The rose is one of the most evocative flowers in all of nature, and as a result of this, many different people and groups have ascribed a wealth of different meanings to its enigmatic beauty.
The most common is the red rose as the symbol of love, with long-lasting roses symbolising a love that will never die nor fade away. However, this is far from the only symbol, and whilst many old banquet rooms, confessionals and other important meeting rooms have rose carvings, love is not what they symbolise.
The concept of sub rosa (or “under the rose”) as a symbol of secrecy dates back to Ancient Greek and Roman mythology through the stories of Harpocrates, the god of silence.
In this story, Eros (or Cupid in Roman mythology) was given a rose by Aphrodite/Venus, the goddess of love, lust and beauty. He gave the rose to Harpocrates as a gift to ensure he kept the secrets of the gods from ever coming out.
As a result, from the Middle Ages onwards, roses statues, facades and designs were commonly placed around the ceilings of guest rooms and later over the doorways of Catholic confessional booths.
In both cases, the symbolism is meant to remind the people in the room that any topics that are discussed within it are to remain confidential, albeit for somewhat opposite reasons.
For Catholic confessionals, it is about the Seal of Confession; an absolute duty of priests that they cannot disclose anything that they learn from people who confess their sins to them, even if that includes admissions of crimes that have been committed.
For banquet and meeting rooms the rose symbolises that any topics discussed would be kept in confidence, neither disclosed to others nor used to their benefit and enables a more open discussion of topics and opinions than would be possible were this veil of secrecy unavailable.