The intricate and stylised knots that are often found on church monuments and manuscripts are strongly associated with the Celtic nations of Wales, Ireland and Scotland. Today it’s widely used as a decorative motif, on items of jewellery and crafts, such as Welsh love spoons. But where did this imagery originate from, and what do they symbolise?

The history of interlaced patterns can be traced back to the late Roman empire, in the third and fourth century AD, where examples can be found in floor mosaics. The motifs went on to be adapted in Byzantine architecture and illuminated manuscripts throughout Europe.

Pre-Christian Celtic culture took the form of knots, spirals, plait, and braid patterns. There are various theories as to what the meanings of these knots are, and as with any ancient artform, there is an element of guesswork. However, they are widely believed to represent nature, humans, and animals, and therefore the work of the creator in some way.

The love knot is an interlocking design that comprises of right angles and curves, and has no obvious beginning or end. It is taken to represent an eternal bond, and is often used as a symbol of affection.

The sailor’s knot is another popular love symbol, as it has the same unending appearance as the love knot. The design is often found on wedding and engagement rings. The shield knot has four distinct corners, and is said to symbolise protection. Examples can be found on warrior’s shields, and it was also used by mothers to protect their children.

The trinity knot, which is also known as the triquetra or trefoil knot, is a simple and pleasing design made up from three arcs. It has both secular and religious origins, but is most commonly used to represent the Holy Trinity, or in its repeated form, the Christian faith more generally.

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