Laurel wreath

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A laurel wreath decorating a memorial at the Folketing, the national parliament of Denmark. LaurelwreathDK.JPG
A laurel wreath decorating a memorial at the Folketing, the national parliament of Denmark.

A laurel wreath is a round wreath made of connected branches and leaves of the bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), an aromatic broadleaf evergreen, or later from spineless butcher's broom ( Ruscus hypoglossum ) or cherry laurel ( Prunus laurocerasus ). It is a symbol of triumph and is worn as a chaplet around the head, or as a garland around the neck. The symbol of the laurel wreath traces back to Greek mythology. Apollo is represented wearing a laurel wreath on his head, and wreaths were awarded to victors in athletic competitions, including the ancient Olympics — for which they were made of wild olive-tree known as "kotinos" (κότινος), [1] (sc. at Olympia)—and in poetic meets. In Rome they were symbols of martial victory, crowning a successful commander during his triumph. Whereas ancient laurel wreaths are most often depicted as a horseshoe shape, modern versions are usually complete rings.[ citation needed ]


In common modern idiomatic usage, it refers to a victory. The expression "resting on one's laurels" refers to someone relying entirely on long-past successes for continued fame or recognition, where to "look to one's laurels" means to be careful of losing rank to competition. [2]


Apollo and Daphne Bockhorst Apollo und Daphne.jpg
Apollo and Daphne

Apollo, the patron of sport, is associated with the wearing of a laurel wreath. [3] This association arose from the ancient Greek mythology story of Apollo and Daphne . Apollo mocked the god of love, Eros (Cupid), for his use of bow and arrow, since Apollo is also patron of archery. The insulted Eros then prepared two arrows—one of gold and one of lead. He shot Apollo with the gold arrow, instilling in the god a passionate love for the river nymph Daphne. He shot Daphne with the lead arrow, instilling in her a hatred of Apollo. Apollo pursued Daphne until she begged to be free of him and was turned into a laurel tree. [3]

Apollo vowed to honor Daphne forever and used his powers of eternal youth and immortality to render the laurel tree evergreen. Apollo then crafted himself a wreath out of the laurel branches and turned Daphne into a cultural symbol for him and other poets and musicians. [3]

Academic use

An actress performing a play. She wears a laurel wreath and stands in front of a statue of a woman from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. Room 21, The British Museum, London An actress performing a play. She wears a laurel wreath and stands in front of a statue of a woman from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. Room 21, The British Museum, London.jpg
An actress performing a play. She wears a laurel wreath and stands in front of a statue of a woman from the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. Room 21, The British Museum, London

In some countries the laurel wreath is used as a symbol of the master's degree. The wreath is given to young masters at the university graduation ceremony. The word "laureate" in 'poet laureate' refers to the laurel wreath. The medieval Florentine poet and philosopher Dante Alighieri, a member of the Sicilian School [4] , is often represented in paintings and sculpture wearing a laurel wreath.

In Italy, the term laureato is used in to refer to any student who has graduated. Right after the graduation ceremony, or laurea in Italian, the student receives a laurel wreath to wear for the rest of the day. This tradition originated at the University of Padua [ citation needed ] and has spread in the last two centuries to all Italian universities.

Ovid with laurel wreath, common in poets Latin Poet Ovid.jpg
Ovid with laurel wreath, common in poets

At Connecticut College in the United States, members of the junior class carry a laurel chain, which the seniors pass through during commencement. It represents nature and the continuation of life from year to year. Immediately following commencement, the junior girls write out with the laurels their class year, symbolizing they have officially become seniors and the period will repeat itself the following spring. [5]

At Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, USA, laurel has been a fixture of commencement traditions since 1900, when graduating students carried or wore laurel wreaths. In 1902, the chain of mountain laurel was introduced; since then, tradition has been for seniors to parade around the campus, carrying and linked by the chain. The mountain laurel represents the bay laurel used by the Romans in wreaths and crowns of honor. [6]

At Reed College in Portland, Oregon, United States, members of the senior class receive laurel wreaths upon submitting their senior thesis in May. The tradition stems from the use of laurel wreaths in athletic competitions; the seniors have "crossed the finish line," so to speak. [7]

At St. Mark's School in Southborough, Massachusetts, students who successfully complete three years of one classical language and two of the other earn the distinction of the Classics Diploma and the honor of wearing a laurel wreath on Prize Day.[ citation needed ]

