Some symbols transform into something else with time while some gain new meanings and are attributed to many different things. Here is one of them, the symbol known as the upside-down cross, its meaning, origins and the symbolism behind explained.
Over the course of history, the upside-down cross was called many different name including ‘the inverted cross’, ‘the cross of Saint Peter/St. Peter’s cross’ and ‘Petrine cross’.
The Cross of Saint Peter is quite literally an inverted version of the regular cross known, the Christian cross turned on its head. It has its roots in history as a Latin symbol, but in more recent history has been incorrectly associated with Satanism and anti-Christian ideals. For the sake of historical accuracy, it is worth noting that the symbol has always been a neutral one as far as religious belief is concerned.
Religious Origins of the Upside-Down Cross
The origins of this symbol go back to the Bible and its teachings, dating back to approximately 200 A.D. Within these religious texts, there existed a man known as Saint Peter, who was a missionary of the Roman Empire, and who was one of the founders of the Church of Rome.
After the church was founded, an Emperor named Nero viewed the Church of Rome as a threat to his rule and took it upon himself to oust those responsible from their position. This decision brought about the death of Saint Peter.
It is widely believed that Jesus was crucified on a cross and some people believe that Saint Peter was also slain in the same manner. However, in the Bible it is written that Saint Peter did not see himself as worthy to die in the same way that Jesus did. Thus, at his own request and as a sign of his own humility, he was crucified on an upside-down cross instead, giving this symbol its name as the ‘Cross of Saint Peter’.
Due to this belief, many Christian sects now use the inverted cross as a sign of humility, despite the existing negative connotations often tied to it. Here is a direct quote from the Bible referring to this event:
“I beseech you the executioners, crucify me thus, with [my] head downward and not otherwise, and the reason wherefore.”
The upside-down cross is also commonly linked with the Pope, whose leadership and authority is usually believed by Catholics to be traceable back to Saint Peter himself. Furthermore, Pagans also place some meaning in the cross as it resembles Mjölnir, the hammer of Thor, in Nordic legend.
Negative Connotations of the Upside-down Cross
As mentioned previously, there are negative connotations associated with the upside-down cross, though not for any reasons that are backed up with evidence or justification of any kind.
Some anti-Christian groups use the inverted cross as a sign of Satanism, as the symbol points downwards (and Hell is commonly seen as being below the Earth); such groups often use the symbol to mock the Christian faith. The first recorded use of the Cross of Saint Peter for something anti-Christian was seen in the 19th Century, during a period of the French Occult.
However, there is no historical background behind suggesting the symbol represented evil; it is a conjecture of our modern society, which has become more popular in the latter half of the 20th Century.
In part, it has been fueled by movie and TV sectors that often use the symbol, sometimes in combination with other symbols such as pentagrams, as part of a set piece. It is also a heavily-used symbol in certain music genres, including heavy metal and punk rock, where its use is seen as anti-establishment and defying cultural norms.
Other Uses of the Upside-down Cross
The Cross of Saint Peter can be seen throughout the world on various pieces of artwork and architecture. In places where it is used, the symbol is quite often seen as appearing with two keys placed in a diagonal cross formation across the top. The religious meaning behind this variation of the symbol is meant to suggest Saint Peter holds the keys to heaven; as a result, this version is often featured on the final resting places of prominent people of the faith. Some other variations include other design elements like angels or important figureheads bearing the weight of the cross.