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  • Writer's pictureRevShirleyMurphy

St Peter’s Cross



The Cross of Saint Peter also known as Petrine Cross is an inverted Latin cross traditionally used as a Christian symbol, but in recent times also used as an anti-Christian and Satanic symbol.


In Christianity, it is associated with the martyrdom of Peter the Apostle. The symbol originates from the Catholic tradition that when sentenced to death, Peter requested that his cross be upside down, as he felt unworthy of being crucified in the same manner as Jesus.


The Petrine Cross is also associated with the papacy, reflecting the Catholic belief that the pope is the successor of Peter as bishop of Rome.


The upside down cross is an ancient symbol of St. Peter’s crucifixion. Tradition tells us that when St. Peter was martyred, he insisted that he be crucified upside down as he did not believe himself worthy to be crucified in the manner of Jesus Christ.


In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks of the kind of death that Peter would suffer: Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, “Follow me” (Jn 21:18-19).


“You will stretch out your hands.” In the ancient world — particularly in the Christian tradition — “to stretch out one’s hands” was a common reference to crucifixion. The words ‘Follow me’ bespeak imitation of Christ’s example of obedience ‘unto death, even death on a cross’ (Phil 2:8). The chief shepherd would follow the Good Shepherd even in the manner of his death. By the time of the writing of John’s Gospel, Peter’s martyrdom had already occurred, the manner of which was arguably well attested to by his readers.


The origin of the symbol comes from the belief that Peter the Apostle was crucified upside down, as told by Origen of Alexandria. The tradition first appears in the "Martyrdom of Peter", a fragmented text found in, but possibly predating, the apocryphal Acts of Peter, which was written no later than 200 A.D. It is believed that Peter requested this form of crucifixion as he felt he was unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus.


According to Roman Catholicism, the pope is Peter's successor as bishop of Rome. Therefore, the Papacy is often represented by symbols that are also used to represent Peter, one example being the Petrine Cross.


An upside-down Latin cross is also known as an inverted cross, Petrine Cross, or Cross of St. Peter. Depending on who you ask, the inverted cross serves either as a symbol of humble Christian faith or of satanic ideals.


The phrase Jesus used, “stretch out your hands,” likely involved death by crucifixion as traditional interpretation has affirmed since Tertullian in his On the Prescription of Heretics (200 A.D.). Jerome, who was born nearly 300 years after Peter died, affirmed that Peter was crucified upside down. In Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563), John Foxe relied on Jerome’s account:


“Jerome saith that he was crucified, his head being down and his feet upward, himself so requiring, because he was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the Lord was.”


Because the Roman Catholic Church views each pope as a successor of St. Peter, the inverted cross is commonly connected with popes.


It’s also worth noting the distinction between a Latin cross and a crucifix. A crucifix is a Latin cross with a figure of Jesus on it. An inverted crucifix is always considered disrespectful, inverting the meaning of the cross, whereas a simple inverted cross is not. Still, an inverted cross is sometimes intended as satanic.


As a result of the manner in which he was crucified, the Church has used the upside down cross (without a corpus, so not a crucifix) to designate Peter, not Christ. The Pope, being the successor of Peter, employs the symbol of the upside down cross as a symbolic reminder of St. Peter’s humility and heroic martyrdom. Unlike an upside down crucifix, which seeks to invert and subvert its meaning, there is nothing satanic about an upside down cross.


The symbolic nature of the upside down cross is best determined by its context.


Sources

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