On some buildings in Moscow (and other cities in European part of Russia) there are carvings of three interconnected wreaths.

For example, some are on the Pushkin Museum building on Prechistenka:

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

This building was erected around 1814, but unfortunately I didn't find information about the meaning of the carvings (apart from the shield with emblem of the building original owners). As usual, people are blaming Masons and I wouldn't be surprised if it is a part of masonic symbolism, however, I didn't find anything exactly like that. I.e., IOOF symbol is similar, but it should be chain which would look different. It is also not Borromean Rings which should be interlocked.

So, where does this symbol come from?

A couple more images from other sites:

enter image description here enter image description here

  • Very interesting! I saw these rings many times, but never asked myself what they represent. A search in Russian language yielded a lot of esoteric nonsense, as well as Masonic references and an assertion that the rings represent the Trinity; the latter one would make sense if not for elaborate ornaments inside some of the rings. If you are confident that the ring originated in 1814 try some reference on Napoleonic wars: that year was the year of the victory over Napoleon for Russia. I couldn't connect via online searches the rings with that victory though.
    – Michael
    Jan 20 '14 at 15:11
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    Oh, and one more conjecture I couldn't connect with the rings in a brief search: in Imperial Russia, besides the Christian Trinity, there was a notion of Tri-Unity of "Православие, Самодержавие, Народность", roughly translated as "Christian Orthodoxy, Absolute Monarchy, and Common Nationality". This may very roughly correspond to the West's Church, Noble, and Peasant classes, except that the Russian slogan proclaimed tri-unity of those. The victory over Napoleon was widely attributed to that tri-unity: the war effort by nobles, the guerilla war by peasants, and God's blessing via the Church.
    – Michael
    Jan 20 '14 at 15:27
  • @Michael Yes, I searched on this issue for a few hours in Russian internet (including official info about the buildings) and all I found are unsupported references to Masons with no further elaboration, and, as I mentioned, if it is a masonic symbol, it is not an obvious one.
    – sashkello
    Jan 20 '14 at 21:43
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    @Michael "Christian Orthodoxy, Absolute Monarchy, and Common Nationality" was proposed by Uvarov around 1830's, so it's a highly unlikely explanation.
    – sashkello
    Jan 20 '14 at 21:53
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    I wouldn't put too much faith in anything attributed to Masons on Russian web: there are too many "Jewish Masons" conspiracy nuts in Russia these days. Any unexplained symbols may be attributed to Masons by them. Even though the early 1800s era did indeed see much Masonic influence, mainstream Russian web is an awfully poor source on that.
    – Michael
    Jan 20 '14 at 21:55

After hard research, I finally found some interesting resources on this page.

enter image description here

This rings were religius symbols, they represented The Holy Trinity. They represent The Father, The son and The Holy spirit. A circle is an endless line having no beggining and no end symbolising God's eternity. The rings - three ribbon swirls were similar symbol(trinity).

enter image description here

The same building, again three circles. In the center of the image is Dyonisus, god of grape harvest and winemaking. We are talking about trinity again.

enter image description here

And finally yes, you were right about masons. They talked about trinity of everything. Also on this picture you can see lions. They seemed to symbolize the secret meetings - nobody will go beyond the building and it is not available to those from outside of the building.

  • 1
    Well, the link you provide is exactly one of those Masonic conspiracy rants I'd rather not trust. There are no references to any trustable sources, the fact that three is a special number in Christianity (and for Masons as well) would be an obvious explanation, however the question specifically addresses this particular kind of ornament and it'd be useful to know where it has originated and what exactly is the meaning.
    – sashkello
    Aug 14 '14 at 22:57
  • On the other hand, if someone really is following you, you're not paranoid are you. Perhaps the building WAS used by a group of Masons. Just saying, just because 'everyone' thinks of the Masonic symbol conspiracy fruitcakes as crazy, doesn't make them crazy, just tasty.
    – CGCampbell
    Sep 13 '14 at 15:53

Before Russia was an empire, it was a collection of duchies, each kinged by a duke. When all these dukes adopted Christianity, which happened at around the same time, they used a crest of three circles in a triangle as a sign of their fidelity to the conversion. Supposedly this was to answer to the trinity, but in truth it probably dates back to being a Mongol symbol from the time when Russia was ruled by the Golden Horde. The dukes just re-adapted the symbol to mean the holy Trinity. In the circles were placed their names, oaths and personal badges. Strahlemberg "Description de l'Empire Russe" vol I p. 240 (1757)

  • Is there any indication that the symbol was used before Peter I?
    – Anixx
    May 13 '14 at 20:44
  • @Anixx Nope, before Peter the Great, Russia was called "Muscovy" and was pretty much a dirt patch with a bunch of log cabins. They didn't have books or stone buildings or anything like that. High tech in old Muscovy was having like a boat or something like that. May 13 '14 at 20:59
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    Nope, before Peter the Great, Russia was called "Muscovy" Ah, then I guess we should start removing references to the 200 year old Tsardom of Russia from history books...
    – yannis
    May 14 '14 at 8:28
  • @YannisRizos All books written before about 1720 talk about the duchy of Muscovy as just that, Muscovy. The idea of Russia, as we know it today, was invented during the reign of Peter the Great. May 14 '14 at 13:02

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