Firefighters Cross Project

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You can be an important part of the history of the fire service.

Fire Departments have unknowingly spread inaccurate information regarding the history of their prominent emblem, the "Firefighters Cross". The Firefighters Cross (FF Cross) has inappropriately been associated with prominent, and unrelated, cross designs such as the "Maltese Cross", "St. John's Cross" and "St. Florians Cross". None of these concepts relate to the current FF Cross in any way. The false information is so prevalent across the fire service that it threatens the historic integrity of our profession.

We are not the first to be mislead into adopting the wrong symbols for our profession. The medical profession is associated with the "Caduceus" instead of the correct symbol, the "Staff of Asclepius" (see Medical Symbol Information at the bottom of this page).

The medical profession has gotten so deep in their use of the wrong symbol that they are unable to pull out of it at this point - Don't let this happen to the fire service. Fire Street will be hosting the Firefighters Cross Project as an effort to get us back on track. If you have historical reference in the form of pictures or historical writings, then please submit them for review. Fire Street will be identifying prominent points to facilitate the actual history of our current FF Cross Design.

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MEDICAL SYMBOL INFORMATION
WRONG MEDICAL SYMBOL: Interestingly, many "medical" organizations are currently using the wrong symbolism. They have adopted the "Caduceus", a short rod entwined by two snakes and topped by a pair of wings. This is actually the caduceus or magic wand of the Greek god Hermes (Roman Mercury), messenger of the gods, inventor of (magical) incantations, conductor of the dead and protector of merchants and thieves.
Hermes was the god of commerce, eloquence, invention, travel and theft, and so was a symbol of heralds and commerce, not medicine. The words caduity & caducous imply temporality, perishableness and senility, while the medical profession espouses renewal, vitality and health.
CORRECT MEDICAL SYMBOL: The appropriate symbolism for medicine relates to Asclepius' staff.
Asclepius was most probably a skilled physician who practised in Greece around 1200BC (and described in Homer's Iliad). Eventually through myth and legend he came to be worshipped as Asclepius, the (Greek) god of Healing.
Medical schools developed, which were usually connected to temples or shrines called Asclepions (Asclepieia) dedicated to Asclepius.
So, knowing this, you would be proud of the EMS symbol, the Star of Life, that appropriately uses the staff of Asclepius.

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I apoligize if there was some suggestion that there were complete historical answers. This is a new initiative to find those answers, without this process we will not get there -- what we can do is progressively rule things out. That process requires partial statements until complete statements can be made. Everything is also arguable, so you will have an endless stream of opportunity to make conflicting statements -- I would hope your energy could help facilitate the process rather than dwell on the fact that we're not at the end yet.

If you would like a long discussion on theories of how the brain processes knowledge and symbolism, the critical nature of how increasing the duration of a negative perspective can lead to disparity and pessimism - we can do that, but just start a new discussion.

Overall, let's align our cognitive perspectives and efforts for a functional benefit to the fire service, not just wax eloquent because we can.
Who's not smiling? But from your response, why belittle an effort? I sense that this platform is one that favors entertainment -- perhaps I'm wrong. If an attempt to facilitate accuracy and value meaningfulness is considered too far out there, then I guess I'm quite the fool for choosing FirefighterNation as a potential player in serious issues. I tip my hat to you and your realm -- you seem to be setting quite the standards for someone without a name or indentity. I won't suffer you any longer. Please let Dave Iannone know that I tried. And by the way I am still smiling.
HAHA this is hardly an "serious issue"
Does anyone want to see what a 'real' Maltese Cross looks like? There is such a thing - try this link http://www.malta.com/ I don't think anyone can deny the accuracy of the cross pictured in the top left of that home page.
Thomas...I find nothing in the documentation nor in reference material to substantiate your claims...I'm not from Missouri but I have to believe in there motto....."SHOW ME"....I don't want to here the "may be" or the "could be"or even the "it appears" as these all connout hypothesis by the author....Until I have solid undisputed proof otherwise...to me it will be my "Maltese Cross"...Sorry, but this is my point of view on the subject.....NOW....How about getting back to the real issues that the Fire Service faces today...?? Paul
Very good position Paul.

Perhaps this is the statement that fire departments should be faced with before they post the claim that the Firefighters Cross comes from the fire-fighting-crusaders and the true maltese cross.

Your point is my point exactly: ....."SHOW ME"....I don't want to here the "may be" or the "could be"or even the "it appears" as these all connout hypothesis by the author....Until I have solid undisputed proof otherwise...
Paul, we posted at the same time. Check my link, it will show you what the 'true' Maltese Cross looks like. As it's one of the national emblems of Malta, I think they know what they're talking about!

As for whether the cross used in the North American fire services was designed from the Maltese Cross, well, it may well have been. But the person drawing it must have had a few drinks beforehand! The connection is tenuous at best, but who now can say that the original inspiration didn't come from that source? Calling the Knights of St John of Jerusalem (Knights Hospitaller) firefighters, now that is a bit of a stretch. As I've said elsewhere, the Order was originally based on medical help which is where their name came from.

