What Does an Upside Down Cross (Inverted Cross) Really Mean?

An upside-down Latin cross is also known as an inverted cross, Petrine Cross, or Cross of St. Peter. Depending on who you ask, the inverted cross serves either as a symbol of humble Christian faith or of satanic ideals.

  • Emily Hall hindsighthistory.substack.com
  • 2022 25 Mar
What Does an Upside Down Cross (Inverted Cross) Really Mean?

An upside-down Latin cross is also known as an inverted cross, Petrine Cross, or Cross of St. Peter. Depending on who you ask, the inverted cross serves either as a symbol of humble Christian faith or of satanic ideals.

Inverted (Upside Down) Cross Meaning in the Bible

According to tradition and extra-biblical sources, the Apostle Peter was crucified during Nero’s reign on an upside down cross. In this sense, the inverted cross symbolizes humility in faith because Peter would not be crucified in the same manner that the Savior, Jesus Christ, was crucified. However, these details of Peter’s death were not explicitly recorded in the Bible.

In John 21:18, Jesus predicted the desperate nature of Peter’s eventual death: 

Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

The phrase Jesus used, “stretch out your hands,” likely involved death by crucifixion as traditional interpretation has affirmed since Tertullian in his On the Prescription of Heretics (200 A.D.). Jerome, who was born nearly 300 years after Peter died, affirmed that Peter was crucified upside down. In Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563), John Foxe relied on Jerome’s account:

“Jerome saith that he was crucified, his head being down and his feet upward, himself so requiring, because he was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the Lord was.”

Because the Roman Catholic Church views each pope as a successor of St. Peter, the inverted cross is commonly connected with popes.

It’s also worth noting the distinction between a Latin cross and a crucifix. A crucifix is a Latin cross with a figure of Jesus on it. An inverted crucifix is always considered disrespectful, inverting the meaning of the cross, whereas a simple inverted cross is not. Still, an inverted cross is sometimes intended as satanic.

The Inverted (Upside Down) Cross and the Occult

An inverted pentagram is a more common symbol attached to the Church of Satan and Satanism, but an inverted cross is also used, such as in the Satanic Temple’s ceremony unveiling the Baphomet statue.

In popular culture, such as in music and movies, the upside down cross can mean anti-Christian and Satanist sentiments specifically or rebellion against social and political power in general. In Hollywood films like Rosemary’s Baby and The Conjuring, upside down crosses are associated with demonic activity and overall evilness to viscerally creep the audience out.

The symbolic nature of the upside down cross is best determined by its context.

Sources

  • Catholic.com, “The Upside Down Cross: Satanic or Symbolic.” Hector Molina, 2014.
  • BibleHub.com, Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, John 21:18.
  • ThoughtCatalog.com, “Here’s What an Upside Down Cross Really Means.” Erin Cossetta, 2018.
  • BBC.com, “Decoding the symbols on Satan’s statue.” James Morgan, 2015.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock/Kmonroe2