What does Viva La Vida mean?

Coldplay: Viva La Vida Meaning

Album cover for Viva La Vida album cover

Song Released: 2008

Covered By: Taylor Swift

Viva La Vida Lyrics

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
Now the old king is...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Nov 23rd 2008 !⃝

    A lot of people have interpreted the song as a portrait of King Louis XVI, etc. but I feel that the song's purpose is a lot more general than that.

    King Louis XVI was found guilty of treason, and ultimately beheaded. However, the song clearly states a transition from ruling to not ruling. He is still alive, and he is reflecting on his past. (now in the morning I sleep alone, sweep the streets I used to own.)

    So I will try to generally analyze this song as best as I can:

    "I used to rule the world
    Seas would rise when I gave the
    Now in the morning I sleep alone
    Sweep the streets I used to own"

    He was a ruler with immense command. Seas of people would rise at his command.
    This is contrasted with the fact that he has been displaced from ruling. (It's interesting that he sleeps in the morning.) Now he is a servant, or a beggar. "sweeping the streets."
    From riches to rags, from kingship to poverty.

    "I used to roll the dice
    Feel the fear in my enemy's eyes
    Listened as the crowd would sing
    Now the old king is dead long live the king"

    Rolling the dice means that he gambled with his power.
    He took risks. He became close to a tyrant, a crusader, and took over other kingdoms. He would replace other rulers, as a kind of expansionist/imperialist. "now the OLD king is dead, long live THE king."

    "One minute I held the key
    Next the walls were closed on me
    And I discovered that my castles stand
    Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand"

    Everything happened so fast, from one minute to another. When you are in power, you get caught up with your success, and time flies. In one instant he held the key. In fact, he held the key to many castles, many kingdoms, all these countries that he conquered, were under his power and domain.
    And in the next instant he lost EVERYTHING. The castles symbolize his power. Symbolically speaking, his power had a weak foundation, a weak base. What did he base his power upon? Himself. His castles stood upon pillars of SALT and SAND. They stood on weak foundation, just as he stood on a weak foundation.

    "I hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
    Roman cavalry choirs are singing
    Be my mirror my sword and shield
    Missionaries in a foreign field"

    It seems that he used religion as an excuse for conquest, as can be seen in these words:
    "Jerusalem bells, roman cavalry choirs."
    Be my mirror, sword, and shield: means basically:
    Represent my image, my power, and my strength.
    Missionaries, or crusaders, in the end they are conquering foreign countries.

    "For some reason I can't explain
    Once you'd gone there was never
    Never an honest word
    And that was when I ruled the world"

    Drunk with power, he lied. He never gave an honest word. He manipulated and used people for the sole end of increasing his territory and power.

    "It was a wicked and wild wind
    Blew down the doors to let me in
    Shattered windows and the sound of drums
    People couldn't believe what I'd become"

    He transitions from ruler to tyrant. And the people realize what he has become. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    "Revolutionaries wait
    For my head on a silver plate
    Just a puppet on a lonely string
    Oh who would ever want to be king?"

    In the end he laments being King. Sure he had power, but the truth is, he is at the mercy of the people. There is a price on his head, and he realizes he is a puppet, on a string controlled by others.

    (Repeats Stanza)
    "For some reason I can't explain
    I know St Peter won't call my name"

    He fought in the name of Christianity, but he knows that he will not be able to enter into the promised land. His intentions were deceptive. Remember, never an honest word.

    "Never an honest word
    But that was when I ruled the world"

    Reiterating that he has lost his power.

    Hear Jerusalem bells a-ringing
    Roman cavalry choirs are singing
    Be my mirror my sword and shield
    My missionaries in a foreign field
    For some reason I can’t explain
    I know St Peter won’t call my name
    Never an honest word
    But that was when I ruled the world

    Theme: Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Chris Martin has explained the song lyric "I know Saint Peter won't call my name" in an interview with Q magazine: "It's about ... You're not on the list. I was a naughty boy.
    When asked about the song, bass guitarist Guy Berryman said, "It’s a story about a king who’s lost his kingdom, and all the album’s artwork is based on the idea of revolutionaries and guerrillas."
    Viva La Vida, in Spanish translates to "long live life."

    This song has many important implications, and VERY relevant to our times.

    We should always be suspicious of people in power, who seem to fight under the banner of religion, freedom, etc. Because in the end they are just merely people, and are subject to corruption, just like anybody else.
    Ultimately, people in power will become corrupted. It is human nature.

