is a graphic form composed of the outline of three overlapping rings used in architecture and Christian symbolism
Christian symbolism invests objects or actions with an inner meaning expressing Christian ideas. Christianity has borrowed from the common stock of significant symbols known to most periods and to all regions of the world. Religious symbolism is effective when it appeals to both the intellect and...
. The term is also applied to other symbols of three-fold shape.
Trefoil is a term in Gothic
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...
given to the ornamental foliation or cusping introduced in the heads of window-lights, tracery, panellings, etc., in which the center takes the form of a three-lobed leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....
(formed from three partially-overlapping circles). One of the earliest examples is in the plate tracery at Winchester
Winchester Cathedral at Winchester in Hampshire is one of the largest cathedrals in England, with the longest nave and overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe...
(1222–1235). The fourfold version of an architectural trefoil is a quatrefoil
The word quatrefoil etymologically means "four leaves", and applies to general four-lobed shapes in various contexts.-In heraldry:In heraldic terminology, a quatrefoil is a representation of a flower with four petals, or a leaf with four leaflets . It is sometimes shown "slipped", i.e. with an...
A trefoil combined with an equilateral triangle was also a moderately common symbol of the Christian Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...
during the late Middle Ages in some parts of Europe. Two forms of this are shown below:
A dove, symbolic of the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...
, is sometimes depicted within the outlined form of the trefoil combined with a triangle.
Heraldry is the profession, study, or art of creating, granting, and blazoning arms and ruling on questions of rank or protocol, as exercised by an officer of arms. Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman herald, from the Germanic compound harja-waldaz, "army commander"...
is a stylized clover
Clover , or trefoil, is a genus of about 300 species of plants in the leguminous pea family Fabaceae. The genus has a cosmopolitan distribution; the highest diversity is found in the temperate Northern Hemisphere, but many species also occur in South America and Africa, including at high altitudes...
. It should not be confused with the figure named in French heraldry tiercefeuille
, which is a stylized flower with three petals. It differs from the heraldic trefoil in being not slipped. It could be translated as threefoil
While the green trefoil is considered by many to be the symbol of Ireland, the harp has much greater officially-recognized status. Therefore shamrocks generally do not appear on Irish coins or postage stamps.
A trefoil is also part of the logo for Adidas Originals
Adidas Originals is a line of casual sports apparel, and is the heritage line of Adidas The brand uses the famous Trefoil logo, which was originally used on all adidas products until the company decided in 1997 that the trefoil logo would thereafter only be used on heritage products, and was...
, which also includes the iconic three stripes.
- A trefoil formation is a cross-sectional arrangement of electrical cables that minimises electrodynamic forces during fault conditions. Also, the electrical field of each phase conductor in a 3-phase system is negated when the other two phase conductors are nearby to form a trefoil.