In this next part of our journey into the world of symbols, we are having a detailed look into one of the most popular symbols in European history: fleur de lis. Here is all you need to know about fleur de lis symbol and its meaning, history, origins, various uses and importance in religion.
The fleur de lis symbol is an ancient symbol that is commonly used in heraldry and ornamentation. It depicts a stylized lily or lotus flower, although some historians claim that it actually originates from a species of wild iris, called iris pseudacorus.
The symbol consists of an inverted teardrop-like shape surrounded by two similar outward-curling c-shaped motifs with a relatively small horizontal line at the bottom that seems to ‘tie’ them all together. The overall shape somewhat resembles a crown and is vertically symmetric.
Like most of the other ancient symbols, the fleur de lis is commonly seen in a combination of black and white tones (black symbol against a white background). However, it is not unusual to see this sign in a variety of other colors. For example, when used on a coat of arms, it is made from golden threads, whereas the arms of the Barons Digby feature this emblem in silver hues against a blue background.
Although the general belief is that fleur de lis is a simple representation of the lily flower, certain semiotics claim that it denotes a half thunderbolt drawn in a highly stylized manner.
The fleur de lis symbol has been associated with the French royalty for a very long time and is perceived to be a symbol of nobility of perfection.
However, with the passage of time, the use and interpretation of this symbol have spread far beyond France. But before we move on to discuss its ubiquity in both ancient and modern art, fashion, architecture and more, let’s take a look at the origin of this insignia.
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History of the Fleur De Lis Symbol
Some lexicographers suggest that the fleur de lis symbol as we see it today first appeared in kings’ scepters more than fifteen hundred years ago.
Legend has it that when Clovis, the Merovingian king of the Franks (466 – 511) converted to Christianity, he was given a special gift from sacred entities. The gift was a golden lily presented by an angel (some say it was Mother Mary herself) to celebrate his baptism or ‘purification’ of the soul.
In other versions, it is said that the symbol was not an award received by Clovis, but instead that it was something created by him. He gained inspiration from the water lilies that supposedly guided him to cross a river safely when he was going for a battle. Since Clovis won the battle, the symbol became a mark of triumph and victory.
In 800 AD, the fleur de lis was adopted by the Roman Catholic Church to represent the Virgin Mary after Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne as the emperor. He gave him a blue-colored banner bearing the fleur de lis symbol embroidered in gold.
Thereafter, European noblemen, particularly the French monarchs, started using this symbol when they formed an association with the Church.
However, it was probably King Louis VI (or King Louis VII according to some sources) who popularized the use of the fleur de lis symbol in heraldry. He displayed this symbol on his shield, after which it became customary for the fleur de lis to be sewn onto a knight’s surcoat – a loose robe worn by knights over their coat of mail.
The fleur de lis symbol has also been used in Indian, Babylonian, Roman, as well as Egyptian architecture. Moreover, it was found on the gold helmet of a Scythian king. It was also seen on the sword of Kanishka, who was a powerful emperor of the Kushan dynasty that ruled India in the second century.
Meaning of the Fleur De Lis Symbol
The term fleur de lis comes from the French words ‘fleur’ and ‘lis’ that means ‘flower’ and ‘lily’ respectively. Thus, fleur de lis literally translates to ‘flower of lily.’ It is also commonly spelled as fleur de lys and in some regions, known as flower-de-luce instead.
The symbol itself signifies life, enlightenment, and excellence – three things that are often associated with lilies in general.
Fleur de lis predominantly means perfection, purity, and courage but is also used in a variety of different contexts. At different times over the course of history, the fleur de lis has represented peace, war, strength, and nobility to name a few.
In other words, the fleur de lis symbol lends itself to diverse meanings. It is dynastic, religious, political, and artistic all at the same time.
Fleur De Lis: The Religious Meaning of the Symbol
Fleur de lis is held in high regard when it comes to religious symbols. This is probably because its three petals are believed to signify the Holy Trinity. This belief is further supported by the fact that the lily flower was an emblem of the Virgin Mary herself.
It represents purity, and the strength and power that lies in a mother’s undying love for her child.
Spiritual Meaning of Fleur De Lis
It’s quite interesting to note that like many prominent symbols, the fleur de lis also a ‘sigil’ – a symbol used in magic. It is used for summoning spirits of certain fallen entities.
There have been several accounts where excessive use of this icon in home décor was found to make the residents feel uneasy – as if they were being followed around the house by someone, or that there was a dark presence within the room.
Modern Uses of the Fleur De Lis Symbol
Fleur de lis originates from France, but its use is no longer exclusive to the country. In fact, its use in French culture rather subsided after the French Revolution, owing to its connection with the French monarchs.
Nonetheless, today you can easily find the symbol in almost every part of the world. It is often the preferred design for fence post caps.
The fleur de lis is prized in the fashion industry. You will see it printed on commercially available clothing items and other retail merchandise. Designer necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and even cufflinks featuring the fleur de lis symbol are favored amongst fashion lovers of all ages.
It is also seen on many furniture items, especially bedposts made from wood or wrought iron. Many people love wearing fleur de lis as a tattoo because of the positive connotations attached to it.
The fleur de lis is a dominant element in the logo of various scouting organizations as well as the logo of educational institutes like Washington University. It is also seen on the uniform of a number of sports teams and military personnel.
The fleur de lis has also been featured in literature including The Three Musketeers, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.
We are hoping we could shed a light on the fleur de lis symbol, its meaning and history and satisfied your curiousty. Check out our symbols and meanings section from the top menu to read about more ancient symbols and their meanings.