The Cross Keys

There’s many an honest alehouse in these parts called the Cross Keys, such as at Barnoldswick, East Marton and Skipton. It’s an odd name, and the motif displayed on the pub’s board is invariably a pair of old fashioned keys, crossed (funnily enough). This is in fact a reference to the Apostle Peter, his supposed authority, and the manner of his death.

The popes of Rome insisted that when Christ said in Matthew 18:18 ‘Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’, he was referring to all the apostles, headed by Peter, and therefore their successors, the popes. For this reason, crossed keys are a part of the papal coat of arms. They are therefore considered the keys of heaven and hell.

They are crossed because, according to legend, Peter requested his own crucifixion to differ from that of Christ’s by having the beams diagonal and his body upside down. An unlikely tale, I think, but one which has survived in the pub signs. 

Peter of course, is not the key to heaven, and neither is any church, founded or not founded by him. Christ is the key by which salvation is obtained and sin is shut up:

These things said he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens’. Revelation 3:7