The Huguenot cross is a Christian religious symbol originating in France and is one of the more recognisable and popular symbols of the evangelical reformed faith. It is commonly found today as a piece of jewelry (in gold or silver) or engraved on buildings connected with the Reformed Church in France. It also forms part of the official logo of the Reformed Church in France.
It is sometimes asserted that the cross appeared for the first time during the Huguenot Wars (1562-1598) in the South of France. Bertrand Van Ruymbeke asserts instead that the Huguenot cross stands out as "the most revealing" of symbolic signs of latter-day Huguenot solidarity: "Although a Huguenot cross was indeed designed in Nîmes in the 1680s, never was it in France the symbole de reconnaissance it later became for the descendants of the Huguenot refugees in the last third of the nineteenth century" Van Ruymbeke identifies the late 19th-century Huguenot revival as sharing characteristics with two of historian Eric Hobsbawm's three categories of "invented traditions": A. "those establishing or symbolizing social cohesion or the membership of groups, real or artificial communities", and B. "those whose main purpose [is] socialization, the inculcation of beliefs, value systems and conventions of behavior."
Long after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the Huguenot Cross came into general use amongst 19th-century Huguenot descendants in countries where Huguenot refugees settled, as identification with the French Huguenot ancestry, as much as confirmation of the wearer's faith.
The symbolism of the Huguenot cross is particularly rich.
- The cross as an eminent symbol of the Christian faith, represents not only the death of Christ but also victory over death and impiety. This is represented also in the Maltese Cross.
- It is boutonné, the eight points symbolising the eight Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12)
- Between the arms of the cross is the stylised fleur-de-lys (on the French Coat of Arms), each has 3 petals; the total of twelve petals of the fleur-de-lys signify the twelve apostles. Between each fleur-de-lys and the arms of the Maltese Cross with which it is joined, an open space in the form of a heart, the symbol of loyalty, suggests the seal of the French Reformer, John Calvin.
- The pendant dove symbolises the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16).In times of persecution a pearl, symbolizing a teardrop, replaced the dove.
The elements of the Huguenot cross mirrored those of the cross of the 1578 Order of the Holy Spirit, the senior chivalric order of France by precedence.
- Bertrand Van Ruymbeke, "Minority survival: the Huguenot paradigm in France and the diaspora: from survival to revival", in Van Ruymbeke and Randy J. Sparks, eds. Memory and Identity: the Huguenots in France and the Atlantic Diaspora (University of South Carolina) 2003:16.
- Hobsbawm, "Introduction: Inventing traditions", in Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds. The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge University Press) 1983:9, noted in Van Ruymbeke 2003:16 note 57.
- Hobsbawm quoted in Van Ruymbeke, eo. loc..
- Rev. R.C. Broughton, "Virginibus Puerisque. Resistez", contributed to "In the Study", The Expository Times, 53.12 (1942:371) (on-line text).