The inverted cross. One of Metal’s – especially Extreme Metal’s – most used icons next to the pentagram. Countless bands have used the inverted cross in their logos, artworks, tattoos, live shows or general art. Bands like Mayhem, Marduk, Belphegor, Deicide, Gorgoroth, Dark Funeral or Impaled Nazarene (to name just a few) have used this image in very different shapes in their communication for decades. This way a whole generation of metalheads grew up drawing inverted crosses on school desk, just like I did for years.

But if you look for the origin of the inverted cross you will come across a surprise. The inverted (or upside down) cross is the official sign of the highest representative of the catholic church: the pope. According to Roman Catholicism the pope is the direct successor of Saint Peter, the bishop of Rome and first pope.

Saint Peter or Simon Peter was an early Christian leader born ca. 1 BC and deceased ca. 67 AD. According to the New Testament, Peter was one of the twelve apostles. Originally a fisherman, he was assigned a leadership role by Jesus. Peter was crucified under emperor Nero.

They say that he was crucified upside down on his own wish, as he wanted to demonstrate being unworthy to die the same way Jesus did. This way the inverted cross became a sign of submission and unworthiness towards Jesus in christianity.

But later it has also become a symbol for Anti-Christian movements representing the opposite of Christianity through inverting the cross.

So the inverted cross is both, an important icon for Christianity and Anti-Christianity/Satanism. This obviously could lead to problems as John Paul II’s visit to Israel in 2000 demonstrated: The pope sat on a throne with a big inverted cross which created a huge PR buzz around the world. Some people took this as proof of the pope being in league with satan. But I think this was just a subtle promo for the pope’s new Black Metal EP that’s so ultra rare that no one has ever heard of it.