A Cross of Lorraine towering in the distance at a historic ceremony.
A Cross of Lorraine towering in the distance at a historic ceremony.

The Cross of Lorraine, often referred to in contemporary times as the patriarchal cross, is a Christian cross bearing two horizontal lines over a single vertical line. These horizontal lines, originally equal in length, developed into a shorter top horizontal line over a longer bottom horizontal line. The symbol originated in Asia in the first millennium, traveling to Europe and becoming popular through usage by many different groups.

Origins of an Iconic Image

According to the University of Delaware, the double-beamed cross was used by Christian groups in Asia the ninth century. Later, it was adopted by the Duke of Lorraine on his standard when fighting the Muslims in the First Crusade. In the 12th century, the Hungarians minted their coins with the Cross of Lorraine, and the eastern Christians believed it to be the true representation of the cross of Jesus Christ. During the 14th and 15th centuries the cross became known as the Cross of Lorraine because of its adoption and popular use by the second House of Anjou in Lorraine, France.

World War I

The United States 79th Infantry Division adopted the Cross of Lorraine as its insignia. During World War I the 79th Infantry Division fought solely in Lorraine, France. Prior to its deployment to Europe, the division was known as the “Liberty Division” in the United States. The symbol was suggested by Major General Joseph E. Kuhn to represent both victory and freedom for both the French and Americans, and was approved by General Headquarters shortly after World War I ended.

World War II

Although France was occupied by Nazi Germany during most of World War II, Free France forces organized under General Charles de Gaulle in England. Free France Navy leader, Vice Admiral Emile Musilier, designed the Free France forces flag using a red Lorraine Cross against a blue background. The word “honneur” -- honor -- is to the left of the cross in gold, and the word “patrie” -- homeland -- is on the right. The cross was formally recognized as the symbol of Free France in June, 1941.

International Union Against Tuberculosis

In 1902 the International Tuberculosis Congress decided that the prevalence and rapid spread of the disease required a concerted effort across the world to end tuberculosis, and likened this plan to a war. Upon further discussion, it was deemed necessary to have a recognizable symbol for people to recognize and associate with the fight against tuberculosis, much like a battle standard. Dr. Gilbert Seciron, the delegate from Lorraine, France, proposed the Lorraine Cross because of its association with French victories. As of 2011, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease and the American Lung Association still use the Lorraine Cross.