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Interlaced triquetra which is a trefoil knot Coa Illustration Cross Triquetra.svg
Interlaced triquetra which is a trefoil knot

The triquetra ( /trˈkwɛtrə/ ; from the Latin adjective triquetrus "three-cornered") is a triangular figure composed of three interlaced arcs, or (equivalently) three overlapping vesicae piscis lens shapes.


It is used as an ornamental design in architecture, and in medieval manuscript illumination (particularly in the Insular tradition). Its depiction as interlaced is common in Insular ornaments from about the 7th century. In this interpretation, the triquetra represents the topologically simplest possible knot.


Iron Age

The term triquetra in archaeology is used of any figure consisting of three arcs, including a pinwheel design of the type of the triskeles. Such symbols become frequent from about the 4th century BC ornamented ceramics of Anatolia and Persia, and it appears on early Lycian coins. [1]

The triquetra is found on runestones in Northern Europe and on early Germanic coins.[ citation needed ] It bears a resemblance to the so-called valknut , a design of three interlacing triangles, found in the same context.

Insular art

The triquetra is often found in insular art, most notably metal work and in illuminated manuscripts like the Book of Kells . It is a "minor though recurring theme" in the secondary phase of Anglo-Saxon sceatta production (c. 710–760). [2] It is found in similar artwork on early Christian High Crosses and slabs. An example from early medieval stonework is the Anglo-Saxon frith stool at Hexham Abbey. [3]

The symbol has been interpreted as representing the Christian Trinity, especially since the Celtic revival of the 19th century. The original intention by the early medieval artists is unknown and experts[ who? ] warn against over-interpretation. [2] It is, however, regularly used as a Trinitarian symbol in contemporary Christian iconography.

Buddhist tradition

The triquetra has been a known symbol in Japan called Musubi Mitsugashiwa.[ citation needed ] Being one of the forms of the Aryan Iakšaku dynasty signs, it reached Japan with the dynasty's Kāśyapīya spreading technology and Buddhism via Kingdom of Khotan, China and Korea.[ citation needed ]

Modern use

The triquetra is often used artistically as a design element when Celtic knotwork is used, especially in association with the modern Celtic Nations. The triquetra, also known as a "trinity knot", is often found as a design element is popular Irish jewelry such as claddaghs and other wedding or engagement rings. [4] [ page needed ]

Celtic pagans or neopagans who are not of a Celtic cultural orientation, may use the triquetra to symbolise a variety of concepts and mythological figures. Due to its presence in insular Celtic art, Celtic Reconstructionists use the triquetra either to represent one of the various triplicities in their cosmology and theology (such as the tripartite division of the world into the realms of Land, Sea and Sky), [5] or as a symbol of one of the specific Celtic triple goddesses, for example the battle goddess, The Morrígan. The symbol is also sometimes used by Wiccans and some New Agers to symbolise the Triple Goddess, or as a protective symbol. [6]

In the TV series The Walking Dead (2010), Michonne's katana features a triquetra, chosen for its meaning as a "triple goddess symbol". [7] [8]

In the German Netflix series Dark (2017), it symbolizes the caves' closed time loops with each loop being 33 years apart, with the past affecting the future and the future influencing the past. The Triquetra is of significant symbolic value to the time travelers. This symbol can be seen on the Cave's metal door, on the Emerald Tablet, in The Stranger's papers and in the Sic Mundus photo. [9]

Variant forms

See also

Related Research Articles

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High cross

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Gospel Book Fragment (Durham Cathedral Library, A. II. 10.)

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Endless knot

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Anglo-Saxon art English art of the Anglo-Saxon period

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Migration Period art C. 300–900 Germanic and Hiberno-Saxon art

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Viking art Term for art of Scandinavia and Viking settlements of 8th-11th centuries CE

Viking art, also known commonly as Norse art, is a term widely accepted for the art of Scandinavian Norsemen and Viking settlements further afield—particularly in the British Isles and Iceland—during the Viking Age of the 8th-11th centuries CE. Viking art has many design elements in common with Celtic, Germanic, the later Romanesque and Eastern European art, sharing many influences with each of these traditions.

