The Keys of Saint Peter symbol or the Keys of Heaven are an emblem of the Catholic Church and a symbol of papal authority. The keys represent the divine authority that was vested before the death of Jesus in the apostle Peter.

The symbol comprises as an image of two crossed keys and appears in the coats of arms of Popes, Vatican City State and Holy See. It represents the metaphorical keys to the office of St. Peter or the keys to the kingdom of Heaven which were promised by Jesus Christ to Saint Peter, along with the power to take binding actions.

The Keys of St. Peter symbol is found frequently in the Christian art. A number of Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic paintings and other artwork have depicted Saint Peter holding a key or set of keys. Even St. Peter’s Basilica has an almost key-shaped layout, which is also suggestive of the keys of heaven that Christ entrusted to Saint Peter. From the sixteenth century onwards, a symbolic pair of keys is made for each pope and it is buried with him on his death.

The crossed keys symbol was earlier associated with the Roman God Janus and the primordial deity Zurvac, who were both gods of time, remover of obstacles and keepers of doorways.

Keys of St. Peter

 

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