The traditional anchor cross appears in various forms. One variation manages to include three crosses-by 'crossing' the two barbs of the double hook. This symbolism may represent the Holy Trinity to some, or perhaps the three crosses on Calvary.
As a nautical motif, the anchor has long implied a steady course through the stormy straits of life, or refuge in a secure harbor protected from turbulent seas and approaching storms. For some ancients, the anchor symbolized various sea gods. Such a commonplace emblem served the persecuted Roman Christians very well as a disguised cross. This crux disimmulata may have looked to all the world like an anchor, but to Christians it was a Latin cross. The anchor even had biblical credentials:
"We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain…," from the Epistle to the Hebrews 6:19.
Some anthropologists insist that the anchor as a 'disguised cross' is a modern phenomenon. But the anchor as a religious icon-along with the fish and the palm-unquestionably dates back to early Christendom when images of Jesus were deemed pagan, and therefore forbidden.
From the Greeks comes another theory of the anchor's Christian connection. Greek liturgy is rife with the term en kurio, which translates as 'in the Lord'. It is often used in reference to believers who have 'died in the Lord'. Now follow along-the Greek word for anchor is ankura. Sounds like en kurio. Those Christians building the catacombs in Rome may have seen the 'ankura' as a means of disguising their blessings upon those who 'died in the Lord'. By the fourth century, the anchor cross had been retired in favour of the cross and crucifix.
The anchor cross is sometimes called St. Clement's Cross. Clement was an early leader of the Roman church. According to legend, he was imprisoned by a subsequent emperor, and for performing miracles in jail was sentenced to death. His executioners bound him to an anchor and tossed him into the Black Sea. His martyrdom earned him sainthood, after which he became the patron saint of anchorsmiths and mariners. The anchor cross is also known as the Mariner's Cross.
With his reputation for being something of a renegade, St. Clement's anchor cross has been the icon of choice for believers-and tattoo aficionados-who prefer to distance themselves from official religion, yet still celebrate their faith, their spirituality and their belief in God and his son, their savior, Jesus Christ.
The anchor tattoo is a powerful symbol of faith and spirituality in a storm-tossed world.
Below you will find a gallery of inspirational images that will help you in your quest of creating the perfect Anchor Cross tattoo.