Laurel wreath

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Dante Alighieri with a laurel wreath, portrait by Sandro Botticelli , 1495
Napoleon Bonaparte in coronation regalia with a golden laurel wreath, painting by Marie-Victoire Jaquotot

A Lorbeerkranz is from branches and leaves of the laurel ( latin laurus shaped) ring . The laurel wreath is a symbol and insignia for a special honor or distinction, especially for a victory or a special success. That is why it is also known as the wreath . Laurel wreaths are often shown in gold .


Ancient Greece

Ancient Greek coin with a laurel-wreathed owl , a wise companion animal of the goddess Athena depicted with a helmet , around 152/151 BC. Chr.

The evergreen laurel bush or laurel tree was considered in the mythology of ancient Greece as a symbol of health and moral purification as well as atonement .

In the rituals around the Greek god Apollon , the laurel took on a specific role by reminding him of the beloved nymph Daphne , who was saved from his stalking by being transformed into a laurel bush by her father: This is how the first laurel tree was born. For Apollo the bush became sacred through the transformation, so he wore a laurel wreath on his head as an expression of his sorrow and grief over the unrequited love. According to tradition, the first oracle of Apollo was proclaimed “by the rustling of the laurel”. Temples and sanctuaries in honor of Apollo were decorated with laurel and cleaned with brooms made of tied laurel branches. The Oracle of Delphi spoke with a bay leaf in its mouth.

Among the followers of Hippocrates , the laurel was reputed to be a remedy for women's ailments.

In everyday life, the laurel wreath adorned outstanding poets and athletes .

Ancient Rome

Ancient Roman coin with a laurel-wreathed Gaius Iulius Caesar from 44 BC. Chr.

The laurel wreath also played an important role in Roman mythology. In the cult of the god Jupiter , he was a sign of the victor who was crowned with laurel. Therefore, the laurel wreath was a sign of the military victor when generals returned to Rome (see Corona triumphalis ), while the leaders of armies that had achieved less significant success had to be content with a myrtle wreath during an ovatio . The wreaths were not only worn by the triumphant, but by all participants in the triumphal procession, with the exception of the slaves. Later, the emperors of Rome also wore the laurel wreath as a token of their fame . In this case, however, a slave standing behind the emperor held a gold wreath (Latin: corona ex auro Etrusca ) over the head of the triumphant .

The Romans burned bay leaves with sage , thyme , verbena and juniper to drive away evil spirits.


Artifact with laurel wreath in the Museum of Ancient Art, Milan


The laurel wreath appears in different forms. There are both depictions of a single laurel branch, which is wound around the head as a wreath, as well as those in which two individual laurel branches are intertwined at the lower part and wound into a wreath. In this second variant, the two branches are connected to one another in such a way that the tips of the leaves point in the opposite direction of the braid. Accordingly, a laurel wreath is positioned on the head in such a way that the tips of the leaves point forward and diagonally upwards at the same time. This stands for the positive element, an aspiration or life-affirming vigor. The second variant is often provided with decorative ribbons at the braid, for example in the national colors.

The laurel wreath does not necessarily have a closed shape, it can be open like a horseshoe. When worn, the opening always points forward, so the front part of the head or forehead remains largely free. In two-dimensional representations, the opening of the laurel wreath almost invariably points upwards.


In their representational form, the branches of the laurel form the original and natural material of the laurel wreath, later, depending on the occasion, also replaced by materials processed by humans such as metal, natural or synthetic fibers. In the fine arts and architecture , other materials such as glass, wood, precious metals, natural and artificial stone or plaster are used. Precious metals or alloys made from precious metals and other metals are predominantly used in the minting of medals, plaques and coins.


Victory Column in Berlin - Tiergarten : Victoria with a raised laurel wreath. The stylized spear shows the Prussian Iron Cross in a wreath of oak leaves.

Ancient symbolism

The laurel wreath is basically a peaceful symbol . The round shape stands for perfection , the evergreen appearance of the laurel bush or the laurel tree for stability or immortality . Even with the ancient Greeks and Romans it stood for success , achievement, victory , fame and consecration .

Unlike a royal or imperial crown of laurel wreath symbolizes a civic crown (Lat. Corona civica , but in the Roman Empire from oak leaves ), which consequently of generals can be achieved, scientists, poets and athletes.

Symbol of victory and patriotism

In the German Empire , after military victories, memorials were erected with the mostly figurative motif of the goddess Victoria (Latin for victory ). This is often shown with a raised right arm, holding a laurel wreath. In the other hand, pointing downwards, she usually holds a palm branch , which - like the dove - symbolizes peace. In Berlin, the Victoria raises a laurel wreath on the Victory Column , while the Iron Cross on its spear is surrounded by oak leaves.

