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The Maltese Cross

The “Maltese Cross” is the ‘Badge’ worn by fire fighters and first responders everywhere.  It is the symbol of protection and a badge of great honor.


Sometime around the 11th or 12th centuries, the Maltese Cross began its rich history when it was awarded to a group of brave fighting men known as "The Knights of Malta."

The Knights origins trace back to an order of monks who built a hospice to aid travelers visiting the Holy Land.  The monks were known as the ‘Knights Hospitaliers - Saint John.’  Their mission was to care for the sick and for the poor. To further protect pilgrims when visiting the Holy land, and to help protect others, the monks expanded their charter and commissioned military and naval units known as the 'Knights of Malta.’  The Knights became legendary protectors after fighting bravely in many battles.

As the Saracens advanced and the Knights stood in defense of the Holy Land, a terrible new weapon was unleashed.  The weapon was fire!  The rain of fire was delivered by glass bombs full of naphtha – an extremely flammable liquid!  The glass shattered on impact and the liquid poured over the Knights and the Saracens set it alight with flaming torches.  Many Knights suffered unimaginable pain as they were burned alive.  Sadly, many others died helping to save their comrades in arms who were in burning in flames and suffering horribly.  According to history, the knights were bound by a solemn creed demanding:
  • Poverty
  • Chastity
  • Obedience
As time passed, the knights heroic efforts became legendary and they were recognized by their fellow crusaders who presented them with a distinctive symbol to honor their bravery and to readily identify them in battle. The symbol was a white cross displayed on the knight’s red tunic (known as a ‘surcoat’) and was routinely worn over the amour.  The crusaders continued to live on the Island of Malta for almost four hundred years.  As time passed, the cross they wore became known as the ‘Maltese Cross.


The Four Arms of the cross represent:
  • Fortitude
  • Justice
  • Temperance
  • Perseverance

The Eight Points at each end of the four arms represent:

1. The Eight Beatitudes:  Matthew 5:3-10 (King James Version) “The Sermon on the Mount"
  • The poor in spirit
  • They who mourn
  • They who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness
  • The meek
  • The peacemakers
  • They who hunger and thirst for righteousness
  • The pure in heart
  • The merciful

2. The Eight Chivalric Virtues:
  • Observation
  • Tact
  • Resource
  • Dexterity
  • Sympathy
  • Perseverance
  • Discrimination
  • Explicitness

3. The languages of the Order of Malta:
  • Provence
  • Auvergne
  • France
  • Aragon
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • England
  • Castalia


The tradition surrounding the Maltese Cross bears out its historical significance and the importance of its representation with regard to the Knights of Malta is legendary.  Modern day fire fighters continue to honor the selfless sacrifices made by those brave crusaders all those years ago by showing his or her own willingness to help others by proudly wearing the Maltese cross.
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