In Sweden, those receiving a doctorate or an honorary doctorate at the Faculty of Philosophy (meaning philosophy, languages, arts, history and social sciences), receive a laurel wreath during the ceremony of conferral of the degree.[ citation needed ]

In Finland, in University of Helsinki a laurel wreath is given during the ceremony of conferral for master's degree. Doctors wear a special kind of Doctoral hat.[ citation needed ]

Architectural and decorative arts motif

Alexander Garden Grille Alexander Garden Grille fragment3.JPG
Alexander Garden Grille

The laurel wreath is a common motif in architecture, furniture, and textiles. [8] The laurel wreath is seen carved in the stone and decorative plaster works of Robert Adam, and in Federal, Regency, Directoire, and Beaux-Arts periods of architecture. In decorative arts, especially during the Empire period, the laurel wreath is seen woven in textiles, inlaid in marquetry, and applied to furniture in the form of gilded brass mounts. Alfa Romeo added a laurel wreath to their logo after they won the inaugural Automobile World Championship in 1925 with the P2 racing car.[ citation needed ]

As used in heraldry

A laurel wreath in the emblem of the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist labor union, the CNT CNT Emblem.svg
A laurel wreath in the emblem of the Spanish anarcho-syndicalist labor union, the CNT

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Laurel in heraldry at Wikimedia Commons

Laurel wreaths are sometimes used in heraldry. They may be used as a charge in the shield, around the shield, or on top of it like an annular form. [9] Wreaths are a form of headgear akin to circlets. [10]

In heraldry, a twisted band of cloth holds a mantling onto a helmet. [10] This type of charge is called a "torse". [10] A wreath is a circlet of foliage, usually with leaves, but sometimes with flowers. [10] Laurel wreaths are used the arms of a territorial branch. [10] Wreaths may also be made from oak leaves, flowers, holly and rosemary; and are different from chaplets. While usually annular, they may also be penannular like a brooch. [10]

Wreath of service

Wreath of Service Olive wreath.svg
Wreath of Service

The "wreath of service" is located on all commissioner position patches in the Boy Scouts of America. This is a symbol for the service rendered to units and the continued partnership between volunteers and professional Scouter. The wreath of service represents commitment to program and unit service. [11]

Further reading

See also

Related Research Articles

Daphne figure in Greek mythology

Daphne a minor figure in Greek mythology, is a naiad, a variety of female nymph associated with fountains, wells, springs, streams, brooks and other bodies of freshwater. She is said by ancient sources variously to have been a daughter of the river god Peneus and the nymph Creusa in Thessaly or of Ladon or Pineios, and to Ge .

Crown Form of headwear, symbolizing the power of a ruler

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Mount Holyoke College Liberal arts college in Massachusetts, US

Mount Holyoke College is a private liberal arts women's college in South Hadley, Massachusetts. Founded in 1837, it is the oldest institution within the Seven Sisters schools, an alliance of East Coast liberal arts colleges that was originally created to provide women with education equivalent to that provided in the then men-only Ivy League. Mount Holyoke is part of the region's Five College Consortium, along with Amherst College, Smith College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Wreath assortment of flowers, leaves, fruits, twigs, or various materials that is constructed to form a ring

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<i>Laurus nobilis</i> species of plant

Laurus nobilis is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, glabrous smooth leaves, in the flowering plant family Lauraceae. It is native to the Mediterranean region and is used as bay leaf for seasoning in cooking. Its common names include bay tree, bay laurel, sweet bay, true laurel, Grecian laurel, or simply laurel. Laurus nobilis figures prominently in classical Greco-Roman culture.

Coronet Small crown consisting of ornaments fixed on a metal ring

A coronet is a small crown consisting of ornaments fixed on a metal ring. By one definition, a coronet differs from a crown in that a coronet never has arches, and from a tiara in that a coronet completely encircles the head, while a tiara does not. By a slightly different definition, a crown is worn by an emperor, empress, king or queen; a coronet by a nobleman or lady. See also diadem.

Torse exterior ornament of the shield, depicted as a roll of fabric laid about the top of helmet and base of crest

In heraldry, a torse or wreath is a twisted roll of fabric laid about the top of the helmet and the base of the crest. It has the dual purpose of masking the join between helm and crest, and of holding the mantling in place.