    This is relevant in terms of history. Think about the crusades. The Holy War. The American Revolution. The French Revolution. Spanish Conquistadores. Rulers at first, come with good intentions, but over the course of time, they seek power.
    Right now, the U.S. Is involved in the Middle East. What did we first come for? Weapons of Mass Destruction. We toppled Saddam, but we still haven't found any WMD's.
    What about 9/11? Remember, Al Qaeda in Afghanistan attacked us in 9/11. So why are we now in Iraq, and not Afghanistan??
    We still haven't captured Osama bin Laden, and we are stuck with Iraq, and we are in power, and people are such a BURDEN. We think we are in power, but the truth is that in the end we have to appease the IRaqi people. They were a sovereign nation, and in a way, right now, they are "the white man's burden."

    History is an endless waltz.
    Fated to repeat itself.

    -What do you guys think?


    #2 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Oct 22nd 2012 !⃝

    I really have been taken by the song...it simply captures life. I was not the artist that wrote the words and do not feel I am intimate enough with him to interpret it and read the his mind mind concerning the reasoning behind it.

    This is an easy song to place yourself into. There are times in most folks's life when one feels on top of the world and then something sobering occurs to topple us from those uplifting times.

    It doesn't matter who you are, a president...a CEO...a 20 year old who is invulnerable and finds out it isn't true...a loving mother who looses a child and becomes bitter...one who has benefited from not what you know but who you know...someone who in their own eyes have done much less than they knew they could and/or should. At times like this some may feel that they would not be accepted into heaven because they themselves have doubts. I certainly have felt this way...

    I have felt on top of the world a few times in my life...It is a sweet and powerful aphrodisiac...and dangerous if not understood and controlled. However, time has a way of bringing reality to one's life.

    Songs that invite so much participation and thought such as this are inspiring...and good for us.


    #3 top rated interpretation:
    click a star to vote
    Jun 16th 2008 !⃝

    Yes Cavalry and Calvary sound similar in English, but they are entirely different things. Cavalry is an ancient equine (horses) military force, and the other is a location where Jesus died. I don't think that Cavalry is a typographical error on the artist part.

    I only write this comment, because history is SO interesting and worth investigating, and Jesus more so!

    King Louis XVI and the French revolution...

    1.The album cover is a famous piece of art depicting the French revolution. I believe it's title is The French Revolution.
    Google Images: French Revolution Painting

    2. King Louis XVI was beheaded, by a group of people called the Revolutionaries. (..."Revolutionaries wait for my head on a silver plate"...)
    Google: King Louis XVI Revolutionaries

    3. King LouisXVI called out to God to be his judge and guide in the time of his dethroning and ultimate execution. (..."Be me mirror, my sword and shield"... a biblical reference to God's Word)
    Google: King Louis XVI Last Address or Last Testament

    4. The French revolution is known for it's attack on Christianity and it's attempt at the de-christianization of France, but many missionaries left France to take Christianity to the world. (...'"my missionaries in a foreign field"...) Google: French Revolution Dechristianization
    Google: French Missionaries.

    5. Louis XVI claimed in his final address that he was being killed for unjust, untrue reasons, or at best misunderstood reasons. (..."never an honest word, but that was when I ruled the world"...)
    Google: King Louis XVI Last Address or Last Testament

    6. In the song, the steady heavy drum beat that never changes it's tone or rhythm MIGHT be a brilliant final touch... because as Louis XVI was giving his final word, he was eventually drowned out by the steady heavy drum beat of the executioner, and he was beheaded.
    Google: Louis XVI death drum beat

    But as for Jesus...

    Some of the obvious differences to this song and Jesus
    1. Jesus has NEVER 'rolled the dice' with His ministry on earth, or Heaven or anywhere else. He was very intentional in His ministry and His goals, He always knew He was going to the Cross. Chance or luck (or lack of luck) had nothing to do with Jesus ministry, death or resurrection.

    2. Jesus' castles NEVER were built on pillars of salt and sand. Jesus Himself said the foolish man built his house on the sand (symbolic of a life on sin, foolishness and pride, which can never be a firm foundation, which is Jesus Himself).

    3. When Jesus rules only honest words are spoken, the song says "never and honest word when I ruled the world" .

    4. Jesus is NEVER kept out of Heaven because St. Peter won't call His name (ludicrous).

    Well, enough history for this song. It is such a great song, easy to listen to many time over!

