A garden is often a place to escape – a haven of relaxation where it’s possible to get away from some of life’s problems. Catholicism boasts a long tradition of associating plants to key Christian concepts, and this is when a uniquely planned Catholic garden comes into play.
Such a space enables pro and amateur gardeners to explore more about their beliefs. Below we’ve listed a handful of prevalent catholic flowers, alongside their symbolism and meaning…
With its first uses noted in ancient Greek and Egyptian medicine thousands of years ago, the Madonna lily is renowned for its well-being properties and boasts a more recent history in Catholicism.
This bold, beautiful white bloom, carried aloft on a stalk spanning a metre in height, showcases an open trumpet-style flower brandishing hot-hued yellow stamens. The Madonna lily has a special place in many Catholic gardens and is symbolic of ‘the purity of Our Lady.
The passionflower, native to South and Central America, boasts a beautiful hue and complex bloom. The flower’s symbolic meaning first came about when the Spanish Conquistadors invaded the Americas. It is reported that Jacomo Bosio, an Augustan friar, first formalised the symbolism of the bloom.
He denoted the five sepals and petals to the apostles (apart from Peter who betrayed his trust through denying Jesus and Judas). The corolla’s 72 filaments are then said to represent thorns in the crown of Jesus, while the five stamens denote his wounds and the three stigmas are symbolic of the nails that pierced him.
The rose boasts a bold, multi-faceted tradition in Catholic symbolism. These exquisite blooms are linked to the rosary (a Latin term for ‘garden of roses’). According to Catholic Culture, they are also symbolic of an apocryphal myth, where lilies and roses were discovered at Mary’s tomb instead of her body.
Due to their many hues, roses also take on religious significance. For example, a red rose is symbolic of martyrdom, whilst a white rose is celebrated for its purity and a wreath boosts feelings of heavenly joy.
Lilies (also known as Lilium) boast four categories of bloom, with Asiatic lilies being one of them. The other three comprise Oriental, long-form and a combination of the two. Asiatic lilies boast a lighter aroma than the other three styles and boast medium-sized blooms.
They are available in a wide range of hues, spanning from red to orange to yellow, white (Asiatic Lilies) and pink. Lilies have been featured throughout history, with several links to Catholicism.
Greek and Roman History
In ancient Rome, white lilies embellished Juno’s altars, and in Greece, mythology suggests that civilians devoted lilies to the goddess Hera. Both variants are said to be protectors of women and children, which gives white lilies their symbolic value of sanctuary and safety. Cretan illustrations suggest Minoans honoured lilies from as early as 1580 BC as a sacred bloom.
In mythology, they attributed the blooms to the goddess Dictynna, who later transpired into the Roman Goddess Diana and the Greek Goddess Artemis. Like Hera and Juno, these two goddesses protected women, particularly throughout childbirth.
The deities are also symbolic of providence and fertility. This symbolism links directly to the custom of Greek marriage, whereby white lilies are placed on a bride’s head and wound around wheat. This gesture represents a woman’s purity and her wish for abundance.
Ancient pagans embraced white lilies through the art of decoration, particularly on May Day. In Scotland, throughout this holiday, locals would light fires in celebration of the beginning of the Earth’s fertile season. Some of the celebrations involved young women dancing around a May Pole adorned with ribbons, wearing lilies in their hair.
The dance denotes the search for a partner. In this tradition, lilies are representative of health, renewed life and fertility.
Language of Dreams
White lilies, when seen in dreams, are also said to show an impending marriage or another happy life event. If you dream of lilies throughout the winter months though, this dream is seen to denote separation or a loss.
If you find yourself looking at a white lily blooming in your dream, this indicates a new, successful endeavour, with the purity of intention.
Viewed as a sign of life being victorious over death, the Columbine plant has close links to Jesus in Catholicism and is seen to showcase humility and the Holy Spirit. It’s a hardy perennial that is usually found across grasslands and woodlands in the northern hemisphere.
Interestingly, the plant’s name derives from the Latin for ‘dove’, a bird renowned as a symbol of love and peace. This is because the bloom’s inverted flowers are said to represent a set of doves clustered together.