Fleur de Lis

The Fleur de Lis is a symbol which represents the lily flower, and the name means ‘Flower of the Lily’. It has long been used as a decorative motif, as well as in heraldry, especially for the Royalty and Saints of the once Catholic France.

The Fleur de Lis is basically a lily composed of three petals which are bound together near to their bases, however it is essentially also a type of triskelion or triskele, a symbol consisting of three spiral like forms, which exhibit symmetry. As such it represents the number three, and therefore the Holy Trinity, i.e. the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

As well as the Holy Trinity, the Fleur de Lis was symbolic of the Christ, with it appearing in paintings of him, but slowly it instead became symbolic of the Virgin Mary, and associated with the ‘lily among thorns’ from the Song of Solomon, and hence invokes her protection. The Lily and its white flowers also symbolised the Virgin’s purity and chastity.

Here again in Ethiopia it most likely represents in its usage, the Christian religious theme of Mary and Jesus, as well as being an apotropaic device upon an archway’s decorative corbel or console bracket, dividing the holy spaces of the church.

Fleur De Lis Carvings upon Stone Corbels at Yimrahanna Kristos Cave Church, Early 11th Century AD, Lalibela

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