Legend has it that the inspiration for a trefoil originated with Saint Patrick (a
fifth century bishop) who is reputed to have used the three-leafed clover to explain
the idea of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to the Irish. Even if
there is no truth in the legend, nevertheless the trefoil shape has had great symbolic
significance for Christians and has been used frequently as a motif on church buildings,
especially in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. There is even a church whose
plan is based on the idea of a trefoil: at Planes in Provence in France the church
has a triangular plan with an apse (a semicircular wall) on each of the building’s
The picture above shows a large trefoil motif on a tomb canopy in Chelsworth Church
Above: A trefoil in stone in a window at Earl Soham Church in Suffolk.
Above: A trefoil-shaped window on the front of a house at Boxford in Suffolk.
Right: A trefoil design tombstone in a churchyars at Hockwold-cum-Wilton in Norfolk.