Historical information

This altar cloth is representative of ecclesiastical linen in use in the early to mid-20th century. It is decorated with the Mariner's Cross symbol, connecting it to the history of the early Christian church. The cover for the cloth shows the respect the maker had for the cloth and what it stands for. The Mariner's Cross symbol also makes it appropriate as an altar cloth for the St Nicholas Seamen's Church at Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village.

Mariner’s Cross symbol and what it symbolises

The symbol of an anchor that also looks like a cross is called the Mariner’s Cross (also called the Anchored Cross or Cross of Hope). It looks like a ‘plus’ sign with anchor flukes at the base and a ring at the top. The anchor is one of the earliest symbols used in Christianity and represents faith, hope and salvation in times of trial.

The Mariner’s Cross is linked to the scripture in Hebrews 6:19, which says “Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil”.

This particular Mariner’s Cross also has the letter ‘X’ under the post of the anchor. In Greek, the language of the New Testament, the word for Christ is ‘Christos’, which begins with the Greek letter ‘X’ or ‘Chi’.

Together, the elements on this Mariner’s Cross - anchor, cross and ‘X’ - symbolise to the Christian that Jesus Christ the Saviour gives security and safety, hope and salvation. Many church organisations still use various forms of the Mariner’s Cross. This design is also known as the Anchored Cross or Cross of Hope.

The Missions to Seamen organisation

The Missions to Seamen is an Anglican (Church of England) charity that has been serving the world's seafarers since 1856. It was inspired by the work of Rev. John Ashley who, 20 years earlier, had pioneered a ministry to seafarers in the Bristol Channel in Great Britain. When Ashley retired because of ill health, others determined that the work should continue, and they founded the Missions to Seamen. It adopted as its symbol a Flying Angel, inspired by a verse from Revelation 14 in the Bible. Today there are over 200 ports worldwide where the Missions to Seamen has centres and chaplains.

A Missions to Seamen’s Club offers a warm welcome to sailors of all colours, creeds and races. A sailor can watch television, have a drink and a chat, change money or buy goods from the club shop or worship in the Chapel. In Victoria, the Missions to Seamen still has clubs in Melbourne, Portland and Geelong.


The altar cloth is representative of the ecclesiastical linen in use in the early to mid-20th century, when the original St Nicholas Seamen's Church was opened in Williamstown, Victoria.
The Mariner's Cross embroidered onto the altar cloth gives it a connection with the early Christian church and with the Missions to Seamen.
The fine hand stitching and embroidery is an example of traditional handcraft skills used over the centuries and still continuing in use today.

Physical description

Altar cloth, white linen, with custom made white cotton cover. The long rectangular cloth has the symbol of a Mariner's Cross (anchor and cross) embroidered with white silk thread on each short end. The wide hems are hand stitched. The cover has two white tape ties and embroidered text in blue silk thread.

Inscriptions & markings

On cloth: symbol of (anchor with an 'X' stitched behind the centre of it).
On cover, text "FLAGSTAFF/ HILL"