  4. Great_Briton
    click a star to vote
    Oct 9th 2023 !⃝

    A lot of the song has been well interpreted already especially by the one currently numbered #1 so I only want to highlight an aspect that makes sense to me as well as ties the Biblical references together (see end).

    It is as though the king was once godly, but was tempted, like Solomon, into falling back into sinfulness and losing the Spirit of God who was once with him.
    This comes through most clearly if you see the chorus as a vision of the crucifixion:

    I hear Jerusalem bells are ringin' - the king hears the Jerusalem bells ringing, this was the night before the Passover, they may have rung for this and/or the crucfixion
    Roman cavalry choirs are singin' - now here you can go two ways with this line but I think it is two lines crammed together to fit with the music, rather than expressing the strange concept of a 'Roman cavalry choir', so I get: - (the king continues to hear) Roman cavalry, and a heavenly choir singing
    Be my mirror, my sword and shield
    My missionaries in a foreign field - (the king continues to hear) someone saying "be my mirror, my sword and shield, my missionaries..." - this is like Jesus telling his disciples to reflect him, speak the word (the sword of God), defend his name, be his missionaries, as if he was speaking from the cross
    For some reason I can't explain
    Once you'd gone, there was never
    Never an honest word - it is never hinted at by the song who is referred to by "you", but if the king had lost the presence of the Spirit of God due to his worldliness he would certainly have found no honest words any more, so this line could be the king lamenting to the Spirit of God.
    And that was when I ruled the world

    The 2nd version of the chorus has
    I know Saint Peter won't call my name - which again fits with someone who has fallen away from the faith

    Biblical references:
    Seas would rise when I gave the word - Jesus and Satan can both make the sea stormy. The disciples of Jesus can also.
    And I discovered that my castles stand - Jesus spoke of a man not following His words as building his house upon the sand
    Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand - Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back at Sodom
    I hear Jerusalem bells are ringin' - God's capital city
    Be my mirror, my sword and shield - the Apostle Paul refers to the Bible as a mirror for us to see ourselves in; and Jesus is the express image (or reflection) of God
    - Psalms speak of God being our sword and shield
    My missionaries in a foreign field - Jesus send out his disciples
    For my head on a silver plate - John the Baptist had his head presented on a silver plate
    I know Saint Peter won't call my name - traditionally some people believe St Peter will welcome us at heaven's gate

  5. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Apr 3rd 2020 !⃝

    Every time I read the bible @ Matthew 26, Mark 14, Luke 22 and john 18 the song just plays back in my mind. I would honestly love to know what was in the song writer's mind when he/she wrote the song. The outlined books tells the the first explanation of the song from where it all started though in the song it all mixed up and the following chapters of the same books concludes the song as they outlines the crucifixion and the moment where Jesus was taken by the cloud to be at his father's throne on his right hand as the king of all that turns away from their sinful nature as when the word is preached unto them

  6. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Sep 6th 2019 !⃝

    I love the song, and music. I always felt it was written about a person being double-crossed by his people. He has lost control of his world and his life. He compares his events with what happened to King Louis

  7. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Aug 25th 2019 !⃝

    I see duel interpretations. The first is historic, as in kings' and others' use of religion and/or violent force for power. But, more heartbreakingly, it is the loss of promise when someone, especially our youth, starts out into the world with dreams of success (armed with intelligence and hopes for the future) and falls prey to drugs or some other forces that bring them tragically down. It isn't just the loss of one person's future. It is a generational loss, which we are experiencing now. The song is a supreme and well-painted picture of what is taking place in our current world.

  8. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Aug 18th 2018 !⃝

    Napoléon was effectively improsone on the. Mid Atlantic Island of Saint Helena in a small village there. He very well might have had to sweep the streets there, but I think the song is about anyone in a similar situation of having been high and then brought low.

  9. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jul 28th 2018 !⃝

    I think this song is about a (former) king who was alive for a very long time (maybe he was immortal, even!) and had a successful life. he were prestigious and intimidating to foes and was quite powerful.

    Eventually his kingdom ends up crumbling for one reason or another, possibly due to a loss in his life or due to the fact that "never an honest word" implies that he lied about things. The line before it, "once you go" furhter solidifies the fact that the person singing may have lost someone important to him.

