Ask a Franciscan

What Is the Meaning of the Tau Cross?

Why do Franciscans so often wear a Tau cross or use it in their artwork? Also, compared to the crosses we usually see, why doesn’t it have a top part?

Tau is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet and is thought to be the symbol with which Ezekiel marked those chosen by God (Ez 9:4). Pope Innocent III opened the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 (which was very important to St. Francis) with a homily on this Scripture passage.

St. Francis of Assisi eventually signed his letters not with his name but with this symbol. Many Franciscans wear such a cross on a piece of leather, and Franciscan pilgrimage programs often begin by giving each participant such a cross. It represents a journey never completed this side of heaven. The Tau reminds us of St. Francis’ saying, “Let us begin again.”

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