Rams and Hammerbeams

Liturgy We Live
by Dr. Gil Haas

A hammerbeam is a timber truss allowing a roof to span a greater distance than the length of any individual timber. This type of construction supports our Cathedral’s roof. Hammerbeams are supported by curved braces from the wall, and hammer posts are built on top to support the rafters. The ends of hammerbeams are often decorated, and the ram’s heads in our Cathedral serve this function. The most famous ram in the OT is the one Abraham substituted for the sacrifice of Isaac. This ram, sacrificed in Isaac’s stead, is an image of Christ crucified in our place. The thicket in which the ram was entrapped is likened to Jesus’ crown of thorns. Rams also represented male fertility, and statues of rams were believed to make women fertile and ensure a family hearth’s happiness. Similarly, rams were used by the early Church to symbolize Christ’s spiritual fertility. Rams lead sheep, and St. Ambrose considered rams emblematic of the divine Word. Rams fighting with wolves and defending the sheep represented the war between Jesus and Satan for souls. Rams tend to butt their enemies, and ram’s heads were placed on the ends of “battering rams” during a siege. Requested by Ms. Glenda Edwards

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