The symbols of Saint Rose of Lima are a crown of thorns and roses, a needle and thimble, a spiked crown, an iron chain, and roses. The anchor and the holy infant also symbolize the saint. The needle and thimble are significant because Saint Rose worked as a lace maker to help support her family. She is also the patron saint of embroiderers and needle workers.
According to her biography, Saint Rose's original name was Isabella; however, as a child, people often called her Rose because of her great beauty. Her mother renamed her Rose, and the flower continues to symbolize the saint. Artists often portray Saint Rose in the religious habit of the Dominican order, holding the baby Jesus. In depictions of her, she often holds a bouquet of roses, which represent holiness and purity.
The anchor is a symbol of steadfast faith in the face of great suffering; the crown of thorns is another symbol of suffering. These symbols are reminders of Saint Rose's life of suffering, self-denial and penitent acts. In one story, Saint Rose was so afraid of her beauty becoming a distraction to others that she blistered her face with pepper. In another, she dreaded leading men into sin and lust and isolated herself from society. Saint Rose committed herself to a life of celibacy at an early age and spent her life serving the poor while living under austere conditions.
Saint Rose of Lima was the first canonized saint of the Western Hemisphere. For much of her life, she cared for the poor, for orphans and for the native population, which the Spanish colonial forces decimated. Saint Rose saw her suffering as a way to atone for the sins of the Spanish invaders.