Christian symbolism

Christian symbolism is the use of symbols, including archetypes, acts, artwork or events, by Christianity. It invests objects or actions with an inner meaning expressing Christian ideas.

The symbolism of the early Church was characterized by being understood by initiates only,[1] while after the legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire during the 4th-century more recognizable symbols entered in use. Christianity has borrowed from the common stock of significant symbols known to most periods and to all regions of the world.[2]

Christianity has not generally practiced Aniconism, or the avoidance or prohibition of types of images, even if the early Jewish Christians sects, as well as some modern denominations, preferred to some extent not to use figures in their symbols, by invoking the Decalogue's prohibition of idolatry.

Early Christian symbols

Cross and crucifix Christian cross.svg Greek cross.svg

Gerokreuz full 20050903
The Crucifix, a cross with corpus, a symbol used in the Catholic Church, Lutheranism, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and Anglicanism, in contrast with some other Protestant denominations, which use only a bare cross.
Solidus-Leontinus-sb1330
Early use of a globus cruciger on a solidus minted by Leontios (r. 695–698); on the obverse, a stepped cross in the shape of a Iota Eta monogram.

The shape of the cross, as represented by the letter T, came to be used as a "seal" or symbol of Early Christianity by the 2nd century.[3] At the end of the 2nd century, it is mentioned in the Octavius of Minucius Felix, rejecting the claim by detractors that Christians worship the cross.[4] The cross (crucifix, Greek stauros) in this period was represented by the letter T. Clement of Alexandria in the early 3rd century calls it τὸ κυριακὸν σημεῖον ("the Lord's sign") he repeats the idea, current as early as the Epistle of Barnabas, that the number 318 (in Greek numerals, ΤΙΗ) in Genesis 14:14 was a foreshadowing (a "type") of the cross (T, an upright with crossbar, standing for 300) and of Jesus (ΙΗ, the first two letters of his name ΙΗΣΟΥΣ, standing for 18).[5]

Clement's contemporary Tertullian also rejects the accusation that Christians are crucis religiosi (i.e. "adorers of the gibbet"), and returns the accusation by likening the worship of pagan idols to the worship of poles or stakes.[6] In his book De Corona, written in 204, Tertullian tells how it was already a tradition for Christians to trace repeatedly on their foreheads the sign of the cross.[7]

While early Christians used the T-shape to represent the cross in writing and gesture, the use of the Greek cross and Latin cross, i.e. crosses with intersecting beams, appears in Christian art towards the end of Late Antiquity. An early example of the cruciform halo, used to identify Christ in paintings, is found in the Miracles of the Loaves and Fishes mosaic of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna (dated c. 504).

Celtic cross in Autumn
20th-21st century Celtic cross with inscribed symbolism

Instances of the St Thomas cross, a Greek cross with clover leaf edges, popular in southern India,[8] date to about the 6th century.

The Patriarchal cross, a Latin cross with an additional horizontal bar, first appears in the 10th century.

The Celtic cross, now often characterized by the presence of the outline of a circle upon which a cross, stylized in a pre-Medieval Celtic fashion, appears superimposed. The Celtic cross bears strong resemblance to the Christian cross; however, the Celtic cross motif predates Christianity by at least 3,000 years. It appears in the form of heavily sculpted, vertically oriented, ancient monoliths which survive in the present day, in various locations on the island of Ireland. A few of the ancient monuments were evidently relocated to stand in some of Ireland's earliest churchyards, probably between 400 CE and 600 CE, as Christianity was popularized throughout much of the island. The heavily-worn stone sculptures likely owe their continued survival to their sheer size and solid rock construction, which coordinate in scale, and in composition, with Ireland's ancient megalith arrangements.

Unlike the Christian cross iconography associated with the shape of a crucifix (commonly used for torture and execution of criminals and captured enemy prisoners-of-war, by the pre-Christian Roman Empire), the Celtic cross' design origins are not clear. The Celtic cross has nevertheless been repeated in statuary, as a dominant feature of the anthropogenic Irish landscape, for at least 5,000 years. The Celtic cross and the Christian cross are similar enough in shape, that the former was easily adopted by Irish Catholic culture, following the Christianization of Ireland. The Celtic cross is accurately described as an ancient symbol of cultural significance in pre-Christian, Druidic Ireland. It also is used as a symbolic icon of the interpretation of Christianity, unique to Irish culture in that pre-Christian Celtic tradition and Irish Druidic iconography are hybridized with Christian traditions and iconography (much like the Shamrock; a low-growing, daintily foliaged, dense ground cover plant, which is held as a timeless symbol of Ireland itself; and, which is also symbolic on Ireland, of the Christian Holy Trinity, due to the Shamrock's typical trifoliar leaf structure).

Although the cross was used as a symbol by early Christians, the crucifix, i.e. depictions of the crucifixion scene, were rare prior to the 5th century; some engraved gems thought to be 2nd or 3rd century have survived, but the subject does not appear in the art of the Catacombs of Rome.[9] The purported discovery of the True Cross by Constantine's mother, Helena, and the development of Golgotha as a site for pilgrimage led to a change of attitude. It was probably in Palestine that the image developed, and many of the earliest depictions are on the Monza ampullae, small metal flasks for holy oil, that were pilgrim's souvenirs from the Holy Land, as well as 5th century ivory reliefs from Italy.[10]

In the early medieval period, the plain cross became depicted as the crux gemmata, covered with jewels, as many real early medieval processional crosses in goldsmith work were. The first depictions of crucifixion displaying suffering are believed to have arisen in Byzantine art,[11] where the "S"-shaped slumped body type was developed. Early Western examples include the Gero Cross and the reverse of the Cross of Lothair, both from the end of the 10th century.

