What are the symbols of justice

Sancta Justitia: sacred symbol of justice


The sublime usually eludes profane grasp. The sacred lives and works out of a mysterious metaphysical concealment. It is different with Justitia, the Roman goddess of justice and justice. She searches for representational imagery and thus becomes visible and tangible for everyone. From Dr. Dr. Frank Ebert.

As an allegorical figure with human features, Justitia watches over court buildings, town halls, fountains and castles, once and in some cases still central places of jurisdiction.

In its timelessness, the ancient goddess enjoys unlimited acceptance. The myth of absolute justice founded with it stands on the one hand for state order and social morality. On the other hand, alongside prudence, bravery and prudence, as the other cardinal virtues, justice not only shapes worldly events, but also significantly the life of faith.

Justitia embodies connections and opposites, worldly and divine, like hardly any other symbol.

The goddess represents justice in its purest form

Courts are generally endowed with a certain dignity that is supposed to guarantee seriousness, thoroughness and legal knowledge. Justitia confronts those seeking justice as such a dignified being, visibly positioned on public buildings. It is always attached in an exposed position, as if it stands above everything.

This is more than mere externality: Justitia must see everything and must not overlook anything if she does not want to come to wrong conclusions. But it is far more than a synonym for case law. It embodies the judiciary in its entirety, even justice par excellence.

The other powers of the state are nowhere near as high a claim to divine infallibility as the judiciary. Because the legislative and executive branches lack comparable figures, they are happy to borrow from Justitia - as if they wanted to place themselves under their protection. The goddess is given the task of representing not only individual justice, but also the order and security of law as a whole.

Nobody should be preferred, nobody should be disadvantaged

She is powerful, tremendous and assertive. Her traits are superhuman, whether imposing penalties or distributing blessings.

It is noticeable that Justitia never laughs. She is aware of the seriousness of the situation - every situation, be it of enormous importance or banal. Here it makes no difference. Her face is uniform, the figure is self-contained. She doesn't feel like joking. Seriousness characterizes their expression.

She stands upright, her head held high, but not twisted into arrogance. She is calm and steadfast, ready to speak and enforce the law she embodies - at any time. It gives the impression that justice is removed from the human and ultimately reserved for the divine. In the face of Justitia there is a hint of being in God's hands in court and on the high seas.

Justitia rises above the worldly, but she does not neglect it. Her subject is the secular. As a goddess she connects heaven and earth, sacred and profane, generally valid and individually down-to-earth. Norms claim validity beyond individual interests. Their claim is clear: Nobody should be preferred, nobody should be disadvantaged.

Justitia's clothes underline her demeanor. It is as simple as it is functional. It is timeless without withdrawing from fashion. Occasionally she stands naked, like the naked truth, without a protective garment that could hide anything.

The blindfold as a guarantee of the highest possible objectivity

Justitia is embarrassed to have to make a decision: the blindfold saves her, the goddess, from seeing everything else that can only be low, mean and dirty in relation to the deity, in short: human. If she saw the full extent of misery at her feet, who knows if she could still make a fair decision.

Justitia should not allow herself to be guided or made dependent on the people involved in her decisions. She judges without regard to the person, as it is promised on a solid biblical basis in many oaths of office (Deuteronomy chapter 10, verse 17; 1st Peter chapter 1, verse 17). In a broader sense, just decisions can only be made without regard to rank and name, origin and skin color, gender and religion.

Justitia's blindfold guarantees the highest possible objectivity, almost perfection. She protects the goddess herself from error and abuse, at least as long as she does not become operationally blind.

The power of the sword

The goal of law is peace, and the means, according to the famous German legal philosopher of the 19th century Rudolf Ihering, is struggle. Which symbol would be better suited as a symbolic weapon for obtaining and enforcing law than the sword, Justitia's most striking attribute? Either she holds it high, warning, threatening, ready to fight and at the same time preserving, protecting and commanding respect, like a dynamic promise to want to defend the law. Or the tip of the sword pointed statically on the ground testifies to your constant vigilance and readiness.

Whether blunt, sharp or double-edged: In any case, the sword expresses sovereign power and majesty. It has always been a symbol of material justice.

The portraits of medieval rulers tell of this and in Christianity such accentuations are unmistakable: Christ as the judge of the world, the archangel Michael, with his loving sword separating the good from the evil, the truth from the lie and the clarity from the confusion or the apostle Paul with the Sword as a reference to his martyrdom.

Sensitive balance through the scales

The fighting sword stands in a certain contrast to Justitia's sensitive scales. With their help, she determines the finest differences and finds out what needs to be treated equally and what must be treated differently.

It has a lot to weigh: the arguments of the parties to the dispute, the guilt of the accused and many other circumstances, such as discretionary considerations. The scales are the means of balance, the prerequisite for balance, reliability and legal certainty.

No other instrument is as sensitive as Justitia's scales. It runs the risk of producing inaccuracies and distortions, in the spirit of another important legal scholar of our time Fritz von Hippel: "In law, the scales of Justice appear in a trembling position of rest. Therefore, the weights of justice always need to be checked."

Justitia combines many opposites

Occasionally Justitia does not limit herself to her main characteristics: with an open book in her hand, she presents herself as a prime example of wisdom and self-control. Does she want to make sure that the law is observed before applying it? Or does it symbolize rather the source of the law flowing out of its hands, a claim to absoluteness that apostles, evangelists and religious founders like to make for the preaching of the faith?

The snake that winds at Justitia's feet in various representations alludes with its duplicity to Satan, poison and error as well as to the opposing properties of clarity, healing and knowledge. Justitia's foot on the reptile indicates two things: On the one hand, the relationship between the heavenly and the earthly, ephemeral and evil, and on the other hand, the final victory of the good over negative influences - just like the Archangel Michael triumphs over the infernal dragon with the flaming sword.

On superficial examination, the figure of Justitia and her accessories turns out to be as contradicting as it is universal. Only the deeper look unfolds a meaningful whole. Representations of Justitia can therefore be understood as food for thought, but also as a permanent reminder to continue striving for justice, even if this goal - like the Christian virtues of faith, love and hope - can hardly ever be achieved.

Whoever loses sight of these achievements endangers fair living conditions in general and human dignity in particular.

Dr. Dr. Frank Ebert is a ministerial advisor and representative of the public interest at the Thuringian Ministry of the Interior. He was a lecturer in criminology at the Federal University of Applied Sciences for Public Administration and head of the police department in the Thuringian Ministry of the Interior.