Traditions - General Info Section

Cross of Lorraine - Origin and symbolism

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Cross of Lorraine – France Libre

The Cross of Lorraine was adopted on July 1, 1940 by General de Gaulle, as the symbol of France Libre - Free French Forces during WWII.

De Gaulle founded the resistance organization after his appeal of June 18, 1940 in London.

He indeed wanted the Cross of Lorraine to oppose the Nazi Swastika.

The Cross has since remained a meaningful symbol for the French.

The Free French Forces added a red Cross of Lorraine against the white background of their tricolor flag.

Vice Admiral Muselier, a native of Lorraine in Eastern France, was at the origin of the symbolic use of the cross.

He also created the pavillon de Beaupré, the flag of the Free French Forces' war ships.

The French tricolour bears a red Cross of Lorraine placed against a white diamond.

You'll also find the distinctive cross with two crossbars on the many French battlefields and war memorials.

Origins of the Cross of Lorraine

The origin of the cross dates back to the early days of Christianity.

It indeed symbolically represents the Cross on which Jesus was crucified.

It is the Cross on which Pontius Pilate added a second and shorter crossbar inscribed with INRI - Iesvs Nazarenvs, Rex Ivdæorvm - Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.

The Patriarchs of Jerusalem - in other words the Bishops - granted the Knights Templar the use of the Cross during the Crusades.

The Cross with two equal size crossbars was later added to the coat of arms of the archbishops in order to represent their function.

Cross of Anjou

The Cross of Lorraine was originally known as Cross of Anjou.

It was added to the crest of the Dukes of Anjou during the 14th century.

It is said that the Cross of Anjou was created from the relic of the True Cross.

The relic was discovered in Byzantium and brought back to the Abbey of Boissière in Anjou in 1244, where the Dukes of Anjou went to worship it.

It was hidden in the Couvent des Jacobins in Angers during the Hundred Years War.

It was then returned to the abbey in 1456, where it stayed until the French Revolution.

It was placed in the sacristy of the Church of Baugé on September 30, 1790, then transferred to the Hospice des Incurables, where it still is.

The Cross of Anjou became known as Cross of Lorraine in 1431, when René of Anjou became Duke of Lorraine at the death of his father-in-law, Charles II of Lorraine.

René had indeed married Isabelle of Lorraine, the duke's only daughter.

Now, you're probably wondering why the Cross of Lorraine ended up on the crest of the kings of Hungary!

This originated with Charles I of Anjou, who was invested as King of Sicily by the Pope in 1266.

His son Charles II of Anjou married Mary of Hungary in 1270.

As a consequence, the House of Anjou-Sicily not only reigned over the kingdom of Hungary, but also Croatia, Provence, Poland and Jerusalem!

The Cross of Lorraine is still on the coat of arms of Hungary, but also Slovakia and Lithuania.

Photos Wikimedia Commons: Free French Forces' flag - Pavillon de Beaupré
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