Marie-Madeleine Davy (1977) described in great detail Romanesque Symbolism as it developed in the Middle Ages in Western Europe.[12]

Ichthys Ichthus.svg

Ephesus IchthysCrop
An Ichthys from ancient Ephesus

Among the symbols employed by the early Christians, that of the fish seems to have ranked first in importance. Its popularity among Christians was due principally to the famous acrostic consisting of the initial letters of five Greek words forming the word for fish (Ichthus), which words briefly but clearly described the character of Christ and the claim to worship of believers: "ησοῦς Χριστὸς Θεοῦ Υἱὸς Σωτήρ", (Iēsous Christos Theou Huios Sōtēr), meaning, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.[13] This explanation is given among others by Augustine in his Civitate Dei,[14] where he also notes that the generating sentence "Ίησοῦς Χρειστὸς [sic] Θεοῦ Υἱὸς Σωτήρ" has 27 letters, i.e. 3 x 3 x 3, which in that age indicated power.

Alpha and Omega Uppercase Alpha and Omega in Times New Roman.svg

Christ with beard
Jesus depicted with the alpha and omega letters in the catacombs of Rome from the 4th century

The use since the earliest Christianity of the first and the last letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha (α or Α) and omega (ω or Ω), derives from the statement said by Jesus (or God) himself "I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (Revelation 22:13, also 1:8 and 21:6).

Staurogram Staurogram.svg

P. Bodmer XIV-XV, staurogram
A staurogram used as τρ-ligature part of the spelling of the word σταυρον (as ϲ(τρ)ον) in Luke 14:27 (Papyrus Bodmer XIV-XV, 2nd century)

The Staurogram ⳨ (from the Greek σταυρός, i.e. cross), also Monogrammatic Cross or Tau-Rho symbol, is composed by a tau (Τ) superimposed on a rho (Ρ). The Staurogram was first used to abbreviate the Greek word for cross in very early New Testament manuscripts such as P66, P45 and P75, almost like a nomen sacrum, and may visually have represented Jesus on the cross.[15]

Ephrem the Syrian in the 4th-century explained these two united letters stating that the tau refers to the cross, and the rho refers to the Greek word "help" (Βoήθια [sic]; proper spelling: Βoήθεια) which has the numerological value in Greek of 100 as the letter rho has. In such a way the symbol expresses the idea that the Cross saves.[15] The two letters tau and rho can also be found separately as symbols on early Christian ossuaries.[16]

The Monogrammatic Cross was later seen also as a variation of the Chi Rho symbol, and it spread over Western Europe in the 5th and 6th centuries.[17]

Chi Rho Simple Labarum.svg

Rom, Calixtus-Katakomben, Steintafel mit Christussymbol "Chi Rho"
The Chi-Rho symbol , Catacombs of San Callisto, Rome

The Chi Rho is formed by superimposing the first two (capital) letters chi and rho (ΧΡ) of the Greek word "ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ" =Christ in such a way to produce the monogram. Widespread in ancient Christianity, it was the symbol used by the Roman emperor Constantine I as vexillum (named Labarum).

IH Monogram IH Monogram with iota and eta superimposed.jpg

The first two letters of the name of Jesus in Greek, iota (Ι) and eta (Η), sometime superimposed one on the other, or the numeric value 18 of ΙΗ in Greek, was a well known and very early way to represent Christ.[18] This symbol was already explained in the Epistle of Barnabas and by Clement of Alexandria.[5] For other christograms such as IHS, see Article Christogram.

IX Monogram IX Monogram.png

Chrisme Constantinople
A IX Monogram from a 4th century Sarcophagus from Constantinople

An early form of the monogram of Christ, found in early Christian ossuaries in Palestinia, was formed by superimposing the first (capital) letters of the Greek words for Jesus and Christ, i.e. iota Ι and chi Χ, so that this monogram means "Jesus Christ".[16]:166 Another more complicated explanation of this monogram was given by Irenaeus[19] and Pachomius: because the numeric value of iota is 10 and the chi is the initial of the word "Christ" (Greek: ΧΡΕΙΣΤΟΣ [sic]; proper spelling: ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ) which has 8 letters, these early fathers calculate 888 ((10*8)*10)+((10*8)+8) which was a number already known to represent Jesus, being the sum of the value of the letters of the name "Jesus" (ΙΗΣΟΥΣ) (10+8+200+70+400+200).[16]:169–170

Other Christian symbols

The Good Shepherd

Good shepherd 02b close
A 3rd-century painting of the Good Shepherd in the Catacomb of Callixtus.

The image of the Good Shepherd, often with a sheep on his shoulders, is the most common of the symbolic representations of Christ found in the Catacombs of Rome, and it is related to the Parable of the Lost Sheep. Initially it was also understood as a symbol like others used in Early Christian art. By about the 5th century the figure more often took on the appearance of the conventional depiction of Christ, as it had developed by this time, and was given a halo and rich robes.

Dove

Rom, Domitilla-Katakomben, Steintafel mit Taube und Ölzweig
A dove with an olive branch, Catacombs of Domitilla, Rome

The dove as a Christian symbol is of very frequent occurrence in ancient ecclesiastical art.[20] According to Matthew 3:16, during the Baptism of Jesus the Holy Spirit descended like a dove and came to rest on Jesus. For this reason the dove became a symbol of the Holy Spirit and in general it occurs frequently in connection with early representations of baptism. It signifies also the Christian soul, not the human soul as such, but as indwelt by the Holy Spirit; especially, therefore, as freed from the toils of the flesh and entered into rest and glory.[2] The Peristerium or Eucharistic dove was often used in the past, and sometime still used in Eastern Christianity, as Church tabernacle.

