The history of the Jerusalem cross dates back to a likely unknown origin. During the Crusades, the first Christian King, Godfrey de Bouillon adopted the symbol in his heraldry in 1099 leading to its name as the Jerusalem Cross or the Crusaders Cross. De Bouillon may have adapted the cross form from existing Armenian Crutch Crosses, used as support during prayer. Over the centuries as the Crusades ended, the Jerusalem Cross continued to carry meaning as symbolizing the four gospels or the four corners of the world where the gospel would be carried. As the Knights Templar emerged, they continued the use of the Jerusalem Cross as a symbol during their care of individuals falling ill during their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Over time, the Jerusalem Cross became associated with healing.
Fast forward to the 18th century when John Wesley emerged as an Anglican Priest who over the course of his life ministry developed the Methodist Church in Britain an America. The still popular Jerusalem Cross became a graphic display of ways Christians can actively engage in allowing God’s Grace to be more fully present in daily life. The Wesleyan Means of Grace embodies a balanced approach in relationship with God. The opposing dynamics of private and public activities form the horizontal cross beam and works of piety and works of mercy form the vertical. The four smaller crosses represent the means of grace the in combining these attributes. Private works of Piety result in Acts of Devotion. Public works of Piety result in acts of Worship. Private works of Mercy result in Acts of Compassion. And public works of mercy result in Acts of Justice.
I still see the Jerusalem Cross as a symbol of healing. In exercising the Means of Grace we open up and engage in God’s healing power for ourselves and our world.