Saturday, October 30, 2010
The Maltese cross is known around the world as a symbol of the fire service. It is often seen painted on fire trucks, on the clothing of firefighters, depicted on firefighters badges, and is quite often the chosen design of firefighter tattoos.
The Maltese cross has its origins going back to the era of the Crusades and is named after the island of Malta which came to be the home of the Knights of St. John. The Knights of St. John existed during the 11th and 12 centuries. To help identify friend from foe during the fighting, they needed a symbol that could be used to quickly and easily identify themselves. They chose the Cross of Calvary (which would later be known as the Maltese cross) as their symbol because the Crusades were battles fought for a holy cause. During these battles, the enemies of the knights commonly used fire as a weapon. It was not uncommon for a Knight to have to risk his own life to extinguish a fire or rescue a comrade. Because of their ability to fight fires, and the pride and honor they took in the care of their sick and injured, the Maltese cross evolved into a fitting symbol of the modern fire service. The cross has since come to represent the principles of charity, loyalty, gallantry, generosity to friend and foe, dexterity of service, and protection of the weak. (Credits)
"Symbol of Honor, Courage, and Dedication"
The eight-point Maltese Cross is the international symbol of the fire service's willingness to make great sacrifices in order to protect others from the ravages of fire. It is a badge of courage and honor and it's story is a hundred years old.
This honored symbol originated with a group of eleventh century knights who were serving in a Jerusalem hospital. They became known as the Order of Knights Hospitaller and later became the Knights of St. John. This charitable organization cared for the ill with great compasion.
Later they assisted the Knights of Crusaders in thier effort to win back the Holy Land. As the Knights of St. John and Knights of Crusaders attacked the city walls, the Saracens first threw glass bombs containing highly flammable liquids and then flaming torches. Many knights were severly burned, some suffering agonizing deaths. Risking horrible death, those knights who were able struggled desperatly to help thier burning comrades, beating out the flames and dragging them to safety. In acknowledgment of thier heroic deeds of rescuing fellow knights and fighting fires, the cross which they wore was decorated and inscribed.
In 1530, the Island of Malta was given to the courageous knights. The symbol on thier flag, the eight-point cross, became known as the "Maltese Cross." The cross, which had originally helped the knights distinguish between friend and foe, became the ultimate symbol of heroism and service. The cross, which is considered sacred, represents the principles of charity, loyalty, chivalry, gallantry, generosity to friend and foe, protection of the weak and dexterity in service.
Today, firefighters wear the Maltese Cross to symbolize thier willingness to risk thier lives to save others.