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VV, W & M Symbols

Although probably one of the more common inscriptions to come across, on timber, stone, tombs and lead-work, it is also probably one of the most enigmatic. Often shown inverted to resemble a capital ‘M’, or even upon its side, some churches can be found to contain several dozen examples. The symbol has been traditionally associated with the cult of the Virgin Mary, and the ‘V V’  have been regarded as the initial letters of the term ‘Virgo Virginum’ (Virgin of Virgins). Whilst this may very well be the case with the obviously medieval examples, the fact is that the symbol continues to be used well into the 18th century – making it likely that, although a ‘traditional’ marking, its meaning may well have changed. It is also one of the few ritual protection marks that made the occasional cross-over into more traditional church art form. The west door of Fakenham church, in North Norfolk, contains a flint flushwork shield in each of the spandrels. One is a monogram of the name ‘MARIA’, being a reference to the Virgin Mary, whilst the other contains the enigmatic VV symbol.