Field Guide

Knights of Columbus

The Knights of Columbus, founded in 1882, has often been described as the "Catholic Masons" because the Catholics were forbidden by a Papal edict from joining the Freemasons. The purpose of the fraternal organization, which originally was open to Catholic men over the age of eighteen, was to provide assistance to widows and orphans of the parish. It had close to 1.5 million members in 1994. Although it has many similarities to the Freemasons, including degrees and rituals, it is mainly an insurance company. But in recent years it has become more active in community affairs and politics.

The emblem of the Knights of Columbus was designed by Supreme Knight James T. Mullen and officially adopted on May 12, 1883. Its incorporates a medieval knight's shield mounted on a formée cross. The formée cross is an artistic representation of the cross of Christ. Mounted on the shield are three objects: 1) a fasces - an ancient Roman symbol of authority comprised of a bundle of rods bound together around an ax, 2) an anchor, which is the mariner's symbol for Columbus, and 3) a short sword, which is the weapon of the knight when engaged in an "errand of mercy."

Taken from Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography written and photographed by Douglas Keister, published by Gibbs Smith, Salt Lake City, 2004. This book is a must for every cemetery enthusiast!!!