However the more ancient explanation of the dove as a Christian symbol refers to it as a symbol of Christ: Irenaeus[21] in the 2nd century explains that the number 801 is both the numerological value of the sum in Greek of the letters of the word "dove" (Greek: περιστερά) and the sum of the values of the letters Alpha and Omega, which refers to Christ. In the Bible story of Noah and the Flood, after the flood a dove returns to Noah bringing an olive branch as a sign that the water had receded, and this scene recalled to the Church Fathers Christ who brings salvation through the cross. This biblical scene led to interpreting the dove also as a symbol of peace.

Peacock

Langobardic - Ciborium Fragment - Walters 27563
Two peacocks, symbolizing paradise and immortality, on a fragment from an eighth century ciborium from a church in Italy

Ancient Greeks believed that the flesh of peafowl did not decay after death, and so it became a symbol of immortality. This symbolism was adopted by early Christianity, and thus many early Christian paintings and mosaics show the peacock. The peacock is still used in the Easter season especially in the east.[22] The "eyes" in the peacock's tail feathers symbolise the all-seeing God and - in some interpretations - the Church. A peacock drinking from a vase is used as a symbol of a Christian believer drinking from the waters of eternal life. The peacock can also symbolise the cosmos if one interprets its tail with its many "eyes" as the vault of heaven dotted by the sun, moon, and stars. By adoption of old Persian and Babylonian symbolism, in which the peacock was associated with Paradise and the Tree of Life, the bird is again associated with immortality. In Christian iconography the peacock is often depicted next to the Tree of Life.

Pelican

USA Massachusetts Amherst Pelican
A pelican vulning itself.

In medieval Europe, the pelican was thought to be particularly attentive to her young, to the point of providing her own blood by wounding her own breast when no other food was available. As a result, the pelican became a symbol of the Passion of Jesus and of the Eucharist since about the 12th century.[23]

Anchor Anchor pictogram.svg Mariner's Cross.svg

Christians adopted the anchor as a symbol of hope in future existence because the anchor was regarded in ancient times as a symbol of safety. For Christians, Christ is the unfailing hope of all who believe in him: Saint Peter, Saint Paul, and several of the early Church Fathers speak in this sense. The Epistle to the Hebrews 6:19-20 for the first time connects the idea of hope with the symbol of the anchor.[24]

A fragment of inscription discovered in the catacomb of St. Domitilla contains the anchor, and dates from the end of the 1st century. During the 2nd and 3rd centuries the anchor occurs frequently in the epitaphs of the catacombs. The most common form of anchor found in early Christian images was that in which one extremity terminates in a ring adjoining the cross-bar while the other ends in two curved branches or an arrowhead; There are, however, many deviations from this form.[24] In general the anchor can symbolize hope, steadfastness, calm and composure.[25]

Shamrock 2x

Kilbennan St. Benin's Church Window St. Patrick Detail 2010 09 16
St. Patrick depicted with shamrock in detail of stained glass window in St. Benin's Church, Wicklow, Ireland

Traditionally, the shamrock is said to have been used by Saint Patrick to illustrate the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity when Christianising Ireland in the 5th century.

The low, dense, tangled, growing habit of shamrock plants creates a short, but expansive, mat of soft green stems and leaves. The tangled mats of vegetation are formed as the densely-packed sprouting stems meander, twist, and curve around one another, seeking space where the leaves may unfold and remain exposed to sunlight.

Shamrocks do not demand nutrient-dense soil, and which can withstand temporary, sudden, environmental moisture and temperature extremes. Shamrocks thrive where dappled, indirect, or partially screened sunlight, lasts for many hours of the day; however, shamrocks can survive a broad range of lighting conditions. Shamrocks can tolerate full exposure, to bright, hot Sunlight which would scorch many other temperate climate plants, so long as they are partially shaded for a couple of hours, at some point between dawn and dusk. They may also grow in full shade, such as under trees at woodland edges; though they do not grow in dark, or 'deep,' shade.

The environmental conditions, to which shamrocks are best suited, include a thin veil of cloud cover; sporadic instances, of momentary exposure to bright sunlight, throughout the day; mild daylight warmth; mildly cool nights; and consistent, gentle, light rainfall. Soil richness and pH may vary without much effect on the plant's health.

The temperature-mitigating effects of the Atlantic Ocean are significant along the European continental shelf. Tropical waters, displaced by North-North-Easterly-moving currents above the Doldrums, enter the North Atlantic Current. The NAC pushes the warm waters North, towards the Irish Sea. Consequently, the temperatures on Ireland are not only buffered from extreme ranges by the surrounding ocean; Ireland is warmed, slightly, by displaced Tropical waters, as well as subject to frequent, often gentle, rainfall.

Ireland's temperate climate, features mild summers, and seasonal, extreme, weather events are infrequent during winter. The mild, naturally irrigated, Irish climate is thus conducive to the growth and reproduction of shamrock plants. The common presence of peat bogs on Ireland acidifies stormwater. Runoff is enabled by Ireland's rolling hills, as it's channeled through the crevices of natural topographical rises, and flows, drawn by the force of gravity, down geological dips, into streams and lowland fields. The stormwater runoff near peat bogs causes the soil in the surrounding areas to have low in pH value; though tolerance of acidic soils allows shamrocks to thrive where plants requiring neutral soil cannot grow.

