The eight point Maltese cross is the international symbol of the fire service’s willingness to make great sacrifices in order to protect others from the ravages of fire. The Maltese Cross is a symbol of protection and a badge of honor. Its story is hundreds of years old.
When a courageous band of crusaders known as the Knights of St. John fought the Saracens- meaning a nomad of the Syrian and Arabian desert at the time of the Roman Empire- for possession of the holy land, they encountered a new weapon unknown to European warriors. It was a simple device of war that brought excruciating pain and an agonizing death. The Saracens weapon was fire.
As the crusaders advanced on the walls of the city they threw glass bottles containing naphtha (a flammable oil) and burning hundreds of knights. Others, risked their lives trying to save their fellows from dying a painful fiery death.
These men became our first firemen, and the first in a long list of courageous firefighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow crusaders who awarded each with a badge of honor- a cross similar to the one worn by firefighters today. Since the Knights of St. John lived on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea known as Malta, the cross became known as the Maltese cross.
The Maltese cross is a symbol of protection. It means the firefighter who wears this cross is willing to lay down their life, just as the crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many years ago. The Maltese cross is a firefighters badge of honor signifying that they work in courage, a ladder rung away from death.