Flag of Scotland (Saint Andrew's Cross)

A saltire, or Saint Andrew's Cross, is a heraldic symbol in the form of a diagonal cross (, unicode sign U+2613) or letter ex (x). Saint Andrew is said to have been martyred on such a cross.

It appears in numerous flags, including those of Scotland and Jamaica, and other coats of arms and seals. A variant, also appearing on many past and present flags and symbols, is the Cross of Burgundy flag.

A warning sign in the shape of a saltire is also used to indicate the point at which a railway line intersects a road at a level crossing.


Christian symbol

The saltire appears on vexilla that are represented consistently on coinage of Christian emperors of Rome, from the fourth century. Anne Roes found it on coins of Constantius II, Valentinian[disambiguation needed ], Jovian, Gratianus, Valens, Arcadius, Constantine III, Jovinus, Theodosius I, Eugenius and Theodosius II, though she searched only coins at the British Museum.[1] In the ninth and tenth century the saltire was revived in Constantinople as a symbol of Christian-imperial power.

Anne Roes detected the symbol, which often appears with balls in the quadrants formed by the arms of the chi-cross, in standards represented on coins of Persepolis, and she suggested that early Christians endorsed its solar symbolism as appropriate to Christ, and suggested "although it cannot be proved, that in the white saltire of St. Andrew we still have a reminiscence of the old standard of the Persepolitan kingdom."[2]


The 10th Mountain Division of the US Army uses bayonets in saltire to represent the Roman numeral X (10)

Like other ordinaries, a single saltire is throughout — extending to the edges of the field — as in the coat of Anderson, Canada (Or on a saltire engrailed Azure two quill pens in saltire Argent enfiling a Loyalist military coronet Or); unless it is blazoned as couped (cut off), as in the coat of Greenwood (Sable a chevron Erminois cotised between three saltires couped Or).

When two or more saltires appear, they are usually blazoned as couped.

A saltorel is a narrow saltire; the term is usually defined as one-half the width of the saltire, and is a relatively recent "innovation" which is really not very different from a fillet saltire (as in the South African coat of National Cultural and Open-air Museum: Or; an ogress charged with a fillet saltire surmounted by an eight spoked wheel or, and ensigned of a billet sable; a chief nowy gabled, Sable).

A field (party) per saltire is divided into four areas by a saltire-shaped 'cut'. If two tinctures are specified, the first refers to the areas above (in chief) and below (in base) the crossing, and the second refers to the ones on either side (in the flanks); an example is the coat of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, Per saltire Vert and Or four Fers de Moline counterchanged in fess point a Fountain. Otherwise, each of the four divisions may be blazoned separately.

The phrase in saltire is used in two ways:

  • Two long narrow charges in saltire are placed to cross each other, like as the keys in the arms of many entities associated with Saint Peter, crossing each other diagonally. Examples include: Suffolk County Council, England (Gules a Base barry wavy enarched Argent and Azure issuant therefrom a Sunburst in chief two Ancient Crowns enfiled by a pair of Arrows in saltire points downwards all Or); The Corporation of the Municipality of Brighton, Canada (Or two anchors in saltire between two fish hauriant in pale Azure and two apples in fess Gules, a chief enarched embattled Azure).
  • When five or more compact charges are in saltire, one is in the center and one or more lie on each arm of an invisible saltire. Examples: Winchester City Council, England, Gules five castles triple towered, in saltire, argent, masoned proper the portcullis of each part-raised, or, and on either side of the castle in fess point a lion passant guardant that to the dexter contourny or; Episcopal Church in the United States of America, Argent; a quarter azure charged with nine cross crosslets in saltire argent, overall a cross gules.


St Andrew's flag of the Russian and Imperial Russian Navy

The Flag of Scotland, called The Saltire or St Andrew's Cross, is a blue field with a white saltire; according to tradition, it represents Saint Andrew, who is supposed to have been crucified on a cross of that form (called a crux decussata) at Patras. The St Andrew's Cross was worn as a badge on hats in Scotland, on the day of the feast of St Andrew.[1] It is the oldest continuously used sovereign flag in the world, having been in use since AD 832 - or so legend has it.

Numerous flags are inspired by the saltire and the colours blue and white—mostly connected with Scotland, where Saint Andrew is the national patron saint. The naval ensign of the Imperial Russian (1696–1917) and Russian navies (1991–present) is a blue saltire on a white field. Prior to the Union the Royal Scots Navy used a red ensign incorporating the St Andrew's Cross; this ensign is now sometimes flown as part of an unofficial civil ensign in Scottish waters. With its colours exchanged (and a lighter blue), the same design forms part of the arms and flag of Nova Scotia (whose name means 'New Scotland'). The flags of the Spanish island of Tenerife and the remote Colombian islands of San Andrés and Providencia also use a white saltire on a blue field.

