Frequently, cross tattoos are meant to represent the everlasting faith that the wearer feels towards his or her religious beliefs. However, the meaning may be different or more complex depending upon the type of cross and how it is worn. For instance, a Celtic cross may represent a pride in heritage, while a Gothic cross often signifies a certain lifestyle. When crosses are worn upside-down, they usually symbolize a mocking of faith, while a cross bathed in light may be meant to extol that same faith.
Greek cross tattoos are by far the most common style in this particular type of tattoo. This style is most often used in religious pieces, either as a simple “t” shape, made into a crucifix or rendered into an elaborate design that encompasses other religious symbols. In addition to the simpler version of this cross, there are several variations that can make for a more interesting design. For instance, the budded cross bears three interlinked circles at the end of each point. These circles may be made simple and dark, or may appear to be carved into wood or marble. Another interesting variation on this style is the Russian Orthodox cross, which bears two extra pieces – one above the cross piece, and the second sitting diagonally across the trunk.
Some cross tattoos take the familiar Greek pattern and reshape certain parts of it, as is the case with the cross pattee. This style is characterized by a narrow cross section that expands at the tips of the arms. One of the most recognizable forms of the cross pattee is the iron cross. Some feel that this particular pattern should be avoided – especially in the color black – as it was, unfortunately, once used as a symbol of hatred. In modern times, this symbol is often worn as an emblem of courage and honor.
Celtic and Gothic cross tattoos are very popular pieces that often serve to represent both religious beliefs and a pride in culture. The Celtic cross is made up of a long, vertical line that – like the Greek cross – has a second, horizontal line that intersects with the first. This line curves up to form a circle that symbolizes the unending love of God. These pieces often bear intricate knotwork patterns and are often printed in colors of gray, black and brown. Gothic crosses are sometimes similar in appearance to the Celtic variety, and also frequently display elaborate patterns. However, these pieces typically depict darker images like skeletons, bats or blood, which are usually made to looked as though they were carved into the cross.
Some unique, though less commonly used, types of cross tattoos consist of the lauburu and the Coptic cross. The lauburu is made up in the usual “t” pattern; however, the arms are formed into curved tear shapes. The Coptic cross can be done in a variety of ways that depict its evolution, which began as a top-rounded ankh-like cross and ended in an elaborate Greek cross style.