The Maltese Cross: a Firefighter’s Badge of Courage

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Lapel pin for Ashland Fire Company

Ashland Fire Co.

The Maltese Cross makes a heroic custom coin design.

The Maltese Cross: a Firefighter’s Badge of Courage

For the past 19 years, The Monterey Company has been creating lapel pins, challenge coins and embroidered emblems for all branches of the U.S. Military, as well as local police and fire departments. Many fire departments request firefighter pins and patches that feature a Maltese Cross design.

For firefighters, the Maltese Cross is a badge of honor and a symbol of protection. And, according to the City of Chippewa Falls website, it is hundreds of years old. When the Knights of St. John, a courageous band of crusaders, fought the Saracens for possession of the Holy Land, they encountered fire, a new weapon unknown to them.

As the Knights of St. John advanced on the walls of the city, they were attacked by glass bombs containing naphtha, a highly flammable liquid. When they became saturated with it, the Saracens hurled a flaming tree into their midst. Hundreds of knights were burned alive, while others risked their lives to save them. These knights were known as the first firefighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by their fellow crusaders and were given a cross or a badge of honor.

Because the Knights of St. John lived for nearly four centuries on Malta, a tiny island in the Mediterranean Sea, the cross became known as the Maltese Cross. Any firefighter who wears a Maltese Crossfire design is stating that he is willing to risk his life to save others. He is a ladder rung away from death.

In appearance, the Maltese Cross doesn’t look like a traditional cross. It depicts a large circle in the middle, in which fire images are generally featured, including a fireman’s helmet, an ax, and a ladder. Attached on four sides are rectangles that are molded to fit the circular shape. In each of the four shapes, there are fire/medical symbols or text, such as “Fire” and “Rescue.”

Each fire department’s Maltese Cross firefighter pin remains as individual as the firefighters who wear them. However, the shape is instantly recognized as a firefighters’ symbol of protection. For samples of Maltese Crossfire designs, look under the firefighter pin gallery or embroidered emblems (patches) on this website.

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