Christ Crucified on an Anchor

The symbol of Christ crucified on an anchor with the words Our Union is on both the Frere family monument to the east of the south door, and also on that to Ester Frere, ten yards south of the tower, in the north west corner of what is now the garden of remembrance.

Both of these are Grade II listed memorials, and the listing text describing them references an 1899 paper in the Transactions of the East Herts Archaeological Society as stating that the symbol was copied from a monument seen in France.

The symbol of Christ Crucified on an anchor was also that adopted by John Donne, the poet who became a Church of England Clergyman, ultimately serving as Dean of St Paul's from 1621 until his death in 1631, to symbolise the change of his life on his conversion from Catholicism to Protestantism.

The anchor is an early Christian symbol found in the catacombs. It brings together the cross and the various nautical Christian symbols of the fish, boat and dolphin, and symbolises hope in Christ. The anchor is also the symbol of St Clement of Rome, who tradition says was martyred by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea.

Donne had a number of seals depicting Christ Crucified on an anchor made into the form of rings just prior to his death which he sent to a number of close friends. They were said to be engraven very small in helitropium stones, and set in gold. Helitropium, also known as bloodstone, is an opaque dark green form of silica with red spots caused by the presence of iron oxide. Early Christian legends held that these red streaks came from Jesus' blood that fell on a piece of jasper at the foot of the Cross.

Philip Hargrave
November 2011

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