The Burren region of Ireland is a plateau-like area of exposed bedrock (and thus, sparse vegetation) higher above sea-level than many other of the island's regions; and illustrates the close proximity of solid bedrock to the island's soil surfaces. Soil depth is nearly inconsequential for the hardy shamrock, as the growth habit of shamrock plant roots mirrors that of shamrock stems: fine, laterally wandering, tangled roots, reach through mere centimeters of topsoil to meet the low water and nutrient demands of the shamrock stems and leaves.

The shamrock is so commonly seen growing on the island of Ireland, the very hue of the plant's chlorophyll is a symbol of Ireland itself - both in terms of the appearance of physical island; and as a representation the Irish culture, shaped by a long, historical accumulation, and integration, of diverse domestic and foreign influences. The low, dense, tangled, growing habit of shamrock plants creates a short, but expansive, mat of green, which colors the fields, hills, and forest edges of Ireland; hence the nickname, the Emerald Isle.

The Christianization, of the previously Celtic Druidic island culture, began in the 4th century, CE. Christianization continued to dramatically influence, and change, Irish cultural practices and schools of thought, through the 6th century, CE - whereupon the Holy Roman Empire's assimilative dominion over Ireland, beyond the Pale, was essentially total. It is said that St. Patrick, born in Britain, in a Roman Imperial settlement, to parents loyal to the Empire, spread Christianity throughout Ireland.

A common myth is that St. Patrick used the shamrock - a small plant with compound leaves, typically composed of three (3), heart-shaped leaflets; and, a very familiar sight to the Irish - to illustrate the tripartite form of the Christian deity. Unlike many other tripartite mythologies, such as the native Irish Morrigan mythology, Christianity is a monotheistic religion. The common triple-leaflet, compound-leaved shamrock- which exhibits only one compound-triplet leaf per stem- could easily be used to illustrate the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, described as being a single God; comparable to each of the three leaflets, which, together, form one shamrock.

Elemental symbols

Elemental symbols were widely used by the early Church. Water has specific symbolic significance for Christians. Outside of baptism, water may represent cleansing or purity. Fire, especially in the form of a candle flame, represents both the Holy Spirit and light. The sources of these symbols derive from the Bible; for example from the tongues of fire that symbolized the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and from Jesus' description of his followers as the light of the world; or God is a consuming fire found in Hebrews 12.[26]

Lily crucifix

Lily Crucifix at Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford
Lily Crucifix at Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford, Suffolk
Trinidad-Anglican-Episcopal-Coat-of-Arms
The coat of arms of the Anglican diocese of Trinidad contains several Christian visual symbols

A lily crucifix is a rare symbol of Anglican churches in England. It depicts Christ crucified on a lily, or holding such a plant. The symbolism may be from the medieval belief that the Annunciation of Christ and his crucifixion occurred on the same day of the year, March 25.[27]

There are few depictions of a lily crucifix in England. One of the most notable is a painting on a wall above the altar at All Saint's Church, Godshill, Isle of Wight. Other examples include:

Tomb paintings

Christians from the very beginning adorned their catacombs with paintings of Christ, of the saints, of scenes from the Bible and allegorical groups. The catacombs are the cradle of all Christian art.[29] Early Christians accepted the art of their time and used it, as well as a poor and persecuted community could, to express their religious ideas.[29] The use of deep, sometimes labyrinthine, subterranean catacombs for ritual burials are a product of the poverty of early Christian communities: the unusual, multileveled, burial chambers were, at surface-level, small plots of land used as entrances to the tiered catacombs below, by early Christians unable to afford large areas of land, nor the corresponding taxes sometimes levied on real estate, by regional authorities.

From the second half of the 1st century to the time of Constantine the Great they buried their dead and celebrated their rites in these underground chambers. The Christian tombs were ornamented with indifferent or symbolic designs—palms, peacocks, with the chi-rho monogram, with bas-reliefs of Christ as the Good Shepherd, or seated between figures of saints, and sometimes with elaborate scenes from the New Testament.[29]

Other Christian symbols include the dove (symbolic of the Holy Spirit), the sacrificial lamb (symbolic of Christ's sacrifice), the vine (symbolizing the necessary connectedness of the Christian with Christ) and many others. These all derive from the writings found in the New Testament.[26] Other decorations that were common included garlands, ribands, stars landscapes, which had symbolic meanings, as well.[29]

Symbols of Christian Churches

Baptism - Marcellinus and Peter
Baptism in early Christian art.

Sacraments

Some of the oldest symbols within the Christian Church are the sacraments, the number of which vary between denominations. Always included are Eucharist and baptism. The others which may or may not be included are ordination, unction, confirmation, penance and marriage. They are together commonly described as an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace or, as in Catholic theology, "outward signs and media of grace."[30]

The rite is seen as a symbol of the spiritual change or event that takes place. In the Eucharist, the bread and wine are symbolic of the body and shed blood of Jesus, and in Catholic theology, become the actual Body of Christ and Blood of Christ through Transubstantiation.[30]

The rite of baptism is symbolic of the cleansing of the sinner by God, and, especially where baptism is by immersion, of the spiritual death and resurrection of the baptized person. Opinion differs as to the symbolic nature of the sacraments, with some Protestant denominations considering them entirely symbolic, and Catholics, Orthodox, Lutherans, and some Reformed Christians believing that the outward rites truly do, by the power of God, act as media of grace.[30]

Icons

The tomb paintings of the early Christians led to the development of icons. An icon is an image, picture, or representation; it is likeness that has symbolic meaning for an object by signifying or representing it, or by analogy, as in semiotics. The use of icons, however, was never without opposition. It was recorded that, "there is no century between the fourth and the eighth in which there is not some evidence of opposition to images even within the Church.[31] Nonetheless, popular favor for icons guaranteed their continued existence, while no systematic apologia for or against icons, or doctrinal authorization or condemnation of icons yet existed.

