The Double Cross was first portrayed on a knight’s shield in 1386. In the seal of King Jogaila (Pol. Jagiello) of Poland. At first, it was used in the personal insignia of Jogaila, and later on, when it was taken over by other brothers of the king and his successors, it became the emblem of the Jagiellonian dynasty.
Since the Double Cross came into being right after the baptism of the king, it is likely that the symbolism of the Double Cross was connected with this event significant for both Jogaila and the entire land. A similar cross in Western heraldry is called the patriarchal Cross of Lorraine, and it is used by archbishops while the cross itself symbolises baptism.
In Lithuania, the Double Cross has usually been portrayed on the shield of the knight in the national coat of arms. At first, it used to represent the ruling dynasty. In 1572, after the death of Sigismund II Augustus, the last male descendent of the Jagiellonian dynasty, the Double Cross remained as a symbol in the national coat of arms. Having lost the connection with the dynasty, it started to be referred to as simply the Cross of Vytis. The Double Cross, as the symbol representing Jogaila and his dynasty, was sometimes used independently or in combination with other symbols as well. One can find the Double Cross used in isolation on the Lithuanian coins of the late 14th century and on the banner of the royal court referred to in Lithuanian as ‘Gončia’ (the chaser). King Jogaila of Poland had given permission to use it to several Polish towns as well as to the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, in the coat of arms of which the Double Cross was used to decorate the top of a trimmed tree held in the hand of Saint Christopher.
The Double Cross was particularly widely used in the first half of the 20th century after the restoration of the independent state of Lithuania. The symbol, as a distinctive sign, was adopted by the Lithuanian army, aviation and other public authorities. In 1919, the Double Cross was named the Cross for Homeland and turned into one of the highest-ranking state decorations. The Double Cross was also used in the emblems of the armed forces to signify military aviation, as well as on the helmets of the war disabled of Lithuania and as the main symbol of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union.
Information collected by Dr. Vilma Akmenytė-Ruzgienė.