Catholic missionaries connected certain aspects of the flower with Christian beliefs. Generally, various characteristics of the Passion Flower have been tied to the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ as well as the Passion of Christ. The latter association led the missionaries to name the flowers “Passion Flowers.”
A number of floral characteristics have been assigned with distinct symbolic traits. For example, the ten petals of the flower represent the ten apostles in Christianity excluding St. Peter and Judas. The vines of the plant symbolize the whips that were used during the flagellation of Christ. One of the major characteristics is the hundreds of filaments on the flower that symbolize the Crown of Thorns. The five anthers are associated with the five sacred wounds of Christ. The flower contains three stigmas that reflect the three nails that were used for Christ’s hands and feet during his Crucifixion. There is a floral component that resembles a chalice-like ovary that has been suggested to symbolize the Holy Grail. In terms of color symbolism, the flowers of Passion Vines are generally a blue and white color which can represent the heavens and purity.
The religious symbolism and associations that have been brought to attention once gave the missionaries faith and comfort for their efforts in spreading Christianity to the indigenous cultures of South America. The Jesuit Missionaries transported color drawings and dried version of the plant back to their country where a Spanish herbalist named Nicolas Monardes was the first to document the plant and write about the qualities of the flower, indicating that it is a powerful plant and that it carries a symbolic relationship with Christianity. In the New World, the Passion Flower became recognized as a mystical one with certain powers.