L'abbé Ména et le Christ 01
Christ and Saint Menas, 6th-century Coptic icon, Louvre

Though significant in the history of religious doctrine, the Byzantine controversy over images is not seen as of primary importance in Byzantine history. "Few historians still hold it to have been the greatest issue of the period..."[32]

The Byzantine Iconoclasm began when images were banned by Emperor Leo III the Isaurian sometime between 726 and 730. Under his son Constantine V, a council forbidding image veneration was held at Hieria near Constantinople in 754. Image veneration was later reinstated by the Empress Regent Irene, under whom another council was held reversing the decisions of the previous iconoclast council and taking its title as Seventh Ecumenical Council. The council anathematized all who held to iconoclasm, i.e. those who held that veneration of images constitutes idolatry. Then the ban was enforced again by Leo V in 815. And finally icon veneration was decisively restored by Empress Regent Theodora.

Today icons are used particularly among Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian and Eastern Catholic Churches.

See also

References

  1. ^ Jenner, Henry (2004) [1910]. Christian Symbolism. Kessinger Publishing. p. xiv.
  2. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Herbert Thurston (1913). "Symbolism" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  3. ^ "The cross as a Christian symbol or 'seal' came into use at least as early as the second century (see "Apost. Const." iii. 17; Epistle of Barnabas, xi.-xii.; Justin, "Apologia," i. 55-60; "Dial. cum Tryph." 85-97); and the marking of a cross upon the forehead and the chest was regarded as a talisman against the powers of demons (Tertullian, "De Corona," iii.; Cyprian, "Testimonies," xi. 21-22; Lactantius, "Divinæ Institutiones," iv. 27, and elsewhere). The Christian Fathers had to defend themselves, as early as the second century, against the charge of being worshipers of the cross, as may be learned from Tertullian, "Apologia," xii., xvii., and Minucius Felix, "Octavius," xxix. Christians used to swear by the power of the cross. CROSS:, Jewish Encyclopaedia.
  4. ^ "Crosses, moreover, we neither worship nor wish for.1815 You, indeed, who consecrate gods of wood, adore wooden crosses perhaps as parts of your gods. For your very standards, as well as your banners; and flags of your camp, what else are they but crosses glided and adorned? Your victorious trophies not only imitate the appearance of a simple cross, but also that of a man affixed to it. We assuredly see the sign of a cross,1816 naturally, in the ship when it is carried along with swelling sails, when it glides forward with expanded oars; and when the military yoke is lifted up, it is the sign of a cross; and when a man adores God with a pure mind, with hands outstretched. Thus the sign of the cross either is sustained by a natural reason, or your own religion is formed with respect to it." Cruces etiam nec colimus, nec optamus. Vos plane qui ligneos deos consecratis, cruces ligneas, ut deorum vestrorum partes, forsitan adoratis. (0332B) Nam et signa ipsa et cantabra et vexilla castrorum, quid aliud quam inauratae cruces sunt et ornatae? Tropaea vestra victricia, non tantum simplicis crucis faciem, verum et affixi hominis imitantur. Signum sane crucis naturaliter visimus in navi, quum velis tumentibus vehitur, quum expansis palmulis labitur; et quum erigitur iugum, crucis signum est, et quum homo, porrectis manibus, Deum pura mente veneratur. Ita signo crucis aut ratio naturalis innititur, aut vestra religio formatur. (Octavius of Minucius Felix, chapter 29)
  5. ^ a b Stromata, book VI, chapter XI
  6. ^ Apology., chapter xvi. Tertullian uses crux "cross", palus "pole" and stipes "stake" interchangeably for rhetoric effect: "Then, if any of you think we render superstitious adoration to the cross, in that adoration he is sharer with us. If you offer homage to a piece of wood at all, it matters little what it is like when the substance is the same: it is of no consequence the form, if you have the very body of the god. And yet how far does the Athenian Pallas differ from the stock of the cross, or the Pharian Ceres as she is put up uncarved to sale, a mere rough stake and piece of shapeless wood? Every stake fixed in an upright position is a portion of the cross; we render our adoration, if you will have it so, to a god entire and complete. We have shown before that your deities are derived from shapes modelled from the cross." Sed et qui crucis nos religiosos putat, consecraneus noster erit. Cum lignum aliquod propitiatur, viderit habitus, dum materiae qualitas eadem sit; viderit forma, dum id ipsum dei corpus sit. Et tamen quanto distinguitur a crucis stipite Pallas Attica, et Ceres Pharia, quae sine effigie rudi palo et informi ligno prostat? Pars crucis est omne robur, quod erecta statione defigitur; nos, si forte, integrum et totum deum colimus. Diximus originem deorum vestrorum a plastis de cruce induci.
  7. ^ "At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign" (De Corona, chapter 3)
  8. ^ see: "Granite Objects in Kerala Churches", in Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage, George Menachery, SARAS, 2005; and "Thomas Christian Architecture", in George Menachery, ed. The St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol. 2, 1973
  9. ^ Schiller, Gertrud, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. II, 1972, 89-90, fig. 321.
  10. ^ Schiller, Gertrud, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. II, 1972, 89-90, figs. 322-326.
  11. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica Online
  12. ^ M.-M. Davy, Initiation à la Symbolique Romane. Nouv. éd. Paris: Flammarion, 1977.
  13. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Maurice Hassett (1913). "Symbolism of the Fish" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  14. ^ Augustine. The City of God . XVIII, 23 – via Wikisource.
  15. ^ a b Hurtado, Larry (2006). "The Staurogram in Early Christian Manuscripts: the earliest visual reference to the crucified Jesus?". In Kraus, Thomas (ed.). New Testament Manuscripts. Leiden: Brill. pp. 207–26. ISBN 978-90-04-14945-8.
  16. ^ a b c Bagatti, Bellarmino (1984). The Church from the Circumcision: history and archaeology of the Judaeo-Christians. Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Collectio Minor, n.2. Jerusalem.
  17. ^ Redknap, Mark (1991). The Christian Celts: treasures of late Celtic Wales. Cardiff: National Museum of Wales. p. 61. ISBN 978-0-7200-0354-3.
  18. ^ Hurtado, Larry (2006). The earliest Christian artifacts : manuscripts and Christian origins. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. pp. 114–115. ISBN 978-0-8028-2895-8.
  19. ^ Irenaeus, Adv Haer, 1.15.2
  20. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Arthur Barnes (1913). "Dove" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  21. ^ Irenaeus, Adv Haer, 1.15.6
  22. ^ "Birds, symbolic." Peter and Linda Murray, Oxford Dictionary of Christian Art (2004).
  23. ^ Jenner, Henry (2004) [1910]. Christian Symbolism. Kessinger Publishing. p. 37.
  24. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Maurice Hassett (1913). "The Anchor (as Symbol)" . In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  25. ^ Klöpping, Laura (2012). Customs, Habits and Symbols of the Protestant Religion. GRIN Verlag. p. 5. ISBN 978-3-656-13453-4.
  26. ^ a b Dilasser, Maurice. The Symbols of the Church (1999). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, hardcover: ISBN 0-8146-2538-X
  27. ^ The Passion in Art. Richard Harries. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2004
  28. ^ "St John the Baptist, Wellington". Wellington and District Team Ministry. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
  29. ^ a b c d Fortescue, Adrian (1912). "Veneration of Images". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  30. ^ a b c Kennedy, D.J (1912). "Sacraments". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
  31. ^ Kitzinger, Ernst (1954), The Cult of Images in the Age before Iconoclasm, Dumbarton Oaks, quoted by Jaroslav, Pelikan (1974), The Spirit of Eastern Christendom 600–1700, University of Chicago Press.
  32. ^ Karlin-Hayter, Patricia (2002), Oxford History of Byzantium, Oxford University Press.