Calliope Muse of epic poetry

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Coat of arms of Sunderland

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Civic Crown Second-highest ancient Roman military decoration

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The Naval Crown was a gold crown surmounted with small replicas of the prows of ships. It was a Roman military award, given to the first man who boarded an enemy ship during a naval engagement.

Apollo and Daphne story from ancient Greek mythology

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Cross and Crown

The Cross and Crown is a Christian symbol used by various Christian denominations. It has also been used in heraldry. The emblem is often interpreted as symbolizing the reward in heaven coming after the trials in this life. Lutheran composer J.S. Bach's cantata Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12 (1714) contains an aria "Kreuz und Krone sind verbunden, Kampf und Kleinod sind vereint" which has been connected with Luther's rendering of 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.

<i>Disputation of the Holy Sacrament</i> fresco by Raphael

The Disputation of the Sacrament, or Disputa, is a painting by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael. It was painted between 1509 and 1510 as the first part of Raphael's commission to decorate with frescoes the rooms that are now known as the Stanze di Raffaello, in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. At the time, this room was known as the Stanza della Segnatura, and was the private papal library where the supreme papal tribunal met.

Hungarian heraldry

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Wreath (attire)

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<i>Apollo e Dafne</i> (Handel) 1710 secular cantata by Handel

Apollo e Dafne is a secular cantata composed by George Frideric Handel in 1709–10. Handel began composing the work in Venice in 1709 and completed it in Hanover after arriving in 1710 to take up his appointment as Kapellmeister to the Elector, the later King George I of Great Britain. The work is one of Handel's most ambitious cantatas and is indicative of the brilliant operatic career to follow in the next 30 years of his life.

Spikenard Type of essential oil

Spikenard, also called nard, nardin, and muskroot, is a class of aromatic amber-colored essential oil derived from Nardostachys jatamansi, a flowering plant of the valerian family which grows in the Himalayas of Nepal, China, and India. The oil has been used over centuries as a perfume, a traditional medicine, or in religious ceremonies across a wide territory from India to Europe.

Coat of arms of the London Borough of Hillingdon

The coat of arms of the London Borough of Hillingdon is the official symbol of the London Borough of Hillingdon. They use elements from the coats of arms of the four previous districts. It is described as:

Arms: Per pale Gules and Vert an Eagle displayed per pale Or and Argent in the dexter claw a Fleur-de-lis Or and in the sinister claw a Cog-Wheel Argent on a Chief Or four Civic Crowns Vert.

Crest: On a Wreath of the Colours issuant from a Circlet of Brushwood Sable a demi-Lion Gules with wings Argent the underside of each wing charged with a Cross Gules and holding between the paws a Bezant thereon a Mullet Azure.

Supporters: On the dexter side an Heraldic Tiger Or gorged with an Astral Crown Azure and charged on the shoulder with a Rose Gules charged with another Argent barbed and seeded proper and on the sinister side a Stag proper attired and gorged with a Circlet of Brushwood and charged on the shoulder with two Ears of Rye slipped in saltire Or.

Motto: Forward.


  1. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert (1843). A Greek-English Lexicon (1 ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-864226-8 . Retrieved 13 February 2019. κότι^νος
  2. "look to one's laurels". Oxford: Oxford University Press. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  3. 1 2 3 Paulson, Ronald; Eisenman, Peter (2007). Sin and Evil: Moral Values in Literature . Yale University Press. ISBN   978-0300120141.
  4. Alighieri, Dante (October 29, 2007). "Dante Alighieri". Dante Alighieri. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  5. "Commencement Traditions". Connecticut College. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  6. Loomer, Jennifer. "Traditions: Laurel Parade". Mount Holyoke Historical Atlas: Traditions of Mount Holyoke College. Mount Holyoke College. Retrieved 28 February 2012.
  7. Hernadez, Romel. "The Turning of the Thesis". Reed Magazine. Reed College. Retrieved 2013-05-07.
  8. Brown, Richard (1841). Domestic architecture: containing a history of the science, and the principles of designing public edifices, private dwelling-houses. G. Virtue. p.  200.
  9. "Heraldic Meanings". American College of Heraldry. Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Baron, Bruce. "Wreath". Dictionary. Mistholme. Retrieved 2019-09-17.
  11. "The History of Commissioner Service". Golden Empire Council . Retrieved 9 June 2006.