In 2018, over 20,000 couples got married in the beautiful country of Ireland. For Irish citizens and international citizens of Irish descent, the Claddagh ring remains a popular choice for celebrating love, unity, and commitment.
The question is, where did the Claddagh symbol come from? What is its history and how did it become such a common symbol of love?
Myths and history alike surround the beautiful Claddagh symbol, which you’ve almost certainly encountered before. The Claddagh symbol is a heart adorned with a crown and held by two hands–and while it’s most commonly used to create jewelry, you’ll also find it on signs, throw pillows, and more.
Read on to learn more about the Claddagh symbol and consider incorporating it into your wedding or union.
The Possible Origins of the Claddagh Symbol
Although we know the Claddagh symbol to represent Irish culture, it is quite possible that it did not originate in Ireland.
In fact, some historians believe that the Claddagh can be traced back to either Greek or Roman culture. The design we recognize today as the Claddagh could be found on fede rings. In Italian, “mani in fede” translates to “hands clasped in loyalty” and fede rings were meant to represent solidarity.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, it is believed that the symbol fell out of fashion, revived in the Middle Ages as a representation of religious faith. It may then have come back during the Renaissance in a manner more recognizable to us: as a symbol of marriage.
If this design seems to have origins throughout Europe, why do we consider it a part of Irish culture?
How the Claddagh Symbol Became Part of Irish Culture
In order to trace the modern Claddagh back to Irish history, we must take a look at the local lore in Claddagh, a small fishing village that is now part of the city, Galway.
Long ago, Claddagh was separated from Galway by a large wall. However, the village had sole legal access to the Galway Bay, and local fishermen were able to make a large profit from selling their catch to Galway merchants. However, they also had a bit of a pirate problem.
As local lore would have it, Claddagh resident Richard Joyce was captured by Algerian pirates and put to work under a Moorish goldsmith. After working for the goldsmith for years, Joyce became quite a good goldsmith, himself. It was during this time that he created a ring for the woman he loved, which he was able to present to her upon being released back to Ireland in 1689.
For Joyce, the symbolism wasn’t far off from its possible origins. The hands were said to represent friendship, the heart was said to represent love, and the crown was said to represent loyalty. When Joyce married his loved one, she wore the ring–now named after the town where it was resurrected in popular culture–as a wedding ring.
How to Wear a Claddagh Ring
Claddagh rings are a popular choice for pre-engagement, engagement, and/or wedding rings. For those who choose to wear a Claddagh as both an engagement and a wedding ring, an additional ring is not necessary.
When a Claddagh is not worn as a romantic symbol, the wearer will keep it on the ring finger of their right hand with the heart facing outward.
When a Claddagh is worn to symbolize engagement (or pre-engagement), it is worn on the left finger with the heart facing outward.
If the Claddagh is then used to symbolize marriage, the wearer will turn the ring around on their left hand so that the heart is facing inward. This shows others that their heart is with their spouse.
Is the Claddagh Ring an Option for Both Men and Women?
Typically, the rings worn by women to symbolize engagement or marriage don’t look quite the same as wedding rings worn by men. When it comes to the Claddagh ring, can men also wear it?
The answer is yes. In fact, there are plenty of his and her Claddagh wedding bands that either looks identical or complements one another in color or design.
Where to Find a Perfect Claddagh Ring
Many couples travel to the Galway region in search of traditional Claddagh rings. Some couples even travel to Ireland from out of the country in order to find the perfect Claddagh rings.
However, making the trip to Ireland isn’t necessary if you want to purchase an authentically Irish Claddagh ring. You can find a perfectly lovely Claddagh wedding band set online. Although you won’t be traveling to Ireland, yourself, you can still purchase rings that were crafted in Ireland and sent to you wherever you may be in the world!
Remember, it is considered bad luck to buy your own Claddagh ring! To keep with the customs, soon-to-be-wed couples should purchase one another’s rings. If you want a Claddagh ring but don’t intend to wear it as an engagement or wedding ring, you will still want to receive it as a gift if you want to avoid bad luck!
Mark Your Marriage With the Claddagh Symbol
The Claddagh symbol may go back as far as the Roman Empire, but today, it is steeped in a distinctly Irish tradition. In love, the Claddagh symbol represents companionship, friendship, and loyalty–all elements that belong in any long-lasting union! Consider marking your marriage with the Claddagh symbol and bring luck and happiness with you into your married life.
If you’re planning an Irish Catholic wedding, you’ve come to the right place. Take a look around to find more information and news about the Catholic Church and Catholic traditions.