You don't have to look long for laurel wreaths at the Niederwald monument in Rüdesheim am Rhein . They can be found on the corners of the monument base and on the imperial crown of the German Empire, which is held up by Germania . Laurel branches also wind around the sword she is holding down; the laurel removes the sword from its actual function and thus acquires a more defensive than aggressive character.

On the Cromwelltaler from 1658 from the short time of the English Republic, Oliver Cromwell is depicted as Roman Emperor, draped and adorned with a laurel wreath. The laurel wreath is the symbol for the end of the civil war and the peace achieved.

Use of the symbol in different areas


Laurel-wreathed entrance gate to Nymphenburg Palace , Munich

Laurel wreaths and branches are very often used in architecture as a decorative element on external facades and in interior decoration, especially in earlier centuries. For example, the entrance gates to Nymphenburg Palace in Munich are wreathed in laurel. The laurel wreaths and acanthus leaves on the baroque stucco ceilings of Köpenick Palace in Berlin are also worth seeing .


Laurel wreaths have been found in the visual and performing arts since ancient times , for example on numerous paintings, mosaics and sculptures, and of course also in the theater. The Victoria christiana , the symbol of victorious Christianity, can be found in the basilica of Aquileia . It depicts a blonde girl who is holding a laurel wreath with her right hand. In its left hand it carries a palm branch as a symbol of peace. It is a Christian interpretation of the ancient models Nike and Victoria .

Coat of arms and flags

The laurel wreath or laurel branches can be found on many coats of arms and flags. For example, El Salvador , Colombia , Mexico and Cyprus use a laurel wreath or a branch of laurel on national coats of arms and flags . The coat of arms and flag of the US state New Hampshire also show a laurel wreath. The laurel wreath can be found on German municipal coats of arms, for example, in Aldenhoven (Jülich district) or in the Siersdorf district and in Alperstedt (Sömmerda district).


Uniform cap for the General of the Swiss Army with a laurel-wreathed mirror
French national order of the Legion of Honor with a laurel wreath

Numerous images, badges, orders such as the national order of the French Legion of Honor (French ordre national de la Légion d'honneur ), armor and other militaria show laurel wreaths, such as the submarine front clasp of the German Navy .


A gold coin from the beginning of the 17th century was specifically designated as a laurel (English for laurel ), as it was the first to depict an English king ( Jacob I ), the son of Maria Stuart , with a laurel wreath. In German-speaking countries it was at that time under terms of James I as Jacobus and Jacobins called.

City seal of
New York City with surrounding laurel wreath


The laurel wreath can also be found on the seals of documents, especially on municipal and city seals if a laurel wreath is depicted in their city arms.


Benz company logo

Numerous institutions, organizations and companies use the laurel wreath as a logo . So for example, uses the British manufacturer of sports apparel, Fred Perry , a laurel wreath ( Engl. Laurel wreath ) as a company logo that embroidered on all products, woven, embossed or printed.

In the first half of the 20th century, the Czech motor vehicle brand Skoda occasionally had logos framed by a laurel wreath, as did the German vehicle brand Benz . The same applies to the Mercedes-Benz brand . Their logo was temporarily provided with a laurel wreath, which was initially retained as a connecting element between the names Mercedes and Benz after the merger of Benz with Daimler (1926).

The laurel wreath can also easily be confused with the branches of an olive tree, which is a symbol of peace and not of triumph. The United Nations (UN), for example, uses a stylized representation of the earth that is framed by branches of the olive tree .


Commercial artists use the laurel wreath to visually characterize products as successful. A similar goal is partly pursued with the creation of test and quality seals, when it came to marking excellent products as outstanding. One example is the so-called Blue Angel or Environmental Angel .

Use at events


Official medal of the 1904
St. Louis Summer Olympics with laurel wreaths

In ancient Greece, athletes in the Pythian or Delphic Games received a laurel wreath as the only recognition of their honorable victory. Laurel wreaths also play a role in the Olympic Games of antiquity and modern times.

The laurel wreath was particularly important in the 19th century gymnastics movement around Friedrich Ludwig Jahn , who was apostrophized as the gymnastics father . For example, the gymnast's cross , formed from the initials of Frisch, pious, cheerful, free , is framed by a laurel wreath, sometimes also by an oak leaf wreath, on some representations, club coats of arms and monuments. In the context of performance, this had both sporting and patriotic-military relevance. The satirical magazine Simplicissimus took up the aspect of gymnastics honors and decorations in its socially critical caricatures .

In today's sport, too, it is sometimes used as a winner's symbol, for example on certificates, medals, trophies and badges such as the current German sports badge of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) or as a floristic laurel wreath.