So. Should the cross used in the North American fire services be called the "Maltese Cross"? Probably not, as it has very little in common with that actual cross. They both have four arms and that's about it. Are people likely to stop calling your cross a Maltese Cross? Very unlikely in my view, too much inertia to overcome. Does it really matter? Yes and no - the name is incorrect. But it's probably only people who like things to be right that will care, and they're the ones that will have to shoulder the load of overcoming that inertia I mentioned.

Good luck Thomas, I wish you well - as I'm one of those that likes things to be named correctly. Not that it matters that much as none of it applies to me, here the Maltese Cross is on the emblem of our Ambulance Service, nothing to do with firefighting at all.
This sounds good enough to me .....

http://www.local1259iaff.org/maltesecross.html

I am more concerned with budget cuts, training matters, and the economy to worry if the firefighter cross is historically correct.

Additionally what other "false information" is there about the fire service?
I have been involved in a volunteer fire department literally most of my life. I was 3 yrs old when I decided I wanted to be a fire fighter. Until a few years ago I had no idea of the history of the Maltese Cross. It just was. Like so many other symbols so many people never take the time to research to find out WHY it is.

As I have read in several sources, the 8 point cross that has become a symbol of the fire service in the United States "originated" from the Maltese Cross. The Maltese Cross was "originally" the symbol Knights of St. John who eventually were given the Island of Malta for their service.

Somewhere in this discussion I read that the Firefighters Cross was probably based on a symbol used in the Civil War. I can buy that. But WHERE did that symbol "originate"? Most likely from the very same Maltese Cross, worn as a badge of honor, for courage and bravery.

I still like this explanation from the FDNY website:

When a courageous band of crusaders known as the Knights of St. John, fought the Saracens for possession of the holy land, they encountered a new weapon unknown to European warriors. It was a simple, but a horrible device of war, it wrought excruciating pain and agonizing death upon the brave fighters for the cross. The Saracen's weapon was, fire.

As the crusaders advanced on the walls of the city, they were struck by glass bombs containing naphtha. When they became saturated with the highly flammable liquid, the Saracens hurled a flaming torch into their midst. Hundreds of the knights were burned alive; others risked their lives to save their brothers-in-arms from dying painful, fiery deaths.

Thus, these men became our first firefighter and the first of a long list of courageous firefighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow crusaders who awarded each here a badge of honor - a cross similar to the one firefighter's wear today. Since the Knights of St. John lived for close to four centuries on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea named Malta, the cross came to be known as the Maltese Cross.

The Maltese Cross is your symbol of protection. It means that the firefighter who wears this cross is willing to lay down his life for you just as the crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many years ago. The Maltese Cross is a firefighter's badge of honor, signifying that he works in courage - a ladder rung away from death.
"international symbol" - as has been said a few times in this forum this is correct only if you think that two or four countries are "international". The cross used in North America is not internationally recognised as the symbol of the Fire Service.

The crusaders did not go to "win back" the Holy Land - they went to invade it and take it from the then-current inhabitants. The original inhabitants (in recorded history) were the Jewish people I believe?

Lastly, the cross used by the North American fire services is not the Maltese Cross. It's not the cross used by the Knights Hospitaller, the Knights of St John of Jerusalem.

I've said before, be proud of your cross, it has traditional value in North America. And has merit in itself.

As for having more concern with other matters? That's good. But this thread is about a symbol.
Ok, I dont know why or what the problem is but as a historian I have done reserch on many symbols and traditions in the fire service.

The Maltese Cross was adopted and modified for the fire service due to the heroic actions of the crusaders of the cross, known as the Knights of St. John. While fighting the Saracens (who used fire as a wepon) they showed courage and valor when the Saracens would throw flamible liquid at them from the walls of the city and then hurled a flaming torch into their midst. Hundreds of the knights were burned alive; others risked their lives to save their brothers-in-arms from dying painful, fiery deaths.

These men became our first firemen and the first of a long list of courageous firefighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow crusaders who awarded each here a badge of honor - a cross similar to the one firemen wear today. Since the Knights of St. John lived for close to four centuries on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea named Malta, the cross came to be known as the Maltese Cross. The Maltese Cross is a symbol of protection. It means that the fireman who wears this cross is willing to lay down his life for you just as the crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many years ago.

The original cross was set up like this:

There were 8 obligations one for each "bar" of the cross. They were:
live in truth;
have faith;
repent of sins;
give proof of humility;
love justice;
be merciful;
be sincere and whole-hearted; and
endure persecution

Today we show them as:
Galantry
Sympathy
Tact
Obsevation
Explicitness
Dexterity
Loyalty
Perserverance

The blades also represent:
Courage
Honor
Respect
Tradition

My question is for you, What is wrong with the tradition, Is this a problem that we use a "modified" cross to symbolize what they done and what we do?

The biggest problem I see with it is that the representation of the cross is not liked sometimes because it holds us to a higher standard and some don't want that.
What's the difference between all of these and the Iron Cross? Is the fire one somehow meant to relate back to the Iron Cross in some distant way?

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