From ancient Egypt to the modern era … Learn about the history of the heart symbol
Over the years, the heart moved from being the center of life in the human body to the symbolic home of the soul. The world learned that from the ancient Egyptians who believed in the importance of the human heart, and removed it from the mummy to be preserved in a jar of alabaster, so that it can be weighed in the afterlife against a feather to determine the fate Spirit.
And just as the ancient Egyptians went to it, the Greek and Roman philosophers considered the heart of the utmost importance, and Aristotle assumed in Greece in the fourth century BC that the heart is the source of life and the center of the nervous system, and he believes that it greatly affects the human feeling and interaction with the surrounding world.
Paula Vindlin, a historian of science and medicine at Stanford University (Stanford University), says that it is not only about anatomy and physiology, but also about cultural beliefs. While the brain is the seat of the mind and logic, and the heart is the one that bridges the gap between them, and the heart’s location proves that idea because it is located between the liver and the brain.
Anatomy of the Soul
The consideration of the heart as the seat of the soul gained religious significance in Europe during the Middle Ages, when people believed that goodness and holiness appeared on the body, and especially on the heart. When holy people die, one of the first steps – besides compiling reports of miracles attributed to them – is to dissect their bodies to find signs of holiness.
In 1308, when the Italian nun Claire of Montefalco died, her body was autopsied, and legend says that they found small religious symbols inside her heart, evidence that proved her holiness, and by the 16th century the physical signs of holiness became less extreme than the idea of clear religious symbols.
During the Renaissance, European scientists made great strides in understanding the heart, thanks in part to anatomy. Leonardo da Vinci produced detailed anatomical drawings and created a glass model of the heart to better understand its function, and his results began to deviate from what Aristotle and Galen knew.
In 1628, the famous English physician William Harvey published a report describing how the circulatory system works. After that, Harvey’s model dominated medical discussions, and the heart became an emotional center that fades into the world of science.
How to convert the heart to the current symbol?
The ancient Romans had a strange belief about the heart, which is that there is a vein that extends from the fourth finger in the left hand directly to the heart, and although this idea was based on an incorrect knowledge of human anatomy, it persisted, and in the Middle Ages during the marriage ceremony in the church, the groom was asked to He puts a ring around the fourth finger, hence the tradition of a wedding ring.
During the 12th and 13th centuries, chants in France celebrated full love, a love that requires a man to give his heart completely to one woman only, with a promise of loyalty to her forever, and this lyrical and poetic explosion that began in France extended to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Hungary, Germany and Scandinavia, Both men and women created their own variations.
In 1344 the first known image of the heart icon in its currently known form appeared in a manuscript entitled “The Romance of Alexander” written by Lambert le Tour in the French dialect, with hundreds of exquisitely decorated pages, and this manuscript is considered one of the greatest picture books of the Middle Ages.
The scene containing the image of the heart appears on a page decorated with birds and trees, and on the left side the woman raises a heart that she supposedly received from the man facing her.
The woman accepts the gift, and the man touches his chest as an indication of where the heart came from, and from this moment there was an explosion in the images of the heart, especially in France.
During the 15th century, the heart icon spread throughout Europe in a variety of ways. It was found depicted in manuscript pages, on pins, pendants, playing cards, combs, wooden boxes, burial sites and print markers. The heart icon was adapted to many different uses.
The origin of the symbol
“We see this shape on thousands of ancient Greek pottery pieces, but the heart symbol as we see it today dates from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance,” said Professor Peter Stewart, Head of the Research Center for Classical Art at the University of Oxford. “What we see is an abstract version of the ivy leaf on the face.” In particular, heart vases were often designed for drinking or preserving wine.
Stewart believes that the emergence of this iconic shape of the heart is due to its pleasant shape, and because of the religious icons in which the image of the heart was painted in its current form, especially the painting of Catherine de Siena, which is currently in the Museum of Fine Arts in France.