Eye of Providence

The Eye of Providence (or the all-seeing eye of God) is a symbol, having its origin in Christian iconography, showing an eye often surrounded by rays of light or a glory and usually enclosed by a triangle. It represents the eye of God watching over humanity (the concept of divine providence).[1][2][3] In the modern era, a notable depiction of the eye is the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, which appears on the United States one-dollar bill.

United States

In 1782, the Eye of Providence was adopted as part of the symbolism on the reverse side of the Great Seal of the United States. It was first suggested as an element of the Great Seal by the first of three design committees in 1776 and is thought to be the suggestion of the artistic consultant, Pierre Eugene du Simitiere.[4]

In his original proposal to the committee, Du Simitiere placed the Eye over shields symbolizing each of the original thirteen states of the Union. On the version of the seal that was eventually approved, the Eye is positioned above an unfinished pyramid of thirteen steps (again symbolizing the original States, but incorporating the nation's potential for future growth). The symbolism is explained by the motto that appears above the Eye: Annuit Cœptis, meaning "He approves [our] undertakings" (or "has approved").[5]

Perhaps due to its use in the design of the Great Seal, the Eye has made its way into other American seals and logos, for example: the Seal of Colorado and DARPA's Information Awareness Office.


The Eye of Providence was part of the flag and coat of arms adopted by the Confederation of the Equator, a short lived 1824 secessionist revolt in the Northeastern provinces of Brazil.


Today the Eye of Providence is often associated with Freemasonry, although it is originally a Christian symbol.[6] In Freemasonry it is frequently shown with a cloud rather than a trinitarian triangle. The Eye first appeared as part of the standard iconography of the Freemasons in 1797, with the publication of Thomas Smith Webb's Freemasons Monitor.[7] Here, it represents the all-seeing eye of God and is a reminder that humanity's thoughts and deeds are always observed by God (who is referred to in Masonry as the Great Architect of the Universe). Typically, the Masonic Eye of Providence has a semi-circular glory below it. Sometimes this Masonic Eye is enclosed by a triangle.

Popular among conspiracy theorists is the claim that the Eye of Providence shown atop an unfinished pyramid on the Great Seal of the United States indicates the influence of Freemasonry in the founding of the United States. However, common Masonic use of the Eye dates to 14 years after the creation of the Great Seal. Furthermore, among the members of the various design committees for the Great Seal, only Benjamin Franklin was a Mason (and his ideas for the seal were not adopted). Various Masonic organizations have explicitly denied any connection to the creation of the Seal.[8][9]

Religious use

The association of an eye with the concept of Divine Providence did not emerge until well into the Christian era. In Renaissance European iconography the eye surrounded by a triangle was an explicit image of the Christian Trinity. Seventeenth-century depictions of the Eye of Providence sometimes show it surrounded by clouds or sunbursts.[10] The Eye of God in a triangle is still used in church architecture and Christian art to symbolise the Trinity and God's omnipresence and divine Providence.

Other uses

Coats of arms and seals

The Eye of Providence also appears on many other coats of arms and official seals, such as:


The Eye appears on the following currency:



See also


  1. "The eye as a Christian symbol". catholic-saints.com.
  2. "The Eye as a religious symbol". Religiousfacts.com.
  3. "Freemasonry and the All-seeing Eye". Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon.
  4. The Great Seal of the United States booklet, published by US Dept. of State
  5. Greatseal.com: America's Number On the Great Seal
  6. The eye as a catholic symbol, at www.catholic saints.info
  7. S. Brent Morris, "The Eye in the Pyramid," from the Short Talk Bulletin of the Masonic Service Association of the United States. Last revised: 01/13/2010 22:34:20. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  8. "Anti-masonry Frequently Asked Questions". Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon.
  9. Barrett, David, W.Bro. "The "Masonic" One Dollar: Fact or Fiction?". Pietre-Stones Review of Freemasonry.
  10. Potts, Albert M. (1982). The World's Eye. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 68–78. ISBN 978-0-8131-3130-6.
  11. Lost & Found: The Nova Constellatio Set, retrieved 2019-08-09
  12. "Constellatio Nova Coppers - Introduction". coins.nd.edu. Retrieved 2019-08-09.
  13. "Immunis Columbia Copper (backdated) 1787: Introduction". coins.nd.edu. Retrieved 2019-08-09.
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