External links

Arecaceae

The Arecaceae are a botanical family of perennial plants. Their growth form can be climbers, shrubs, trees and stemless plants, all commonly known as palms. Those having a tree form are colloquially called palm trees. They are flowering plants, a family in the monocot order Arecales. Currently 181 genera with around 2600 species are known, most of them restricted to tropical and subtropical climates. Most palms are distinguished by their large, compound, evergreen leaves, known as fronds, arranged at the top of an unbranched stem. However, palms exhibit an enormous diversity in physical characteristics and inhabit nearly every type of habitat within their range, from rainforests to deserts.

Palms are among the best known and most extensively cultivated plant families. They have been important to humans throughout much of history. Many common products and foods are derived from palms. In contemporary times, palms are also widely used in landscaping, making them one of the most economically important plants. In many historical cultures, because of their importance as food, palms were symbols for such ideas as victory, peace, and fertility. For inhabitants of cooler climates today, palms symbolize the tropics and vacations.

Arma Christi

Arma Christi ("Weapons of Christ"), or the Instruments of the Passion, are the objects associated with Jesus' Passion in Christian symbolism and art. They are seen as arms in the sense of heraldry, and also as the weapons Christ used to achieve his conquest over Satan. There is a group, at a maximum of about 20 items, which are frequently used in Christian art, especially in the Late Middle Ages. Typically they surround either a cross or a figure of Christ of the Man of Sorrows type, either placed around the composition, or held by angels.

Bolnisi cross

The Bolnisi cross (Georgian: ბოლნისის ჯვარი bolnisis ǰvari) is a cross symbol, taken from a 5th-century ornament at the Bolnisi Sioni church, which came to be used as a national symbol of Georgia.

It is a variant of the Cross pattée popular in Christian symbolism of late antiquity and the early medieval period. The same symbol gave rise to cross variants used during the Crusades, the Maltese cross of the Knights Hospitaller and (via the Jerusalem cross and the Black cross of the Teutonic Order) the Iron cross used by the German military.

The four small crosses used in the Georgian Flag are officially described as bolnur-kac'xuri (bolnur-katskhuri, ბოლნურ-კაცხური) even though they are only slightly pattée.

Cimaruta

The cimaruta ("chee-mah-roo-tah"; plural cimarute) is an Italian folk charm, a type traditionally worn around the neck or hung above an infant's bed to ward off the evil eye (Italian: mal'occhio). Commonly made of silver, the amulet itself consists of several small apotropaic charms (some of which draw upon Christian symbolism), with each individual piece attached to what is supposed to represent a branch of rue—the flowering medicinal herb for which the whole talisman is named, "cimaruta" being a Neapolitan form of cima di ruta: Italian for "sprig of rue".The component parts of the cimarute, which are particularly associated with southern Italy, may differ by region of origin. From out of a central stalk of rue serving as its base, there radiate multiple branches which appear to blossom into various designs; the divergent branches "sprout" at their extremities such magical symbols as: a rose; a hand holding either a wand or a sword; a flaming heart; a fish; a crescent moon; a snake; an owl; a plumed medieval helmet; a vervain blossom; a dolphin; a cock; and an eagle. One cimaruta, for example, might bear the collective imagery of a key, dagger, blossom and moon. Most are double-sided and fairly large—some almost four inches in width.

