By Rebecca Smith
There may be no symbol that represents French culture as solidly as the fleur-de-lis. It is often seen in art, architecture, décor, and increasingly -- tattoos. The term is composed of fleur (flower), de (of) and lis (lily), stylized after the beautiful species that grows along the Lys River in France. The symbol is a legend in itself - a lasting emblem of royalty, power, honor, grandeur, faith and unity.
It is written that an angel descended from heaven with the Holy Ampulla in the shape of a fleur-de-lis when King Clovis of France was proclaimed. It thus signified the French kings’ direct link to God. In the 11th century cathedrals issued coins with Mary holding it. It was found on the seals of cathedral chapters and supposedly was carried by Joan of Arc as a blessing. In the 12th century, the fleur-de-lis on a noblewoman’s seal proclaimed female virtue and spirituality.
Not surprising then that the fleur-de-lis tattoo’s popularity continues. It is an artistically winning design, whose balance and symmetry reflects a sense of harmony. It fits into many forms and has been used in a myriad of cultures and eras. More importantly, so many meanings are contained in it.
Currently, a fleur-de-lis tattoo is connected to Louisiana. It is an official mark of the state, and is trademarked by the New Orleans Saints. Fans of the city and/or team flash their spirit with a tattoo of it. Peregrine Honig, renowned artist in Kansas City, frequently travels to The Big Easy and remarks, “In New Orleans I see the fleur-de-lis on endless bodies.”
Dr. David Donovan, thriving Psychologist and Arts Supporter in Kansas City, reflects, “My tattoo is very meaningful to me for a variety of personal reasons ... one, I lived in France for 3 years as a child and it was a magical time for my family. Two, I’ve always been considered a bit of an enfant terrible which is a French term for children who are outspoken (and adults who are singularly and boldly creative)…..the fleur-de-lis was another nod to France, and my way of making the whole tattoo more regal looking.”
As is urged on the website, thoughtfultattoos.com, “be sure to adorn your body with its beauty and grace like a royal seal of honor.” The fleur-de-lis reigns supreme.
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