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History and meaning of the YMCA Triangle

To better understand the history and meaning of the YMCA logo, one is advised to understand the history and mission of the movement.


The YMCA was founded by Sir George Williams, born on a farm in southern England in 1821. He grew up in a religious family. However, in his youth when he moved to the city, he felt he was losing his faith. During this time he met other young people who encouraged him to do good through the example of Jesus Christ. On June 4(6), 1844, twelve men, led by George Williams, founded the Young Men's Christian Association and thus the YMCA was born.


The Original Mission


"The Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) unites young men, who have faith in Jesus Christ and in God, according to the Holy Scriptures. These desire to be His disciples in faith and in their lives, uniting wills to expand His kingdom among young people."


The YMCA grew exponentially between 1844 and 1855, spreading to the United States, Switzerland, France, Canada, Germany, and Holland. In 1855, the first conference in Paris brought together representatives from six countries.


The letter known as the Paris Basis was written, reaffirming the original mission, with a special focus on unity among the disciples. To reinforce this point at the end of the letter the following was highlighted:


"Any differences of opinion, while they may be important to the individual, should not have a negative influence on the relationship of the constituent and associate members of the World Alliance." This sentence was intended to reinforce verse 17:21 John.


1881 - The First Official Logo

It was at the ninth World Alliance Council that the first insignia was presented, 37 years after the founding and 26 years after the first World Alliance Council. This version is still used today with slight changes.


This emblem was thought out with extreme care so that it would identify and symbolize the meaning and purpose of the YMCAs.



The first logo is described as follows:


" What the emblem means

  • The Five Parts of the Globe - The names of 5 continents are depicted in a circle separated by cartouches which, contain the monogram with the name of the association in different languages.

  • The Circle - The circle refers to the fact that the dispersion between associations forms a single body.

  • The X (Chi) and P (Rho) - The larger monogram is the name of Christ (they are the initials of his name in Greek). Letters painted by Christians in various catacombs. The letters highlighted in the center serve to remind all associations, the true reason for the union, the supreme object, its strength, its cause and purpose.

  • The rays of light - symbolize the Holy Spirit.

  • The Bible - Above the symbol of Christ the Bible, because John (disciple) declares that the Divine word is the means by which, young people will conquer the world and in this way (drawing of the Bible) is the unmistakable mark of the Reformation.

  • Passage from John 17:21 - The Bible is open on the page that recalls John's 17:21 prayer which notes that: "all may be one."


"This emblem is not arbitrary or something done by eye; it is loaded with symbolism, and expresses simply and clearly what is precious to all associations."

"Minute of the Ninth Council of the World Alliance of YMCAs, 1881."


1891 - The Spirit-Mind-Body Triangle


The Spirit-Mind-Body TriangleIn 1891, 10 years after the first logo was defined, Luther Gulick presented in a talk the Spirit-Mind-Body Triangle that represents the three natures of the human being that are emphasized in the Bible. The triangle appears during a rehearsal for a presentation about the Spirit-Mind-Body balance. His explanation was such a hit with the YMCA that they began to advocate that our cause was the development of people in the Spirit-Mind-Body triad.


After some reflection, Luther Gulick describes the triangle as follows:


"First. The triangle is not seen as the set of 3 separate lines. It is 3 joined sides of the same line enclosed in a triangular shape, which differs absolutely and radically from any one side. The individual, is not just body, and mind, and spirit, but the wonderful result of their union, something entirely different from any aspect of himself.


Second. The triangle does not represent a symmetrical body, a symmetrical mind, a symmetrical character, but represents the need for us to orient a symmetrical (balanced) man, Each part of the human being is developed with reference to the whole/hole at the center of the triangle, and not just with a reference in itself.


"Man who only gives his time and attention to physical education is violating the ideal of the triangle, no less so is intellectual or spiritual investment. Each part must be developed with reference to its space within the triangle. Each of the three is absolutely essential, even though different value may be assigned to each. Character is more important than intelligence, and intelligence, more important than merely physical excellence."


“Que autoridade temos nós para acreditar que o triângulo é uma ideia válida? Está nas escrituras.”


  • "You shall therefore love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength - Deuteronomy 6:5"

  • "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'Love your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27"

Luther Gullick, 1891


1895 - The Fusion of Logos


It was developed to be the logo of the YMCA USA, for this reason the continents were removed from the ring. The ring has the same meaning as a wedding ring.



1896 - John 17:21 Logo


It is to this day considered the official emblem in the USA. A second ring was added under the name of Christ, representing all of God's creation has a purpose. So the two rings together are the basis of the Christian principles of solidarity and respect for all people, because they are created in God's image, even if they choose not to follow him.


1897 - YMCA Logo Publicly Released

1896. This is the first logo for public use that uses the acronym YMCA in the logo itself. This logo incorporates the triangle in red (without the spirit-mind-body spelling). The choice of red is solely due to the ease of detecting the logo on the facade of buildings. This logo does not replace the official logo created one year earlier.


1967 - The Y Logo

It comes 70 years after the first public logo (for commercial purposes). This is still the most recognized logo worldwide. Today there are several locally developed logos. However, the use of the triangle and the Y represent the YMCA.



There are several interpretations for the YMCA logo. But in reality its creation and evolution is documented and grounded for all its symbolism.


The logo (commercial), comes from a rehearsal for an internal presentation about the work the YMCA does for the development of individuals. The color was chosen because it is easy to identify from afar. Today in the US and UK red has disappeared, the same cannot happen with the triangle.





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