El Tío

El Tío (The Uncle), is believed in Cerro Rico, Potosí, Bolivia to be the "Lord of the Underworld'. There are many statues of this devil-like spirit in the mines of Cerro Rico. El Tío rules over the mines, simultaneously offering protection and destruction. Some figures are really in the shape of a goat.Miners bring offerings such as cigarettes, coca leaves, and alcohol for the statues and believe that if El Tío is not fed, he will take matters into his own hands. Villagers of Potosi ritually slaughter a llama and smear its blood on the entrance to the mines.The miners of Cerro Rico are Catholics and they believe in both Christ and El Tío. However, worship of El Tío is condemned strongly by the Catholic Church. Images of El Tío are usually not allowed outside of the mines, as this is seen as the realm of God and El Tío has no place there. Likewise, Christian symbolism isn't allowed inside of the mines, as this "Underworld" is seen as El Tío's realm.Every year, the Carnaval de Oruro is held, and costumes and statues of El Tío are paraded around in a ceremony that represents his defeat at the hands of the Archangel Michael. This is the only time that images of El Tío are allowed above the surface of the mines.

European goldfinch

The European goldfinch or goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), is a small passerine bird in the finch family that is native to Europe, North Africa and western Asia. It has been introduced to other areas including Australia, New Zealand and Uruguay.

The breeding male has a red face and a black-and-white head. The back and flanks are buff or chestnut brown. The black wings have a broad yellow bar. The tail is black and the rump is white. Males and females are very similar, but females have a slightly smaller red area on the face.

The goldfinch is often depicted in Italian renaissance paintings of the Madonna and Child.

Hasht-behesht (architecture)

In architecture, a hasht-behesht (هشت‌بهشت, hašt-behešt), literally meaning "eight heavens" in Persian, is a type of floor plan consisting of a central hall surrounded by eight rooms, the earliest recognized example of which in Iranian architecture is traced to the time of the Persianate Timurid Empire. The term was used in Persian literature as a metaphorical image, and was later notably used in a poem by Mughal poet Amir Khusrow, who gave the most comprehensible literary reconstruction of the model in his adaptation of an Iranian epic about Sasanian ruler Bahram V, as well as in other works by Ottoman poets Sehi Bey and Idris Bitlisi. The architectural form was adopted and used also in Ottoman and Mughal architectures.

The concept of hasht-behesht is linked to that of the Zoroastrian vahišta (Avestan for "best"; cognate with Middle Persian wahišt, New Persian behešt), a building decorated with precious stones that would represent the astrological concept of eight planets corresponding to eight heavens. It is closely related to Islamic eschatology, in which heaven is described as having eight gates and eight spaces, and is also observed in Christian symbolism in the concept of salvation. Similarly, the Chinese magic square, which was employed for numerous purposes, finds its way into Islamic mathematicians as "wafq". Ninefold schemes find particular resonance in the Indian mandalas, the cosmic maps of Hinduism and Buddhism.

Lamb of God

Lamb of God (Greek: Ἀμνὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, Amnos tou Theou; Latin: Agnus Deī [ˈaŋ.nʊs ˈde.iː]) is a title for Jesus that appears in the Gospel of John. It appears at John 1:29, where John the Baptist sees Jesus and exclaims, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."Christian doctrine holds that divine Jesus chose to suffer crucifixion at Calvary as a sign of his full obedience to the will of his divine Father, as an "agent and servant of God" as well as to pick up and carry away the sin of the world. In Christian theology the Lamb of God is viewed as foundational and integral to the message of Christianity.A lion-like lamb that rises to deliver victory after being slain appears several times in the Book of Revelation. It is also referred to in Pauline writings: 1 Corinthians 5:7 suggests that Saint Paul intends to refer to the death of Jesus, who is the Paschal Lamb, using the theme found in Johannine writings. The lamb metaphor is also in line with Psalm 23, which depicts God as a shepherd leading his flock (mankind).

The Lamb of God title is widely used in Christian prayers, and the Agnus Dei is used as a standard part of the Catholic Mass, as well as the classical Western Liturgies of the Anglican and Lutheran Churches. It also is used in liturgy and as a form of contemplative prayer. The Agnus Dei also forms a part of the musical setting for the Mass.

As a visual motif the lamb has been most often represented since the Middle Ages as a standing haloed lamb with a foreleg cocked "holding" a pennant with a red cross on a white ground, though many other ways of representing it have been used.

Leah

Leah is described in the Hebrew Bible as the daughter of Laban. She and her younger sister Rachel became the two concurrent wives of Hebrew patriarch Jacob. She had six sons, whose descendants became some of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. She also had a daughter, Dinah.