    "I know St. Peter won't call my name" probably has to do with the fact he feels ashamed of himself and won't get into heaven because of it, because St. Peter is the supposed "gatekeeper" of heaven.

    Those are my thoguhts! <3

  10. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jun 13th 2018 !⃝

    I know this one has been beat to death over the years, but I have a very different view.

    This song was released in 2008. Who in 2008 ruled the world, but would soon learn that everything he had done would be undone? Who had started a war in far off fields? Specifically in the middle east? Who did many want his head (figuratively) on a silver plate?

    Most pop music is written about current events, and I have always believed this was talking current events as well. Everything in this song lines up with Bush as well as any other historic leader and if you're writing about current events in a pop song it makes far more sense.

  11. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jun 8th 2018 !⃝

    King Herod and John the Baptist
    Mark 6:24-26

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  12. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jan 3rd 2018 !⃝

    I think the meaning given is closer to actual history than most people would like to think, only because we never bothered to look.

    Watch this video and see if you agree.


  13. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jul 20th 2017 !⃝

    This is a brilliant song about Napoleon and his fall from power.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  14. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Apr 7th 2017 !⃝

    Meaning: Nice job. Very good interp. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    I was going to type out something similar... but, you did it so much better, now I need not break my nails ( j/k ) very nice
    ( and thorough ) work!

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  15. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Feb 25th 2016 !⃝

    Absolutely loved this song.. but then, as we are all proving here, personal interpretation is everything!!.. My own interpretation of this song's lyrics are thus.. initially, yes, the words (of the verses) can be taken at face value.. that of someone whom has fallen from a lofty position.. and also that the [the person] had recognised, maybe all along, the precariousness of the position and also all the pressure that such power brings.. '.. pillars of salt, and pillars of sand... Just a puppet on a lonely string.. (oh who would ever want to be king?).. held the key, next the walls were closed on me etc'.. (powerful stuff as even my dad said!!).. but, for me, more tellingly, the chorus tells us of a higher calling, of possible redemption, and even of someone (or maybe purely of new-found faith!) to help him see his new 'way' through.. 'I hear [Jeruslaem Bells..].. I hear [Roman cavalry choirs..].. Be my mirror, my sword and shield.. my missionaries in a foreign field..'.. This, even though, he realises he simply isn't likely to get a call from Saint Peter!! (and, earlier, first chorus, that once his partner, or faith, had left him, there really was 'Never an honest word'.. but that, of course, 'was when I [he] ruled the world'!!!.. like I say, my interpretation, and an amazingly heartfelt song, which despite the lack of orchestral accompaniment, I now cannot stop playing and singing on my ukulele!!!

  16. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Nov 9th 2015 !⃝

    So in my mind the interpretations I see are all wrong. For some reason everyone is interpretating it literally. Most artist write songs that tell their story or something that has happened to them or someone they know. There is usually deeply powerful sentiments written into the song. I feel like it is really talking about a rise to fame in music or Hollywood and then a loss of that fame. All the imagery used is representative of other things. Try interpretating it in that light.

  17. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Sep 27th 2015 !⃝

    Yay to blife that you should be glad your alive another day

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  18. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jun 10th 2015 !⃝

    Love this song! Funny but great energy for such a subject. These interpretations are brilliant and I am hesitating to put my own on here. Here goes- Lucifer. think that some of the lyrics reference religion and an almost unearthly power. "Seas would rise when I gave the word". Did he mean literally? Only a person with supernatural ability to control the elements could do that. Also he sleeps alone because he is atoning now for his sins, sweeping the streets, no power.

    Jerusalem bells are ringing because in the land where Jesus lived, there is celebration at his atonement and loss of power. Also Roman choirs are singing, because the seat of the Catholic church in Rome is happy at this. Does that make sense?

    Also "never an honest word, BUT that was when I ruled the world" sounds like okay he was never honest but that was then. Now he is different.

‹ prev 123456789

More Coldplay songs »


Latest Articles


Submit Your Interpretation

[ want a different song? ]

Just Posted

If You Want Love anonymous
ROCKSTAR anonymous
You Raise Me Up anonymous
25 Minutes Ayam
Green-Eyed Lady anonymous
Nine Ball anonymous
Slippery anonymous
This Is Not An Exit anonymous
Call It What You Want anonymous
Again anonymous
Girl Crush anonymous
Trouble is a Friend anonymous
Bird Song anonymous
Million Dollar Man anonymous
Self Care anonymous

(We won't give out your email)