Irish Harp Symbol

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Various Irish Harp Symbols

The harp, or lyre, has been a symbol of Ireland for centuries. It is the Irish national emblem and, as a musical instrument, is a unique country symbol in the annals of history. The Irish harp symbol manifested in part due to the preference of Irish Gaelic society to entertain with the mellifluous musical notes that were made from plucked harp strings. As the Gaelic social structure declined in the middle ages, harp musicians became itinerants travelers who went to various patron’s households to play their music and earn their living.

The Irish harp symbol appeared on theological manuscripts written by Benedictine monks in the 8th and 9th centuries. This symbol was also chiseled on stone crosses of the same period. In the early Christian documents, the harpist resembled King David from the Bible, elevating the role of the musician to one of prestige and honor.

Anglo-Irish groat coins minted by King Henry VIII of England displayed the Irish harp symbol prominently. The harp had an imperial crown, which indicated the royalty of England over the Irish people. Subsequent to this, golden harp symbols appeared on flags with a blue background that were flown on a number of royal occasions. When Queen Elizabeth 1 signed a charter to Dublin city in 1583, the harp was a significant symbol. When the great Queen died, the harp symbol was emblazoned on a banner flown at her funeral.

Development of the Irish Harp Symbol

The Irish harp symbol first appeared on a green background as a flag in July 1642. Eoghan Rua O’Neill, who headed the armies of the Ulster region in a rebellion against the English in 1641, used this flag. The Society of United Irishmen proclaimed the harp as Ireland’s national symbol through its prominent use in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, fighting against Protestant rule. With the passage of time, the golden harp on a sea of green became a symbol of the Irish nation. It was the national flag of Ireland throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Irish harp symbol is a distinctive national symbol of Ireland and was once part of the national flag. Throughout the history of the Irish nation, the harp has been a theological or political emblem, having been the Irish musical instrument of choice for centuries.

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