Mardi Gras throws

Mardi Gras throws are strings of beads, doubloons, cups, or other trinkets passed out or thrown from the floats in the New Orleans Mardi Gras, the Mobile Mardi Gras and parades all throughout the Gulf Coast of the United States, to spectators lining the streets. The "gaudy plastic jewelry, toys, and other mementos [are] tossed to the crowds from parading floats". "The goodies, or 'throws,' consist of necklaces of plastic beads, coins called doubloons, which are stamped with krewes' logos, parade themes and the year, plus an array of plastic cups and toys such as Frisbees or figurines". The cups that are used as throws are sometimes referred to as New Orleans dinnerware.Beads used on Mardis Gras (known as Shrove Tuesday in some regions) are gold, purple and green, with these three colors containing the Christian symbolism of power, justice and faith, respectively. Traditionally, Mardis Gras beads were manufactured in Japan and Czech Republic, although many are now imported from mainland China. As Fat Tuesday concludes the period of Carnival (Shrovetide), Mardis Gras beads are taken off oneself on the following day, Ash Wednesday, which begins the penitential season of Lent. As such, one of the "solemn practices of Ash Wednesday is to pack all the beads acquired during the parade season into bags and boxes and taken them to the attic".Spectators have traditionally shouted to the krewe members, "Throw me something, mister!", a phrase that is iconic in New Orleans' Mardi Gras street argot. Some women expose their breasts to invite throws in the French Quarter. This is not common during Mardi Gras parades. Some krewes have specialty throws; for example, the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club hand-painted coconut or the Krewe of Muses shoes and mirrors.

Mince pie

A mince pie (also mincemeat pie in New England, and fruit mince pie in Australia and New Zealand) is a sweet pie of British origin, filled with a mixture of dried fruits and spices called "mincemeat", that is traditionally served during the Christmas season in much of the English-speaking world. Its ingredients are traceable to the 13th century, when returning European crusaders brought with them Middle Eastern recipes containing meats, fruits and spices; these contained the Christian symbolism of representing the gifts delivered to Jesus by the Biblical Magi. Mince pies, at Christmastide, were traditionally shaped in an oblong shape, to resemble a manger and were often topped with a depiction of the Christ Child.The early mince pie was known by several names, including "mutton pie", "shrid pie" and "Christmas pie". Typically its ingredients were a mixture of minced meat, suet, a range of fruits, and spices such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Served around Christmas, the savoury Christmas pie (as it became known) was associated with supposed Catholic "idolatry" and during the English Civil War was frowned on by the Puritan authorities. Nevertheless, the tradition of eating Christmas pie in December continued through to the Victorian era, although by then its recipe had become sweeter and its size markedly reduced from the large oblong shape once observed. Today the mince pie, usually made without meat (but often including suet or other animal fats), remains a popular seasonal treat enjoyed by many across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Paska (bread)

Paska (Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian: Пáска "Easter" or пасхальный хлеб, Easter bread, Georgian: პასკა "Easter", ultimately from Aramaic: פסחא‎ "Passover") is a Ukrainian Easter bread tradition and particularly spread in countries with predominant Eastern Orthodox religion or cultural connections to the ancient Byzantine Empire. Paska breads are a traditional element in the easter holidays of Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, Belarus, Armenia, Romania, Moldova, Georgia and parts of Bulgaria as well as the Assyrian–Chaldean–Syriac diaspora. Due to its geographical closeness, it is also widespread in Slovakia. Meanwhile it is also eaten in countries with immigrant populations from Eastern Europe such as the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Quatrefoil

A quatrefoil (anciently caterfoil) is a decorative element consisting of a symmetrical shape which forms the overall outline of four partially overlapping circles of the same diameter. It is found in art, architecture, heraldry and traditional Christian symbolism. The word quatrefoil means "four leaves", from Latin quattuor, four, plus folium, a leaf, referring specifically to a four-leafed clover, but applies in general to four-lobed shapes in various contexts. In recent years, a number of luxury brands have asserted copyright claims related to the symbol.

Shield of the Trinity

The Shield of the Trinity or Scutum Fidei (Latin for "shield of faith") is a traditional Christian visual symbol which expresses many aspects of the doctrine of the Trinity, summarizing the first part of the Athanasian Creed in a compact diagram. In late medieval Europe, this emblem was considered to be the heraldic arms of God (and of the Trinity).

Son

A son is a male offspring; a boy or man in relation to his parents. The female counterpart is a daughter.

The Carpenter (Nightwish song)

The Carpenter is the first single by Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish, the only from their debut album, Angels Fall First. It featured, apart from Tarja Turunen's voice, also Tuomas Holopainen' voice, making it the only single with his vocals.

Trefoil

Trefoil (from Latin trifolium, "three-leaved plant") is a graphic form composed of the outline of three overlapping rings used in architecture and Christian symbolism. The term is also applied to other symbols of three-fold shape.

Two witnesses

In the Book of Revelation, the two witnesses are two of God's prophets who are seen in a vision by John of Patmos, who appear during the Second woe recorded in Revelation 11:1-14. They have been variously identified by theologians as two individuals, as two groups of people, or as two concepts. Dispensationalist Christians believe that the events described in the Book of Revelation will occur before and during the Second Coming of Christ.

Virgin and Child with a Cat

The Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–69) occupies a unique a position in the history of prints as he does in the history of painting. Etchings such as The Virgin and Child with a Cat, of 1654, represent the very pinnacle of printmaking as a creative art form. It is to Rembrandt that generations of etchers have constantly looked for inspiration. In its collection, the Victoria and Albert Museum has both one of the earliest impressions of this etching and the actual copper plate from which the image is taken.

This print shows a homely scene of maternal affection but it is also a powerful piece of Christian symbolism. While the cat on the left is playing with the Virgin's hem, a snake can be seen slithering out from under her skirt. The Virgin is treading on the snake, symbolising her role as the new Eve, who will triumph over original sin. Joseph looks in from outside the window, symbolising his closeness to, but also his separation from, the Virgin and Child. The pattern of the window's glazing creates the impression of a halo around the Virgin's head.

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