Insular art Post-Roman British and Irish style of art

Insular art, also known as Hiberno-Saxon art, was produced in the post-Roman era of the British Isles. The term derives from insula, the Latin term for "island"; in this period Britain and Ireland shared a largely common style different from that of the rest of Europe. Art historians usually group insular art as part of the Migration Period art movement as well as Early Medieval Western art, and it is the combination of these two traditions that gives the style its special character.

Mac Durnan Gospels

The Mac Durnan Gospels or Book of Mac Durnan is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book made in Ireland in the 9th or 10th century, a rather late example of Insular art. Unusually, it was in Anglo-Saxon England soon after it was written, and is now in the collection of Lambeth Palace Library in London.

Interlace (art) Decorative element of bands or portions of other motifs looped, braided, and knotted in complex geometric patterns

In the visual arts, interlace is a decorative element found in medieval art. In interlace, bands or portions of other motifs are looped, braided, and knotted in complex geometric patterns, often to fill a space. Interlacing is common in the Migration period art of Northern Europe, especially in the Insular art of Ireland and the British Isles and Norse art of the Early Middle Ages and in Islamic art.

Art in Medieval Scotland

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Insular illumination

Insular illumination refers to the production of illuminated manuscripts in the monasteries of Ireland and Great Britain between the 6th and 9th centuries, as well as in monasteries under their influence on continental Europe. It is characterised by decoration strongly influenced by metalwork, the constant use of interlacing, and the importance assigned to calligraphy. The most celebrated books of this sort are largely gospel books. Around sixty manuscripts are known from this period.

Carolingian cross Symbol that mixes Christian and pre-Christian concepts

The Carolingian Cross is but one variation in the vast historical imagery of Christian symbolic representations of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, going back to at least the ninth century. All crosses and Christian symbols have an inherent meaning arising from a multitude of sources and distinct features that set them apart from other religions. From both a design aspect and a theological perspective, the Carolingian Cross consists of a mixture of Christian and pre-Christian concepts built over a long history of cultural adaptation, religious iconography, liturgical practices and theological premises. German graphic designer Rudolf Koch in 1932 published a collection of 158 plates of drawings of Christian symbols. Under the heading of "Cross", this includes twelve drawings of Christian cross variants. One of these, the "Carolingian Cross" shows a cross of four triquetras.


  1. John Burley Waring, Ceramic Art in Remote Ages (1874), 84f.
  2. 1 2 Tony Abramson (ed.), Two Decades of Discovery Studies in Medieval Coinage 1, Boydell Press (2008), p. 1.
  3. "The Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture". Retrieved 16 July 2019.
  4. McMahon, Seán (1999). Story of the Claddagh Ring. Mercier Press. ISBN   9781856351898.
  5. Mac Mathúna, Liam (1999) "Irish Perceptions of the Cosmos" Celtica vol. 23 (1999), pp.174–187
  6. Cunningham, Scott (2004) [1988], "Rune Magic", Wicca: A Guide to the Solitary Practitioner, Woodbury, MN, U.S.A.: Llewellyn, p. 191, ISBN   978-0-87542-118-6 .
  7. Ross, Dalton; Snetiker, Marc (17 November 2013). "Michonne's Katana". Entertainment Weekly . Retrieved 30 October 2016.
  8. Keveney, Bill (12 October 2014). "'The Walking Dead,' up close and personal". USA Today . Retrieved 30 October 2016. We put a trinity on there – mind, body, soul. That's important to who Michonne (Danai Gurira) is. We put some squares around it. And (executive producer) Robert Kirkman wanted a symbol that was like the biohazard symbol … so we put a triple goddess on there, which looks exactly like it.
  9. "Triquetra | Official DARK-Guide Season 1&2 | NETFLIX". DARKNetflix. Retrieved 30 May 2020.

Further reading

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