Introduction To Saints Symbols
Saints are the most sacred of symbols within the Christian faiths, except for the Divine, of course. The term was derived from the Greek word “hagios”, meaning to make holy or to sanctify. It makes sense, then, that the word would be applied to people who exemplify the characteristics necessary for sainthood.
Many of the symbols connected with saints were depicted in art so that followers could more easily identify them. In this way, the artist was enabled to convey holy and celestial messages to the observers without being over the top. Spirituality was supposed to make one think and contemplate, after all. Apart from statues and paintings, many of these saints also have specific symbols associated with their name and character, some of which are detailed below. Each of these symbols was associated with the type of life that each saint lived and continues to express his/her legacy in the Christian kingdom.
Saints & Symbols
Saint Ambrose, patron saint of bees and beekeepers, is appropriately symbolized with the beehive. He gained this emblem after bees swarmed his cradle when he was a baby, leaving a single drop of honey on his lips. Legend has it that Saint Ambrose’s father interpreted this as a sign of his son’s future as an orator for God.
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As the patron saint of sailors, ships, and sea merchants, it should come as no surprise that Saint Nicholas is connected with the anchor symbol. This picture was also historically believed to represent strength and stability, making it a great focus for demonstrating a saint’s deep rooted faith.
A basic book is the symbol for Saint Teresa of Avila, as she was known to be an exceptional writer. In fact, her writings include some of the most extraordinary texts in Catholic church history.
Saint John the Evangelist is also symbolized by a bird, but his is much stronger and fierce: the eagle. This bird is a powerful symbol of the inherent authority of God and his wisdom. John wrote the fourth gospel with complete and utter faith in and devotion to the Lord, which mimics the focused determination and loyalty of the eagle in nature.
Saint Elizabeth of Thuringen is also represented with a simple symbol: a loaf of bread. As the matron saint of bakers, homeless people, widows, and the poor, she focused her life on giving to people in need. Bread was the most basic of nutritional options at the time, and she gave her all in helping those who were starving. Fittingly, she is also the saint of nurses.
Pope Gregory III
The dove is an especially important symbol in Christianity. Along with representing Christ, purity, new life, and light, it was also the symbol of Pope Gregory III. According to legend, a servant walked in on the saint, who actually took the form of a white dove.
Although saints are typically thought of as soft and pensive, some were definitely associated with stronger symbols. In addition to Saint John, Saint Jerome also possessed fierce traits. Symbolized by the lion, Jerome emulated the radiating light of Christ by removing a thorn from a lion’s paw. He was vigilant and is credited with taming the vicious, primal nature of mankind.
Purpose For Saints Symbolism
Sometimes, a symbol can be linked to a number of saints and with different purposes. For a first example, the axe is known as a popular symbol of two saints – Boniface and Josaphat – but for two separate reasons. According to legend, Saint Boniface used an axe to chop down a pagan-worshipped oak tree in the name of Jesus Christ. The chopped oak then apparently split into the shape of a cross.
Josaphat, however, had a slightly different experience. As the patron saint of Ukraine, he put great effort into uniting the Orthodox and Roman churches. He was also killed defending his friends from an angry mob – fitting, as the axe is a traditional symbol of a saint’s death.
Saint Sebastian and Ursula also share a common symbol: the arrow. These objects often symbolize a saint’s act of martyrdom, which is the case for both of these saints. He died at the hands of the Roman emperor Diocletian as a punishment for converting Romans to Christianity. Ursula, on the other hand, was killed by the king of the Asian Huns after she refused to marry him.
These are only a few symbols prevalent in the realm of Christianity. There are hundreds more saints and symbols that are associated with them. For more information, continue your research on the influence of saints in symbolism.