Recently some folks have taken notice of my wedding band. I thought I would take some time this week to share with you both the historical and spiritual significance of it.
First off, the history. When Misty and I got married almost 18 years ago we decided to incorporate a little bit of our Irish heritage in our ceremony. When we selected our wedding bands, we decided to use Irish claddaghs. We even custom ordered Misty’s ring from Ireland.
The Irish claddagh is a type of ring. Here is a picture of my wedding band –
The heart represents love, the crown loyalty, and hands friendship. The design and customs associated with it originated in the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, located just outside the old city walls of Galway, now part of Galway City. According to legend, the ring, as currently known, was first produced in the 17th century by Richard Joyce. Legend has it that Joyce was captured and enslaved by Algerian Corsairs around 1675 while on a passage to the West Indies; he was sold into slavery to a Moorish goldsmith who taught him the craft. After fourteen years, Joyce was released and returned to Galway and brought along with him the ring he had fashioned while in captivity: what we’ve come to know as the Claddagh. He gave the ring to his sweetheart, and they were married. The Claddagh ring belongs to a group of European finger rings called “fede rings.” The name “fede” denotes fidelity – or faithfulness in love, and come from the Italian phrase mani in fede – “hands joined in faith” or “hands joined in loyalty.” These rings date from Roman times, when the gesture of clasped hands was a symbol of pledging vows, and they were used as engagement/wedding rings in medieval and Renaissance Europe. Fede rings are cast in the form of two clasped hands, symbolizing faith, trust, or plighted troth. The Claddagh ring is a variation on these fede rings. It is often used as a wedding band or as a symbol of engagement.
Now for the spiritual symbolism – While you notice that there are two hands on the ring – one representing (in our case) the bride and one the groom, there is only one heart. Jesus used the passage from the creation in Genesis to teach about marriage in Mark 10. He tells His critics – “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mark 10:7-9, ESV) For us, the one heart on our claddaghs symbolizes the fact that when we took our marriage vows, we committed to being united as a couple. We are not two individual people – we are one. We live as one, we act as one. And our lives are so inter-connected, it as if we only have one heart. Now that doesn’t mean that our individual personalities have somehow disappeared – there are still two hands on the ring. But at the center of our lives – at the center of our marriage and our faith in God – there is just one heart. One heart that is shared. In Ephesians we are told to submit to each other – Eph. 5:21. Paul tells husbands & wives that each has a role to play, but above it all, there should be a oneness. And it is interesting that Paul even quotes the same passage from Gen. 2:24 that Jesus did – “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” (Eph. 5:31)
So, the next time you see my hand, notice my claddagh. I very rarely am seen without it, and I’ll be glad to show it to you!