Cross of Malta
    
      To some heraldic scholars, it represents a refined geometric expression of
      the cross formy, or croix pattée. To others, it is an evolution of the
      cross potent identified with the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Though its origins
      are still debated today, the beautiful geometric symbol that came to
      represent Christianity's oldest order of chivalry may have been an Arabic
      motif rooted in Muslim mysticism. As can be seen in this geometric
      construction, its angles and lines might represent a star as well as a
      cross. The design appears in Saracen and Moorish architecture throughout
      the Arab world, in structures that antedate by centuries the foundation of
      the Order of the Hospital. The symmetrical "Maltese Cross" is seen in
      ancient mosques in Jerusalem, Damascus and Baghdad. One of its earliest
      architectural uses in Europe was in Sicily, where it appears as a
      repeating motif in the splendid cloister courtyard of Monreale Abbey,
      built during the reign of a twelfth-century Norman King of Sicily, William
      II. (Henry II's daughter, Joan, wed the Sicilian sovereign in 1177, and
      the church's English legacy is represented in its mosaic icon of Thomas
      Becket.) The octagonal cross's appearance in the cloister is not
      surprising if one remembers that Monreale's artisans and architects were
      Saracen Arabs and Byzantine Greeks. By the thirteenth century, the Cross
      of Malta was a common heraldic symbol in England, France, Germany and
      Poland.
      To the Knights of Malta, its four arms represent the cross on which Jesus
      suffered, while the eight points symbolise the Beatitudes given on the
      Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-10):
      Blessed are the poor in spirit,
      For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
      Blessed are those who mourn,
      For they shall be comforted.
      Blessed are the meek,
      For they shall inherit the Earth.
      Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
      For they shall be filled.
      Blessed are the merciful,
      For they shall obtain mercy.
      Blessed are the pure in heart,
      For they shall see God.
      Blessed are the peacemakers,
      For they shall be called children of God.
      Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
      For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
    
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