Kings have their sceptre, bishops have their crosier, and the Roman pontiff has his Papal Cross. It's a baton of command or authority, an emblem of his papal office. When carried by the Pope, it is held in his left hand so that he might confer blessings with his right. In this way, the papal cross is used much as an archbishop would use his crosier.
The papal cross is a staff with three horizontal bars. Each bar gets successively shorter in length as they reach the top. Since the archbishop carries a two-barred cross, it seems only natural that the pope's higher rank would demand more bars.
So, what do the three bars represent? Some say that they stand for the three crosses on Calvary. Or, as in the Byzantine Cross, the bars may represent features of the cross upon which Christ was crucified-the titulus, the patibulum, and the suppedaneum.
Three is a powerful number in spiritual matters. Most obviously, three is the Trinity; The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Theological virtues and tenets come in threes: faith, hope, and charity, for example. Or the three realms over which the Pope has responsibility: temporal, spiritual and material.
The bars might also symbolize the Pope's multiple responsibilities of priest, teacher, and community leader. Or do they represent the Pope's three-fold jurisdictional authority as Bishop of Rome, Patriarch of the West, and successor of St. Peter?
Yes to all of the above.
Freemasons employ a similar cross, known as the Salem Cross, which serves to signify the wearer's rank.
As a tattoo symbol, the Papal Cross has special significance for Roman Catholics, and is a unique expression of their deep love and profound respect for the Holy Father.
Below you will find a gallery of inspirational images that will help you in your quest of creating the perfect Papal-Patriarchal Cross tattoo.