A use of the laurel wreath that is still in use today is for anniversaries of all kinds, be it a wedding anniversary, anniversary with the company, company formation, confirmation , graduation or birthdays . The corresponding number of years (e.g. 25, 50, 60, 75 etc.) is usually placed in the center of the laurel wreath. Stationery dealers, florists , photographers , confectioners and other trades benefit from this and have appropriate laurel wreaths made of paper, marzipan and other materials.


In the carnival or at masked balls, the laurel wreath is used in numerous masks and sometimes in the decoration.

The laurel wreath in literature

Hercules crowned with laurel, painting by Matthaeus Terwesten


The laurel wreath is also mentioned in stories and sagas.


So also learn to bear these branches (laurel) that
The most beautiful are what we can give you.
If she touches the head worthily,
They hover around his forehead forever
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)
The orange fogging scent swells
Almost secretly and intoxicates my mind
Silent laurel cools the wind-loving air,
And myrtle exhales, hardly noticeable: I am!
Theodor Däubler (1876–1934)

There are other poems that take up the laurel wreath thematically, even those that are dedicated to it, such as the poem Der Lorbeerkranz by Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803) from 1771. The complete poem can be called up via the individual list.

Lyrics and hymns

The laurel wreath also occurs in music. The Prussian song Heil dir in the wreath, which was often voiced during the German Empire between 1871 and 1918, should be mentioned here, where the laurel wreath is addressed in the title and the laurel is mentioned in the fourth stanza.

The laurel wreath is described in the first stanza of the folk hymn Gott get Franz, the emperor for the Austrian Emperor Franz II , which was first sung in 1797:

Laurel raisers bloom for him,
Where he goes, to the wreath of honor!

In 1826 the text was revised. Then the two lines of text read:

Love winds laurel raisers,
an eternally green wreath for him!

Further revisions of the text were made later.

Large federal seal of the Federal Republic of Germany. In contrast to the small federal seal, a laurel wreath surrounds the federal eagle .


  • "I am happy to give the bloody laurel for the first violet that March brings us"
Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805)
  • "Laurel and arrogance are dangerous"
Adelbert von Chamisso (1781–1838)
  • "In every laurel there is a wreath of thorns"
Ernst Ziel (1841–1921)
  • "Those who rest on their laurels are wearing them in the wrong place"
Mao Tse-Tung (1893-1976)
  • "Laurel is one of those rare plants that you cannot sow and yet harvest"
Peter Maiwald (1946-2008)

The laurel wreath in the film

The laurel wreath also appears in films, for example in science fiction as an emblem or flag of a people or a League of Nations (see the emblem of the United Federation of Planets (Star Trek) ).

There is a folk piece from the Ohnsorg Theater in Hamburg entitled “The Laurel Wreath”, shown on German television and also available as a video. An American silent film called "The Laurel Wreath of Fame" was made in 1912.

The laurel wreath in parlance


Nobel Prize - certificate with laurel wreath and frame for Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen

A Poeta laureatus is a poet crowned with a laurel wreath. Accordingly, the term laureate or laureate originally on a carrier of the laurel wreath ( lat. Laureate ), but he called now generally a person to whom is been bestowed a special honor for. B. a Nobel Prize winner . Likewise in other languages, e.g. B. French lauréat or Italian laureato . Italian laurea denotes a university degree.

For the Romanian motor vehicle brand Dacia , Lauréate describes an upscale equipment variant of passenger car types.

Poets laureate

For more than 340 years, excellent poets in the English-speaking world have been referred to as poet laureate , who in the United Kingdom are proposed by the Prime Minister and appointed by the King or Queen.

A similar tradition exists in the United States , where the Librarian of Congress, the librarian of the Congress , appoints the new Poet Laureate in consultation with the incumbent Poet Laureate and outstanding literary and poetry critics .

Idiom and proverb

The phrase "resting on your laurels" means holding back with current commitment after past successes. After a good performance, pupils and athletes often receive the admonition “not to rest on their laurels”, but to continue learning or training to the same extent.

The saying “Laurel does not fill you up; better who has potatoes ”stands for the fact that one cannot live on fame alone.

Christian names

The Christians preferred names that were related to their religion , for example the apostles or martyrs , mostly with simple first names of Latin or Greek origin:

  • Laurentius (Latin for laurel ), derived from it: Laurence, Laurent, Laurentin, Laurenz, Lawrence, Lorenz (middle) or Laura, Laure, Lauren, Laureen, Laurena, Lorena, Laurène, Laurentia, Lauretta, Laurette, Lauri, Laurie, Lauryn (f.) Or
  • Stephanos (Greek στέϕανος for wreath / crown ), derived from it: Stefan, Steffen, Stephan, Stephen, Steve (m.) Or Stefanie, Steffi, Stephanie (f.) Etc.


