Anchor (as a symbol). By the early Christians we find the anchor used sometimes with reference to the stormy ocean of human life, but more often to the tempests and the fierce blasts of persecution which threatened to ingulf-the ship of the Church. Thus the anchor is one of the most ancient of emblems; and we find it engraved on rings, and depicted on monuments and on the walls of cemeteries in the Catacombs, as a type of the hope by which the Church stood firm in the midst of the storms which surrounded it. In this, as in other cases, Christianity adopted a symbol from paganism, with merely the change of application.
The symbols on sepulchral tablets often contain allusions to the name of the deceased. An anchor upon tituli bearing names derived from Spes, has been found a number of times. (De' Rossi, De Monum. etc. p. 18; Mai, Collect. Vatican. p. 449). In some cases, above the transverse bar of the anchor stands the letter E, probably the abbreviation of the word Elpis. Further, we find the anchor associated with the fish, the symbol of the Saviour. It is clear that the union of the two symbols expresses "hope in Jesus Christ" — a formula common on Christian tablets.
The transverse bar below the ring gives the upper part of the anchor the appearance of a crux ansata [see Cross]; and perhaps this form may have had as much influence in determining the choice of this symbol by the Christians as the words of Paul. The anchor appears, as is natural, very frequently upon the tombs of martyrs (see Lupi, Severoe Epitaph. p. 136 sq.; Boldetti. Osservaz. p. 366, 370).