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Catholic Dictionary




An ancient symbol of the church signifying hope and security. It was found among the catacomb inscriptions of the first century. Before the fourth century the anchor was often represented with a dolphin or two fishes suspended from the crossbar, as a symbol of Christ. The anchor early signified the cross to be known to the Christians but to be kept in secret from the unbelievers. St. Paul (Hebrews 6:18-19) writes "hold fast the hope set before us which we have as anchor for the soul." In religious art this emblem indicated courage, safety, and confidence and appeared in conjunction with certain saints, notably St. Clement whose martyrdom was by drowning weighed down by an anchor. It is a symbolic prayer for aid to mariners in danger of shipwreck.