Church symbolism: an explanation of the most significant symbols
Church symbolism is more than just decoration. It is a bridge that leads us to a deeper understanding of our faith.
Many of the Church's symbols are elemental in nature. Water symbolizes baptism and cleansing; fire symbolizes the Holy Spirit as well as Jesus' description of himself as a consuming fire.
The Cross is the symbol of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. It is also the symbol of Christianity itself. It is the most recognized icon worldwide and is a controversial one for many, both inside and outside of the Church.
It's important to note that the cross as a Christian symbol did not appear immediately after the death of Jesus, but became an official symbol around the 400s when the Church was fighting the Monophysite heresy which denied the two natures of Christ in one Divine person. This is why the sign of the cross is made with three fingers, a reminder that Jesus is God in two forms.
A variation on the Latin Cross is the Celtic Cross, with two horizontal bars crossed over a single vertical bar. This is sometimes used as a symbol of the Knights Templar, a Christian organization that was created to protect pilgrims visiting the Holy Land in medieval times.
The Dove is one of the most prominent and important Christian symbols in Church history. The dove has a broad meaning within the bible and is used as a symbol of peace, forgiveness and deliverance.
The dove also represents Jesus Christ who was with God before anything else existed in creation and therefore is eternal. This concept is referred to in the bible as “Alpha and Omega”.
Doves with olive branches are a common motif on sarcophagi and other funeral monuments. This symbolizes the hope of salvation for the soul of the departed and is further emphasized by the fact that a dove with an olive branch is used to represent the Holy Spirit in baptism.
The image of a dove circling benches symbolizes the congregation of believers and their unity with each other and with the entire Church. This is reminiscent of the biblical statement that “God’s people are gathered together like a flock in God’s house.” The dove is closely linked with the images of dwelling, garden and woman.
In the early Church, symbolism was not systematically developed as it is today. Instead, the dogmatic truths of the faith were confessed in life itself and not formulated at all.
Blue symbolizes the sky and heaven where heralds proclaimed Jesus’ birth. It also reminds us of the water of creation in Genesis 1 and of the baptismal waters that washed away the sins of all believers.
Green symbolizes the renewal of vegetation and generally of living things and the promise of new life. It is used for the season of Epiphany and for Ordinary Time between Trinity Sunday (January 6) and Lent.
Symbol of Deer: the deer is a favorable symbol that stands for ascetics, piety and purity. It is also a metaphor for a soul eager to hear the word of God: “As a deer longs for streams of water, so I thirst for you, O Lord”. The image on the doors of the Church are crowned by the branches of a Sacred Tree and by daisies.
The Fleur de Lis
The Fleur de Lis is an emblem that represents purity and chastity. It is also a common symbol of the Virgin Mary. It is often used as a coat of arms for the Catholic Church, and has been adopted by other countries, including Canada.
The symbol was first used by the kings of France in the 12th Century. It became a popular symbol during the Crusades because of its connection to Saint Louis. During this time, the French were fighting against England for control of various territories around the globe. They would use the fleur-de-lis on their flags and coat of arms to demonstrate their unity with France’s Saints.
Since its creation, the fleur-de-lis has been an emblem of the Catholic Church and has been a symbol of France. The three petals of the lily symbol have also become a way to represent the Holy Trinity. The fleur-de-lis is an enduring symbol that continues to hold significant significance for Christians and people of all faiths.