We’re all used to seeing symbols on uniforms and businesses: no doubt you’re familiar with the image of a snake twisted around a stick used by medical personnel, and you most likely know that insignia on a military officer’s uniform shows rank and position. The Maltese Cross is one icon you have probably seen often on a firefighter’s uniform or displayed at your local fire station. It’s been used throughout history in many places and times, but very few of us appreciate its full meaning.
Here at Hit Trophy, we have a fine selection of Maltese Cross awards for you to choose from. We thought you might be curious about its underlying meaning and the great significance it has for those who bear this emblem in their work every day.
What is the Maltese Cross?
In its most basic form, the Maltese Cross is a cross made from four arrowhead shapes, pointing towards the center, like four triangles pointing inward at right angles. The triangle or arrowhead-shaped parts of the cross create eight points that have become the hallmark of the Maltese Cross. The simplest versions of this cross are shown in only two colors, usually some combination of either red, black, or white. This primary modified-cross shape has had many adaptations, some with flares or curves added to enhance the overall look. If you do an internet search for images of a Maltese Cross, you will see the many varieties of the basic shape used by different countries and organizations across the globe.
History of the Maltese Cross
Historians debate as to when and where the early forms of the Maltese Cross first appeared. Similar cross-shapes show up on coins from the coast of Italy dating as far back as the 11th century! Most scholars, however, seem to agree that the shape we now recognize as the Maltese Cross came into popular use in the late 1500s, when the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem (or Knights Hospitallers) went to Malta, an island nation located in the Mediterranean Sea off the southern end of Sicily. The eight points of the cross are said to have stood for the eight obligations of the knights: to live in truth, to have faith, to repent of one’s sins, to give proof of humility, to love justice, to be merciful, to be sincere and wholehearted, and to endure persecution. Traditionally, the eight points of the cross also came to symbolize the roughly eight nationalities of the noblemen admitted to the order at the time. The knights were highly respected and came to be known as a group of honorable men devoted to serving and protecting those under their care.
Who uses them?
The Maltese Cross remains a widely used cultural symbol for the country of Malta today, gracing buildings, artwork, and business logos there. It is still the official symbol for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, which continues to provide medical and humanitarian aid internationally through its organization Malteser International. But the Maltese Cross shape has been adopted by many organizations worldwide, especially first-responder groups, who embody those original knightly qualities of being “observant, tactful, resourceful, dextrous, explicit, discriminating, persevering and sympathetic.”
What does the Maltese Cross symbolize for Firefighters?
In the United States, a form of the Maltese Cross has been adopted as the symbol for our firefighting force. As the story goes, the original Knights of Malta would fight medieval weapons of fire by laying down their lives to protect others. Some lore even reports that the knights wore red capes to suffocate flames during attacks. Regardless of whether these tales are true, we can see why the Maltese Cross seems to perfectly represent the brave actions of the firefighting profession. The red of the Maltese Cross has come to be synonymous with firefighters, where red is the primary color for fire trucks and denotes fire itself. Today, the eight points of the Maltese Cross also indicate the values of the modern firefighter: perseverance, loyalty, dexterity, explicitness, observation, tact, sympathy, and gallantry. The additional images on the modern Maltese Cross used by firefighters often depict the tools of the trade: a ladder, a fire axe, a fireman’s helmet, and perhaps a fire hydrant or hose.
Notable Maltese Cross Awards and Gifts
Hit Trophy is proud to provide high quality, distinguished awards and gifts that feature the Maltese Cross. If you are looking for a memorable gift to commend a firefighter in your organization or community, look no further! We have a variety of awards that draw attention to this noble and venerated symbol:
Fire Department Plaque
This simple yet dignified award (item RP152) places the honored Maltese Cross symbol front and center for all to see. The casted metal cross bearing the words “fire department” makes this gift perfect for recognizing a firefighter in his or her retirement or for acknowledging years of dedicated volunteer firefighting work. The polished wood is attractive and elegant and would grace a hardworking, selfless firefighter’s home.
Not only is this walnut plaque carved into the shape of the Maltese Cross, but it also features the official firefighter emblem (including the Maltese Cross) highlighted in bright gold and red color. The large brass engraving plate provides plenty of room for a customized message for the recipient. This substantial 12” x 12” Maltese Cross Plaque (item AT31) will draw attention to the recipient’s heroic efforts and would look dignified in any home or office space.
What better way to acknowledge the time and effort of a loyal firefighter than by giving a clock? And this is no ordinary clock. Mounted on a genuine walnut wood plaque, this handsome timepiece is in the shape of the Maltese Cross! This attention-grabbing 18” x 12” Maltese Cross Clock (AT36) also features a sizable plate for a personalized message and comes in a deluxe gift box. This reward is both beautiful and functional.
Crystal Maltese Cross
Last but not least, this clean, simple, crystal award (item CRY468) draws attention to the noble Maltese Cross symbol with no distracting elements. This 100% clear crystal cross measures 6.25 x 7.25 inches, leaving plenty of room for customization. Engrave this award with the deserving firefighter’s name and a simple message, and let the light shine through and highlight the amazing service of the individual.
More Than Meets the Eye
Who knew there was so much meaning behind that firefighter emblem we see displayed on uniforms, on buildings, and in our beloved hometown Fourth of July parades? The next time you see a firefighter’s badge or the emblem on the side of a fire truck, take a moment to acknowledge and consider the centuries of time-honored, life-saving work represented by that simple icon: the Maltese Cross. If you’re looking for more gift and award ideas for dedicated firefighting professionals, we have a vast array of options available at Hit Trophy and are happy to assist you in finding the perfect item for your specific needs. We at Hit Trophy are dedicated to helping you acknowledge the important work of firefighters, first-responders, and public safety workers everywhere.