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Major Symbols in Art: Rose

Symbol - a communication element intended to simply represent or stand for a complex of person, object, group, or idea. Symbols may be presented graphically for example rose.

Rose, beautiful queen of flowers, inspiration poets and painters, through the centuries become a symbol of God’s and earth love, beauty, death, discretion, virginity, primal elements, planets, Christian fraternities (Rosicrucians), families or cities.

For the ancient Greek, roses were associated with the myth of Adonis, the lover of goddess Aphrodite (Roman Venus), from whose blood the first Red Roses have grown. They thus become symbol of love that transcended even death and resurrection.

The ancient Roman festival called “Rosalia” was part of the cult of the dead from the first century after Christ onward, it was celebrated on different dates in different regions of Roman Empire but always between May 11 and July 15. The tradition of Rosalia was preserved till now as the celebration of Pentecost Sunday (domenica rosata or Zielone Swiatki).

During Dionysian (Bacchanalians) ancient Greeks were adorned with garlands of roses. It was believed that roses had the ability to counteract intoxicating power of wine keeping wine drinkers from revealing secrets in their drunkenness. Thus the rose came to symbolize discretion, comfort and generosity. Christianity also adopted this believe and the five-leafed roses were often carved adornments of confessionals. Latin Expression “Sub Rosa” - under the seal of secrecy , literally means “under the rose”.

In medieval Christian symbolism the red rose stood for blood shed by Jesus on the Cross (“the rose made red by the blood of Christ in his passion” ) and martyrs during tortures. Thus red rose symbolizes God’s love. Christian authorities made the white rose (the queen of flowers) as a symbol of Mary, the Queen of Heaven, "rose without horns" and virginity. Mary’s immaculate conception was brought about through the magic of the rose: Mary’s mother Anne conceived her daughter while smelling the white rose. In the Middle Ages only virgins were permitted to wear rose garland, and the Madonna was frequently portrayed as surrounded by roses. However, the troubadours and poets, however, saw the rose as a tangible symbol of earthly love and this tradition continues into our own time. In contrary white rose is a legendary symbol of death.

In Alchemy red and white roses enter into the general red/white duality symbolizing the primer elements sulphur and mercury. A rose with seven concentric rings of petals stand for the seven metals and the corresponding planets.

The rose came to have special significance as a military insignia, because of the ancient Roman belief that Mars - Roman god of war and protector of Rome was born from a rose. The month of October was especially filled with festivals in his honor. At the festival of the October 15 two horse chariots race, especially for this occasion decorated and filled with roses, was held in the Campus Martinus.

Roses also appears on heraldry, for example white rose as a symbol of the house of York, red rose as a symbol of house of Lancaster. The political and social conflict between York (white rose) and Lancaster (red rose) families led XV c. Britan to the civil war called the War of Roses (1455 - 1485), where White Rose and Red Rose become first in the European history political symbol of fight for power. The War of Roses ended in 1485 with arise of new power - house of Tudor when Henry Tudor won the throne of England and united the red rose of Lancaster with the white rose of York by destroying his enemies and marrying Elizabeth of York.

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