Pagans used symbols not only because it was a work of art but because their followers were illiterate and symbols were used to educate their followers. The same symbols that were used during the Pagan era are some of the same symbols used today, however in today society religious symbols are used to identify different religions and affiliations with religious organizations. Religious art and symbols are also used to decorate churches, synagogues, and Mosques. Religious Art today is just that artistic symbol with very little or no secret messages.
I will discuss the Christian symbols of Gregory the Great and Three Scribes, the Lamentation, and a few other symbols that are very common in identifying religious symbols. In Fiero (2009), the early Christian symbols of Gregory the Great and Three Scribes (p. 101) depict a dove which is the symbol of the Holy Spirit in some cases it means peace and love, however, Gregory is considered an influential theologian and his writings are thought to have been divinely inspired, hence the dove on his shoulder. As stated by Grimm (2011) “The dove has come to mean the Holy Ghost, peace, affection, gentleness, and innocence.
There are also different meanings for different colored doves. Christ redeeming man with his blood is symbolized by the red dove. Quite often in our society white doves are also a symbol of love and devotion and are used at wedding ceremonies. Additionally, the aesthetics of our society would see Gregory the Great and Three Scribes as a well painted picture of a very devoted and spiritual priest scribing his deepest thoughts of love for God as symbolic by the white dove flying over his shoulder. White doves are not the only doves used in religious symbols; the diversity of the 12 prophets is symbolized by the speckled dove”.
In the same photo the individuals with halos represent the saints (as in all Christian paintings). Halos have become synonymous with saints specifically angels this symbol has been consistent since the pagan era. Fiero (2009) illustrates in Figure 7. 6, art work of Lamentation (p. 180), in it there are several figures with Halos mourning the death of Christ. This halo is a symbol of divinity and supreme power. It is a picture of radiant light over the head of a saint. Often these halos are in a circle. This circle represents eternity with no beginning or end.
Typically surrounding a godly or enlightened person, a halo represents holiness. In Western culture, its main role having been reduced to Halloween costumes of angels and Sunday-school pageants. This decline in use has been partially compensated by its incorporation into pop culture. This has not been a sudden shift; use of the halo in religious art has been steadily declining for a few hundred years now. The exploration of the rise and fall of the halo in culture is reflective of how western values have changed over the last thousand years.
Other prominent religious symbols that are still actively used in western culture are The Holy Cross and the fish. The Holy Cross a special symbol of Christianity because The Holy Cross, represents how our Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ, was beaten to death, crucified on the Cross, and nailed to the Cross, to take away all of our sins. During the first two centuries of Christianity, the cross may have been rare in Christian iconography, as it depicts a purposely painful and gruesome method of public execution. The Ichthys, or fish symbol, was used by early Christians.
The fish is a widespread symbol of Christ, a motto and a compendium of the Christian faith. During the persecution era, the fish was a code symbol for Christians. Upon coming in contact with another person, the outline of a fish might be drawn on the ground. If the other person were a Christian, he would then be able to identify a fellow believer in “Jesus Christ, Son of God, and Saviour. ” Today, western Christians do not need to worry about persecution so the fish sign is posted on bumper stickers and businesses as a sign of Christian faith.
The Christian fish symbol often has “Jesus” written inside or includes a cross symbol. And of course, there have been many spoofs and variations of the popular Christian symbol, such as the famous “Darwin fish” with legs. The fish is also a symbol of baptism, since a fish is at home in the water. The cross is one of the earliest and most widely used Christian symbols. In the broadest sense it symbolizes the religion of Christianity. Like the Fish symbol it is most publically displayed by western Christians on churches, bumper stickers, businesses, and jewelry.
There are many variations of the cross; the one that is normally displayed by a Christian happens to be the one most affiliated with their religious organization. In closing, the Christian symbols use and meaning has changed but most of all expanded throughout the years. Symbols that were once a secretive means of communication are now openly expressed throughout the world in all religions to show their love and appreciation for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Though the use of symbols have changed over the years what has not changed is the fact that these religions symbols make people feel closer to the Lord in some ways and bring people closer to each other. In understanding the symbolic messages of the past we earn a better appreciation for the history of religious symbols and help us to better understand religions of today and why we take some of the actions we take in regards to our religions and the symbols involved with them.
Furthermore, it is also helpful in that we will better understand the different religions of the world and assist in discouraging the judgment of other religions just because we don’t understand them. Reference: Anonymous, (2010). “Christian Crosses”. ReligionFacts. Retrieved June 04, 2011, from http://www. religionfacts. com/christianity/symbols/cross. htm Fiero, Gloria K. , (2009). Landmarks in Humanities (2nd Ed. ). McGraw-Hill higher education Grimm, Ed, (2011). Home page St. Gregory the Great Church. Retrieved June 04, 2011, from http://www. stgregorymanhattan. com/Art. html