Cross tattoos are among the most versatile tattoo symbols out there today.
The most popular cross tattoo is the Latin cross, a Christian religious symbol. Not all are religious in nature though – at least, not in a conventional sense. Some people get a cross to express their religious feelings, while other people may just like the design or give a personal symbolic meaning to their tattoo.
Cross tattoo designs are representations of a symbol that is far more ancient and varied than you might think. They are usually worn by men (on the shoulders, back, forearm). Women also have them, but the design is usually smaller and more feminine (on the foot, ankle, hand, lower back).
Some people may be surprised to learn that crosses were not always a Christian symbol. There were many cross symbols in the older, pagan religions.
Tattoo drawings of crosses come from many different traditions:
- In some pre-Christian cultures, the vertical bar was seen as the male phallus, the horizontal bar as the vagina.
- The Celtic druids saw the cross as a phallic symbol as well (see further).
- The ancient Babylonians had a cross symbol that was associated with their moon deity.
- The Assyrian cross was associated with the four directions.
- In ancient Egypt, the ‘ankh’ cross symbol was a symbol for the union between Isis and Osiris.
Celtic Cross Tattoos
The Celtic cross (aka Irish cross) is a particularly beautiful representation of this universal symbol and Celtic cross tattoos are a popular type of Celtic tattoo.
The Celtic cross looks like a basic cross with a circle (symbol for the sun) around the intersection and is adorned with Celtic knot work art . The effect of these tribal cross tattoos is stunning, either in plain black, blue or a bold Celtic green.
Here are some Celtic cross designs:
Tribal Cross Tattoos
The cross works well as a tribal tattoo. Here's a gallery with ideas:
Christian Cross Tattoos
The Christian faith uses the cross as a symbol for the fact that Jesus Christ was crucified by the Romans, a common Roman way of executing slaves and non-Romans. The Christian cross symbolizes Jesus' victory over dead.
One of the first things that come to mind when thinking about Christian cross tattoos is: Is it OK for a Christian to get a tattoo?
The answer is yes, it is ok for a Christian to get a tattoo. The Christian religion doesn't have a rule against tattoos, unlike the Jewish faith.
Even if we just look at the basic Christian cross, there is still an almost endless variation in types of symbols and images:
- The most simple and basic cross is called the Latin cross or crux ordinaria. The vertical line represents the divine, the horizontal line represents the world, the intersection is the union of both. These holy cross tattoos are often quite small and done in black and white. Most popular places for them are the wrists, hands and the upper arms.
- The type that shows Jesus on a wooden cross is called a crucifix.
- A cross hanging at the end of a rosary, combined with praying hands is a popular Christian tattoo design as well.
- Others show the crown of thorns either hung over one arm or the cross or suspended in the middle of it.
- An interesting variation is the cross of nails – in this cross tattoo, the cross itself is made up of large, rough-looking nails, the type that were driven through Christ’s hands and feet. Often a crown of thorns is added to this image as well.
Holy cross tattoos are very apt at expressing the Christian faith, and have come to be associated with Christianity throughout the world.
Here are some more cross tattoo ideas:
Cross tattoos are often combined with other elements. This is a good idea because it adds to the personal meaning of your tattoo design.
Here are the most popular images to combine with a cross tattoo:
- Butterflies: a symbol for the resurrection of Christ.
- The Stars and Stripes: the American flag as a background for a cross is a popular patriotic tattoo design.
- Words of verses from the Bible, usually displayed on a ribbon.
- Other texts like "Only God Can Judge Me" for example.
- Flowers: vines, thorns, roses, lilies
- Praying hands
- Angel wings: a classic design is the cross with angel wings tattoo.
- A skull
- Rosary beads
- Hearts: a cross with a heart in the middle.
Celebrities With Cross Tattoos
Here's an overview of celebrities with a cross tattoo. Let me know if I missed someone:
- Justin Timberlake: has a cross tattoo on his left shoulder.
- Robbie Williams: has a Celtic cross on his right hip and another cross tattoo on his right arm with the name Jack Farrell (his grandfather) underneath.
- Britney Spears: la Spears has a pink and black cross tattoo on her hip.
- Melanie C: one of the Spice Girls, has a cross on her left arm.
- Tupac Shakur: the late rapper had a load of tattoos. Tupac's gothic cross tattoo has the inscription "Exodus 18:11".
- Pauley Perrette: has a black gothic cross on her back, but actually it's a fake one. It's applied occasionally.
- Dave Gahan: the singer of the band Depeche Mode, has got a Celtic cross on his left upper arm and another cross on his under arm.
- Allen Iverson: NBA player, has a cross of daggers with the words "Only The Strong Survive".
- Stevie Ray Vaughan: the late blues guitarist had an Ethiopian cross.
- Anastacia: celebrity with an ankh cross pictured on a tribal sun.
- Drew Barrymore: has a cross on her ankle and one on her hip.
- Mary J Blige: has a cross on her right thigh.
- Boy George: 80s celebrity with a cross on his right shoulder.
- Kelly Clarkson: has a small cross tattoo on her right wrist.
- Nicky Hilton: Paris Hilton's sister, has a cross on the back of her neck.
- Jenna Jameson: adult film star with a cross on her back.
- Lenny Kravitz: singer with a cross on his arm.
- Eva Longoria: Desperate Housewives actress with a Celtic cross on her lower back.
- Dennis Rodman: basketball player with a cross tattoo.
- Mickey Rourke: has one on his biceps.
- Christian Slater: has a cross with two lions on his right shoulder.
- Holly Marie Combs: has a cross on her back and an iron cross surrounded by tribal patterns on her wrist.