What Does an Upside Down (Inverted) Cross Symbolize?

What Does an Upside Down (Inverted) Cross Symbolize?

The upside down cross is akin to the devil. This Buzzle article clears up the misconception about this symbol, and interprets its true meaning.
Did You Know?
In 1920, Archbishop Joachim of Nizhny Novgorod was taken by Bolshevik agents and crucified upside down on the Royal Doors of the Cathedral in Sevastopol, similar to the crucifixion of Saint Peter.


In the days just before Christianity was accepted the world over as the one true religion, many sects existed that were an offshoot of it. All these sects were considered to be a cult factor or status adopted as a result of Jesus Christ. But the Roman Emperor Nero, who was facing a lot of heat and criticism from the people for executing Jesus, needed peace to exist within his kingdom.

All the other churches that were not part of the Holy Roman Church were considered heresy, and the followers were deemed heretics. Further, the Great Fire of Rome had rendered the city of Rome helpless, for which he blamed the heretics, making them the scapegoat.

Saint Peter (St. Peter), one of the apostles, was found guilty by Emperor Nero for creating a new church not deemed legal by him, and needed to be executed. While being meted out his punishment, his last request was to be crucified upside down, unlike his savior Jesus Christ. Since this event, the symbol is treated as the opposite of a normal cross.

Meaning of an Upside Down Cross

While this symbol has its meager origins in history, in the present, it has been synonymous with the symbol of evil. Any person or religion depicting this symbol is immediately associated with the devil (or Lucifer).

In Christian iconography, martyrs were depicted with the instruments responsible for their martyrdom. When Saint Paul was beheaded, an artist representation had his image holding a double-edged sword. The same could be said for Saint Jude Thaddeus, as he's seen holding a club as a representation for his death. St. Peter's brother Saint Andrew died at almost the same time as him. He was executed on a X-shaped crucifix, thus he's symbolized with a 'X'.

The cross of St. Peter, now called the Petrine cross, is similar to his brother's symbol, who was executed on an X-shaped crucifix. This now symbolizes the gates of heaven. Since the Pope is the natural successor as the Bishop of Rome to St. Peter, therefore, the Papacy is known by its two symbols - the Petrine cross and the keys to heaven. The Petrine cross is used without the symbol of a corpse, or a crucifix to depict St. Peter, and not Jesus Christ.

Some rumors suggest that its origin came from witches who were pursued in medieval hunts. They have used it as an anti-establishment symbol, or anything against the government.

In Popular Culture

This symbol has been glamorized in movies such as Rosemary's Baby, The Masque of the Red Death, Exorcist: The Beginning, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Devil Inside, Ghost, Paranormal Activity, Constantine, Devil, The Omen, The Conjuring, and Gummo.

Punk rock and heavy metal rockers and artists use this symbol as a sign of open rebellion against that state and the church.

It has been a part of metal band imagery since the '80s, and has been adopted by bands like Sarcófago and Death. The primary intent was to create shock value among conservative Christians, and appeal to the teenage crowd.

However, some Christian bands have caught on to the truth of this symbol. Bands like America's Possession and Divine Symphony have used this symbol on their album cover, and their lyrics uncover the true interpretation of St. Peter's crucifixion.

Origen, an Alexandrian scholar, was the first to report that St. Peter was crucified upside down. Some Catholics compare it with a symbol related to unworthiness and humility, in contrast to the Latin cross.