Does any one know the history of the Maltese Cross?

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The most common symbol used by Fire departments around the world is the Maltese cross. It is often seen on fire trucks, uniforms and badges. Its origins and reasons for being chosen as a universal Firefighter symbol go back to the island of Malta in the 12th century.

The island of Malta was the home of the Knights of St. John who existed during the 11th and 12th centuries. In order to identify themselves in battle, when wearing full body armor, they needed a symbol to quickly and easily identify themselves. The Cross of Calvary was chosen which later came to be known as the Maltese cross. During the Crusades, the enemies of the Knights often used fire as a weapon. It was common for a Knight to risk his own life to save another Knight or extinguish a fire.

The Knights of St. John were also known for their care of the sick and injured. Combined with their abilites to fight fires, and the pride and honor they took in their work, the Maltese cross is a fitting symbol for today's firefighter. Firefighting is a proud profession, and only a symbol of pride would exeplify the work of a firefighter.
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.
my post came directly from the official FDNY city website
this description is the most accurate. It may have some connections as to being identified in battle. Most of the articles I have read refer to this meaning. This is the one that I use to explain to others if I am asked about it.
Maltese cross
The insignia of a Serving Brother of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem
The Maltese Cross is featured on the badge of the Bermuda Regiment, heir to the BVRC.The Maltese cross or Amalfi cross is identified as the symbol of an order of Christian warriors known as the Knights Hospitaller or Knights of Malta. It was originally the symbol of Amalfi, a small Italian republic of the 11th century. The cross is eight-pointed and has the form of four "V"-shaped arms joined together at their tips, so that each arm has two points. Its design is based on crosses used since the First Crusade. The eight points are said to symbolise the eight points of courage.:[citation needed]

Loyalty
Piety
Frankness
Bravery
Glory and honour
Contempt of death
Helpfulness towards the poor and the sick
Respect for the church
The Maltese cross remains the symbol of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and other Orders of St John, and St. John Ambulance. In recent centuries it has come to be adopted as the insignia of numerous orders of chivalry, and appears on the coat-of-arms of the Mecklenburg-Strelitz district. In Australia the Maltese Cross is part of the state emblem of Queensland.

In the United Kingdom, the Maltese Cross is the symbol used by Rifle Regiments, and has been incorporated into the badges of virtually all rifle units, including the amalgam, The Royal Green Jackets. The first postmark employed for the cancellation of the then new postage stamps in the 1840s was the shape of a Maltese cross and named accordingly. The Maltese cross also forms the basis for the design of the Order of the Bath. The Maltese cross is also the symbol of Neath Rugby Football Club in Neath, Wales.

In Sweden a Maltese Cross forms the basic form for all Royal Orders, such as Order of Seraphim and the Order of the Sword.

In Australia the Maltese Cross forms the logo for South Australian Ambulance Service logos.

The Maltese cross flower (Lychnis chalcedonica) is so named because its petals are similarly shaped, though its points are more rounded into "heart"-like shapes. The Geneva drive, a device that translates a continuous rotation into an intermittent rotary motion, is also sometimes called a "Maltese cross mechanism" after the shape of its main gear.

It is considered one of the National symbols of Malta and used to be depicted on the two mils coin of the island prior to the removal of that denomination from circulation. It is now shown on the back of the one and two Euro coins which Malta introduced in January 2008. [1]

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