- Education and Science»
- Art History
Meaning of the Fleur-de-Lis Symbol
The Fleur-de-lis, or literally "flower of the lily", symbol can be found worldwide. Since it is used in so many ways and applications people often wonder what the true meaning is. As with many things in life there is no one "correct" interpretation of the Fleur-de-lis. There are however, several origins that are widely researched and accepted.
France & The French Monarchy
One of the earliest uses of the Fleur-de-lis was by the royal family of France, as is indicated by its French name. In his book France in the Middle Ages 987-1460: From Hugh Capet to Joan of Arc, historian Georges Duby says that the three leaves represent the three social classes of medieval society: those who worked, those who fought, and those who prayed. The Fleur-de-lis is still used today in France and areas that were settled by the French (Canada, Louisiana, Mississippi, etc.).
In relation to Christianity, the Fleur-de-lis represents purity and can be associated with the Virgin Mary. It is sometimes used in relation to Gabriel and the Annunciation, where he declares that Mary will conceive and give birth to Jesus. It is also said that the three petals and three sepals (the leaves below the petals) are a tribute to the trinity; that is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Fleur-de-lis appears in many, many, family coat of arms; it may even be in yours. It was also used as a cadency mark to differentiate between the birth order of male heirs. Common cadence marks were: label (eldest son), crescent (second son), molet (third son), martlet (fourth son), annulet (fifth son), Fleur-de-lis (sixth son), rose (seventh son), cross moline (eighth son), and octofoil (ninth son). These marks would be added to the coat of arms to show the hierarchy of the family.
The Fleur-de-lis is often used as a decorative element in architecture. It is commonly seen in Gothic and Gothic revival styles, as well as churches and places associated with royalty. The symbol often appears atop fences, in stained glass mosaics, or in friezes and cornices.
Most famously the Fleur-de-lis has been the logo for the New Orleans Saints football team since 1967. It is also used by the Pacific Coast League baseball team, the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Major League Soccer team, Montreal Impact, and the Italian football team, ACF Fiorentina. Georges St. Pierre, a Canadian Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter, has a Fleur-de-lis tattooed on his leg.
Today the Fleur-de-lis is widely recognized as a symbol relating to the Boy Scouts, although it is really used by many scouting organizations. It was first adopted from the compass rose. The flower points upward (the right direction), neither left or right, which lead backwards. The petals are meant to represent the Scout Promise; Duty to God and Country, Duty to Self, Duty to Others.
A Continuing Piece of History
The origins of the Fleur-de-lis may not be completely clear but it is still being used and honored to this day.