Saltires are also seen in several other flags, including the flags of Grenada, Jamaica, Alabama, Florida, Jersey, Amsterdam, Potchefstroom and Valdivia. The design is also part of the Confederate Battle Flag and Naval Jack used during the American Civil War (see Flags of the Confederate States of America). William Porcher Miles, designer of the Confederate Battle Flag never claimed it to be a St. Andrew's cross design, but rather a heraldic saltire without religious symbolism.

Other uses

European standard hazard symbol for harmful or irritant chemicals


In the European Union standard, a black saltire set in a orange square is the hazard symbol for irritants (Xi) or harmful chemicals (Xn). It indicates a hazard less severe than skull and crossbones, used for poisons, or the corrosive sign.


Polish railway crossing sign, G-3 (single track)

A saltire is the conventional road sign used to indicate the point at which a railway line intersects a road at a level crossing, called a "crossbuck" in this context.

A white saltire on a blue background (or black on yellow for temporary signs) is displayed in UK railway signalling as a "cancelling indicator" for the Automatic Warning System (AWS), informing the driver that the received warning can be disregarded.

In Cameroon, a red "X" placed on illegally constructed buildings scheduled for demolition is occasionally referred to as a "St Andrew's Cross". It is usually accompanied by the letters "A.D." ("à détruire" - French for "to be demolished") and a date or deadline. During a campaign of urban renewal by the Yaoundé Urban Council in Cameroon, the cross was popularly referred to as "Tsimi's Cross" after the Government Delegate to Yaoundé Urban Council Gilbert Tsimi Evouna.[3]

Less formally, on occasions of political controversy in many countries and times the usage of marking the face of a political opponent on a poster with an "X" is a commonly understood way of expressing strong disapproval, sometimes even the wish to kill the person whose picture is so marked.

Fences and Gates

The term derives from the Middle English and Middle French words for an X-shaped animal barricade that people could jump over. Presumably, the animals could jump over the middle of the X as well, but it never occurred to them to do so.[clarification needed][citation needed]

Gallery of saltires

See also


  1. ^ Anne Roes, "An Iranian standard used as a Christian symbol", The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 57.2 (1937), pp. 248-51
  2. ^ Roes 1937:251.
  3. ^ Célestin Obama. Tsimi Evouna s’attaque aux édifices publics, Le Messager, 23 Sept 2008

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • saltire — ► NOUN Heraldry ▪ a diagonal cross as a heraldic ordinary. ORIGIN Old French saultoir stirrup cord, stile, saltire , from Latin saltare to dance …   English terms dictionary

  • Saltire — Sal tire, n. [F. sautoir, fr. LL. saltatorium a sort of stirrup, fr. L. saltatorius saltatory. See {Saltatory}, {Sally}, v.] (Her.) A St. Andrew s cross, or cross in the form of an X, one of the honorable ordinaries. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • saltire — SALTÍRE s.f. v. psaltire. Trimis de IoanSoleriu, 17.07.2004. Sursa: DEX 98 …   Dicționar Român

  • saltire — c.1400, an ordinary on a shield or flag like a St. Andrew s Cross, from M.Fr. saultoir, lit. stirrup, from M.L. saltatorium, properly neuter of L. saltatorius pertaining to leaping, from salire to leap (see SALIENT (Cf. salient)). The connection… …   Etymology dictionary

  • saltire — [sal′tir] n. [ME sawtire < MFr sautoir, stirrup loop < ML saltatorium, stirrup < L saltatorius: see SALTATORY] Heraldry a bearing like a Saint Andrew s cross, formed by a bend and a bend sinister crossing: also sp. saltier …   English World dictionary

  • saltire — /sal tir, tuyeur, sawl /, n. Heraldry. 1. an ordinary in the form of a cross with arms running diagonally from the dexter chief to the sinister base and from the sinister chief to the dexter base; St. Andrew s cross. 2. in saltire, (of charges)… …   Universalium

  • saltire — n. Heraldry an ordinary formed by a bend and a bend sinister crossing like a St Andrew s cross. Phrases and idioms: in saltire arranged in this way. Derivatives: saltirewise adv. Etymology: ME f. OF sau(l)toir etc. stirrup cord, stile, saltire, f …   Useful english dictionary

  • saltire — Ordinary Or di*na*ry, n.; pl. {Ordinaries} ( r[i^]z). 1. (Law) (a) (Roman Law) An officer who has original jurisdiction in his own right, and not by deputation. (b) (Eng. Law) One who has immediate jurisdiction in matters ecclesiastical; an… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Saltire — Flagge von Schottland Die Flagge von Schottland besteht aus einem weißen Andreaskreuz (engl. saltire) auf hellblauen Grund. Eine selten verwendete Version weist einen dunkelblauem Grund auf. Eine offiziell für die Bevölkerung nicht zugelassene,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • saltire — [ saltʌɪə, sɔ: ] noun Heraldry a diagonal cross as a heraldic ordinary. Derivatives saltirewise adverb Origin ME: from OFr. saultoir stirrup cord, stile, saltire , based on L. saltare to dance …   English new terms dictionary

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