  • Birgit Bergmann: The Emperor's wreath. Genesis and meaning of a Roman insignia (= Image & context. Vol. 6). De Gruyter, Berlin et al. 2010, ISBN 978-3-11-020258-8 (also: Munich, Univ., Diss., 2006).
  • Dieter Braun: Laurel. In: Real Lexicon for Antiquity and Christianity . Volume 23, Hiersemann, Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-7772-1013-1 , Sp. 453-471
  • Emma Louise Brucklacher and Bastian Max Brucklacher: Laurel wreath . In: Compendium heroicum. Edited by Ronald G. Asch, Achim Aurnhammer, Georg Feitscher and Anna Schreurs-Morét, published by the Collaborative Research Center 948 “Heroes - Heroizations - Heroisms” of the University of Freiburg, Freiburg November 7, 2018. DOI: 10.6094 / heroicum / lod1.0

Web links

Commons : Laurel wreath  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Laurel wreath  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Michael Pettersson: Cults of Apollo at Sparta. The Hyakinthia, the Gymnopaidia and the Karneia (= Svenska Institutet i Athens. Skrifter 8 °, Vol. 12). Åström, Stockholm 1992, ISBN 91-7916-027-1 (also: Göteborg, Univ., Diss., 1992).
  2. ^ Joseph Fontenrose: Didyma. Apollo's Oracle, Cult, and Companions. University of California Press, Berkeley CA 1988, ISBN 0-520-05845-3 .
  3. Jean Gage: Apollon Romain. Essai sur le culte d'Apollon et le développement du “ritus graecus” à Rome des origines à Auguste ( Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome. Fasc. 182, ISSN  0257-4101 ). Boccard, Paris 1955.
  4. Birgit Bergmann: The Emperor's wreath. Genesis and meaning of a Roman insignia on: (PDF file; 102 kilobytes; 100 kB)
  5. Hendrik Simon Versnel : Triumph. An Inquiry Into the Origin, Development and Meaning of the Roman Triumph. Brill, Leiden 1970 (at the same time: Leiden, Univ., Diss., 1970).
  6. Reinhard Alings: Monument and Nation. de Gruyter, Berlin et al. 1998, ISBN 3-11-014985-0 , p. 526, on:
  7. In Köpenick Castle, the restorers have to scratch the paint from the stucco ceilings: the gold leaf is disappearing, May 5, 2001
  8. Flag and coat of arms Mexico on:
  9. Flag and coat of arms of Paraguay on:
  10. Flag and coat of arms of Peru on:
  11. Flag and coat of arms of Cyprus on:
  12. Jump up ↑ New Hampshire flag and coat of arms at
  13. Badge of the Swiss Army ( Memento of the original dated December 14, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. to: (PDF file, 1.57 megabytes; 1.6 MB) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  14. Uniforms and badges of the Austrian Armed Forces at:
  15. Uniforms of the Bundeswehr on: (PDF file, 1.5 megabytes)
  16. Distinguished Service Order on:
  17. Example: Empress Maria Theresa majesty's seal 1745–1765, 130 mm, red wax, with a laurel wreath all around
  18. Fred Perry Logo ( Memento of the original from September 23, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. on: @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  19. ŠKODA logo. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on March 27, 2015 ; Retrieved March 3, 2015 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  20. Photo: Mercedes-Benz Logo on:
  21. UN Flag and Emblem on:
  22. ^ Hugo Blümner: Life and Morals of the Greeks. Freytag, Leipzig, Temsky, Prague 1887
  23. Laurel wreath for successful Greeks in: Die Welt, August 8, 1996
  24. The laurel wreath could be silver-plated in: Süddeutsche Zeitung, August 6, 2004
  25. Example: Caricature by Karl Arnold in: Simplicissimus , year 1923/24, Heft 16 , p. 206. With this drawing it is not clear whether it is a laurel wreath or an oak wreath.
  26. German sports badge on:
  27. Laurel wreaths for the winners of the Hermannslauf on: (PDF file; 596 kB)
  28. ^ Otto Beneke: Hamburg stories and legends . Hamburg: Perthes-Besser & Mauke, 1854, page 310. on:
  29. The Northern Lights. Geneva edition, volume 1, p. 44. Insel-Verlag Leipzig 1921 (PDF file, 31.75 megabytes; 33.3 MB)
  30. Johann Gottfried Herder: Der Lorbeerkranz (1771) on:
  31. lauréat on:
  32. laureato on:
  33. laurea on:
  34. Poet Laureate on:
  35. Poets Laureate at:
  36. Poet Laureates on:
  37. Christian names on:
  38. The great lexicon of first names. Bertelsmann, Gütersloh 2008, ISBN 978-3-577-07694-4 .