent a semantic evolution and after 1945 it was liquidated as inextricably associated with German Nazism. The symbol, however, is so vivid in the German awareness that the Teutonic cross in the form derived from the Iron Cross is a sign of the Bundeswehr and all its armed forces: Heer (Land Forces), Marine and Luftwaffe. Photo 12 shows the official flags of the German Empire (1871-1918), many of which contain symbols based on the Teutonic cross.

Directly to the Teutonic cross is the honorary decoration established in 1871 under the name of the Marian Cross of the Teutonic Order (Marianer-Kreuz des Deutschen Ritterordens). It was awarded to hospital and charity activities of lay people, who were not knights of the order, and women (photo 9). The decoration was closely related to the period when the members of the House of Habsburg were Grand Masters, therefore it was discontinued after 1918. In 1929, the Order was transformed by Pope Pius XI from a knightly order into a mendicant order. The awarding of the Marian Cross as a decoration to distinguished friends of the Order was also restored. Marian, i.e. the knight of the award, was, among others Konrad Adenauer. The Nazis used the Teutonic Cross for the award for large mothers established by Adolf Hitler on December 16, 1936. The Honorary Cross of the German Mother (Ehrenkreuz der Deutschen Mutter), called Mutterkeuz for short (photo 13), was awarded in three classes to mothers who gave birth to at least four children. The owner of the Mother's Cross had, among others, the right to a public greeting, the so-called Roman salute, from members of the Hitler Youth. Of course, the decoration could only be awarded to women who were "racially and mentally wholesome".

Warsaw Uprising Cross

During the Warsaw Uprising, there was an informal decoration called the Cross of the Warsaw Uprising or the Badge "For Fighting an SS Officer" for "killing an SS officer" and for outstanding courage. The cross was made of captured German Iron Crosses. They were attached to the Polish pre-war coin of 1 zloty from 1929 with the Polish Underground State Anchor embossed on the eagle's chest and the date 1944 (photo 14).

The Cossack cross, or Zaporizhia cross, is very similar to the Teutonic cross (photos 15 and 16).