There is no doubt that Christian Symbology has universally known signs. Let us review their origins and deeper meanings.
Most people associate Christianity with the cross, but there are also Christian symbols that have a deep meaning in the life of man. In this list we explain the meanings of the 10 most important ones.
1. Ichthys – The Fish
The fish is a sacred Christian symbol. In Greek, the first letters – IesousChristos, TheouYios, Soter (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior) make the word “Ichthys” – fish, with a strong symbolic association of Christ with the fish. “The fishers of men” (St. Mark 1: 16-18).
The symbol of Ichthys gained great importance and began to appear in Christian art in the late second century, and its use became widespread in the third and fourth centuries. The fish appears in many biblical stories, for example, the fish that swallowed Jonah is believed to symbolize Christ’s imprisonment in the tomb.
The story of Tobias, who survives an attack by a large fish and then uses the fish’s gill to restore his blind father’s sight, symbolizes God’s blessings.
In a miracle, traditionally known as a “Miracle Fish Sketch,” the symbol is the representation of abundance and wisdom. Luke’s account of Christ’s miracle foretells Peter’s later and important role as a “fisher of men.”
2. Bread and Wine in Christian Symbology
Bread and wine symbolically represent the body and shed blood of Jesus Christ in the new covenant. Holy Communion (or the Eucharist) according to Catholicism within Christian symbolism, is the blessing that brings the bread of life and the wine of resurrection into the body of Christ.
According to the New Testament, the Eucharist (Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper) was presented by Jesus Christ during the Last Supper. He gave his disciples bread and wine and, referring to the bread, said: “This is my body, which is given for you in Luke chapter 22 verse 19. The bread and wine symbolize Christ’s sacrifice of himself on the cross and his commissioning of the apostles at the Last Supper.
Sacramental bread (unleavened) and sacramental wine (or grape juice), are consecrated on an altar (or communion table) and consumed afterward. Many Christians take it literally, while others perceive it as a symbolic truth.
3. Star of Bethlehem – Star of Christ’s birth
The five-pointed (or four-pointed) star (also known as the Epiphany Star or the Christian Star) represents the birth and incarnation of Jesus. It is one of the most powerful Christian symbolism in Christianity. In the heavens, it guided the wise men to the humble manger where the baby Jesus was born.
Many Christians believe that the star was a miraculous sign and some theologians claimed that the star fulfilled a prophecy. This star is especially used for church decoration during the Advent and Christmas seasons.
4. Lily Flower in Christian Symbology
For Christians, the lily flower was a symbol of the Holy Trinity, as well as an emblem of the Virgin Mary. The Roman Catholic Church adopted the fleur-de-lis symbol to represent the Virgin Mary. When Pope Leo III in 800 crowned Charlemagne as emperor, he is said to have presented him with a blue banner covered (semé) with golden fleurs-de-lis.
In early Christian depictions, the innocent lily was sometimes used to represent a baby Jesus Christ, but later, in thirteenth century scriptures and religious texts in Christian symbology, the flower represented purity, innocence and an important botanical symbol of Mary. The flower appears regularly in Annunciation arrangements (in a vase, stained glass windows depicting the Virgin Mary, or in the hand of the angel Gabriel (it is his attribute).
5. Crown of thorns
In Christianity, the thorn symbolizes sin, sorrow, pain and evil. The thorns also symbolize Jesus’ walk along the Via Dolorosa, with a crown of thorns.
Three canonical gospels say that a woven crown of thorns was placed on Jesus’ head during the events surrounding Christ’s crucifixion. It was one of the instruments of the Passion, employed by Jesus’ captors, both to cause him pain and to ridicule his claim to authority.
It is mentioned in the gospels of Matthew (‘And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it on his head, and a reed in his right hand; and they bowed the knee and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews!’ 27:29 KJV) and also Mark (15:17).
In later centuries, relics considered by many to be all (or part) of the Crown of Thorns have been deeply venerated.
6. Dove and Christian Symbology
Dedicated to Venus in antiquity, the dove is now an honored bird for Christian believers. It signifies the representation of the third person of God is the Holy Spirit of Jehovah (Matthew 3:16). In art, the objects are shaped like doves (eucharistic doves), being tabernacles (with small chains) filled with consecrated hosts and suspended over the altar of the church.
The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge, of godliness and the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11: 2), personified by seven doves in medieval art.
Early Christians often had a dove on their tombs as one of the Christian symbolism referring to peace and happiness of the soul. In the Gospels, it embodies the Holy Spirit (John 1:32). Twelve doves symbolize the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit: “charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, modesty, chastity” (Galatians 5: 22-23).
A dove pecking at bread or drinking from a fountain represents the soul nourished by the Eucharist.
The Chi-Rho is a combination of the Greek letters chi (X) and rho (P), which are the first two letters of the Greek word for “Christ”, when put together represent “Jesus”.
This symbol was commonly known in ancient Christianity and was used by the Roman Emperor Constantine I (306-337 AD) as vexillum (called Labarum). The symbol is usually accompanied by the letters alpha and omega.
The rose has been part of common Catholic Christian symbolism since the 1200s. It is also an important Catholic symbol. For Catholics, this flower represents a symbol of the rosary, which is used by Catholics during prayer.
The rose is related to the life of Jesus Christ and is also related to the veneration of the mother of Jesus Christ, Mary. The five petals of the rose symbolize the five wounds of Christ from the crucifixion. The red rose signifies martyrdom and the sacrificial blood of Jesus, while a white rose is associated with the Virgin Mary and signifies purity.
This flower also represents the “messianic promise” (multiple predictions in the Old Testament regarding the coming of the Messiah), the nativity of Jesus Christ.
In medieval times, among the many titles given to the Virgin Mary, there is “Santa Mariadella Rosa”. The rose, often seen with in her hand, has been consecrated to her. Dante wrote: “Here is the Rose, where the Divine Word became incarnate”.
9. Christian cross
The Christian cross represents both the death of Jesus Christ and his resurrection in Christian symbolism. The symbol reminds us Christian believers of suffering and hope as well. The empty cross, generally favored by Protestants, reminds Christians of the resurrection, while the crucifix (with the body of Jesus on it), favored by Catholic and Orthodox churches, is a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice.
The crucifix represents the central point of the Catholic belief that Christ died on the cross to redeem humanity.
10. Catholic Rosary
The Christian Rosary (Latin: ‘a garland of roses’) presents the devotee with a structure for prayer. The name of this Christian object is related to the Virgin Mary and her purity. The rosary helps to count the number of “Hail Mary” read.
For Catholics in Christian symbology, the Rosary is a remedy against the severe trials, various temptations and sufferings of life, and that Rosary is one of the great weapons given to believers in their battle against all the evils that surround us.
Saints and popes have always emphasized that the Rosary is crucial for meditation and taught how the Rosary should be prayed, especially with regard to respect, reverence and purity of intention during the recitations of the Rosary.
Praying the Rosary is considered a kind of penance after confession. In general, penance is usually intended to be a stimulus for meditation and spiritual growth and not a “punishment” due to sins committed in the past.