Saints, Signs, and Symbols: The Symbolic Language of Christian Art

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A dragon in Christian art represents sin and the sinful nature, and is also a common way of depicting the devil, especially in the context of devourer. A number of saints are depicted defeating or otherwise overcoming dragons. The dolphin is a very ancient Christian symbol, and is drawn from earlier Greek and Roman symbolism. The dolphin was traditionally regarded as a psychopomp, leading souls to safety, and in this sense came to represent the church as guide of souls into paradise.

The snake or serpent is the most unusual symbol, because it represents both good and evil, depending on context. As the serpent of Eden, often pictured with human face inevitably female , the serpent is the embodiment of Satan. In other contexts, the serpent symbolizes craftiness or even wisdom.

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The peacock is an ancient symbol of immortality. The phoenix has been a symbol of Christianity from the very first century, when it was used on jewelry, amulets, and inscribed on tombstones. As the phoenix was long rumored to continually renew itself through death and rebirth, it was a perfect emblem of the resurrection and the promise of eternal life.

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The dove is the traditional emblem of the Holy Spirit, and is mentioned numerous times in scripture. Because of this, the dove is used to represent grace and the seven gifts of the Holy spirit. The palm was in long use by the Romans as an emblem of victory before Christianization and carried over. The lily is a symbol of purity, chastity, and simplicity. As such, it is the emblem of the Virgin Mary, and often appears in scenes of the annunciation. The reed is one of the emblems of the Passion, the instrument by which the sponge soaked with vinegar was administered to Christ on the cross.

The reed is also an emblem of John the Baptist, an emblem of his baptismal ministry at the river Jordan. The olive is symbolic of fertility and abundance, of hope and new beginnings, and, of course, peace. The olive tree is mentioned numerous times in the old testament, as olives were a staple crop for the Hebrews.

Symbolic language (art)

The olive branch as a symbol of peace stems from the Old Testament story of Noah, who sent out a dove at the end of the great flood. The dove returned with an olive branch, which became a symbol of peace between God and man. The pomegranate is an ancient symbol of wisdom. In Christian art, it often represents the Church, the seeds within individual congregations. The rose is the ancient symbol of Venus, the Roman goddess of love.

In Christianity, the rose has a variety of meanings. A white rose is an emblem of purity; the red, martyrdom. A ring or garland of roses is the emblem of the Virgin Mary, and the basis of the rosary. A yellow rose is reserved as a symbol of papal benediction. See also: Rose of Venus.

Sacred Dress. The crown is the mark of royalty; it is a symbol of divinity. It is common to find crowns on saints.


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See also: crown of thorns and instruments of the passion. The mitre is the ancient liturgical headdress worn by Church officials from bishops up to the Pope. The shape of the miter is believed by some to be derived from the ceremonial dress of the highest initiate of Mithraism. The chasuble is the robe of the cleric, worn by priests, Bishops, Cardinals, etc. The color is determined by the season on the liturgical calendar- purple for Easter, etc. The tonsure is the haircut of the monastic, wherein the top of the head is shorn in mimicry of the crown of thorns.

The tonsure was most likely adopted from the customs of British Druids.

Sacred Objects. Parts of the Body. Do they mean anything? I am interested in what a symbol that looks like 2 padlocks nest to each other with the lower part striped means. Thank you. The royal color purple is a symbol of power, and often represents God. In other uses, it symbolizes repentance and sorrow, and is often used to represent the mourning for Christ crucified in the weeks leading up to Easter. The Lion is a traditional symbol of solar energy, and this symbolism carried into Christianity with its attributes intact. In some cases, the lion represents the Hebrew Tribe of Judah, in which case it is likely to carry a banner.

A winged lion tetramorph represents the Apostle Mark. The lion is frequently pictured alongside saints Anthony and Jerome. The Lamb most often represents Christ, symbolism drawn from numerous references in scripture. The Ape is a symbol of the lower nature of man, and represents lust, avarice, malice. Satan sometimes appears in the form of an ape. An ape in chains represents sin conquered. A dragon in Christian art represents sin and the sinful nature, and is also a common way of depicting the devil, especially in the context of devourer.

A number of saints are depicted defeating or otherwise overcoming dragons. The dolphin is a very ancient Christian symbol, and is drawn from earlier Greek and Roman symbolism.

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The dolphin was traditionally regarded as a psychopomp, leading souls to safety, and in this sense came to represent the church as guide of souls into paradise. The snake or serpent is the most unusual symbol, because it represents both good and evil, depending on context. As the serpent of Eden, often pictured with human face inevitably female , the serpent is the embodiment of Satan.

In other contexts, the serpent symbolizes craftiness or even wisdom. The peacock is an ancient symbol of immortality. The phoenix has been a symbol of Christianity from the very first century, when it was used on jewelry, amulets, and inscribed on tombstones. As the phoenix was long rumored to continually renew itself through death and rebirth, it was a perfect emblem of the resurrection and the promise of eternal life.

The dove is the traditional emblem of the Holy Spirit, and is mentioned numerous times in scripture. Because of this, the dove is used to represent grace and the seven gifts of the Holy spirit. The palm was in long use by the Romans as an emblem of victory before Christianization and carried over.

The lily is a symbol of purity, chastity, and simplicity. As such, it is the emblem of the Virgin Mary, and often appears in scenes of the annunciation. The reed is one of the emblems of the Passion, the instrument by which the sponge soaked with vinegar was administered to Christ on the cross. The reed is also an emblem of John the Baptist, an emblem of his baptismal ministry at the river Jordan. The olive is symbolic of fertility and abundance, of hope and new beginnings, and, of course, peace.

The olive tree is mentioned numerous times in the old testament, as olives were a staple crop for the Hebrews. The olive branch as a symbol of peace stems from the Old Testament story of Noah, who sent out a dove at the end of the great flood.

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Saints, Signs and Symbols : Hilarie Cornwell :

The dove returned with an olive branch, which became a symbol of peace between God and man. The pomegranate is an ancient symbol of wisdom.


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In Christian art, it often represents the Church, the seeds within individual congregations. The rose is the ancient symbol of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. In Christianity, the rose has a variety of meanings. A white rose is an emblem of purity; the red, martyrdom. A ring or garland of roses is the emblem of the Virgin Mary, and the basis of the rosary.

A yellow rose is reserved as a symbol of papal benediction. See also: Rose of Venus. Sacred Dress. The crown is the mark of royalty; it is a symbol of divinity. It is common to find crowns on saints.

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