Meaning and origin European Christian symbols

On this page I give my own impression of the meaning and origin of Christian symbols and signs. From the beginning, the Christian faith already had symbols such as the fish symbol that was used as a secret sign to see if the other was also a Christian. But also the Christian church itself has created many symbols and also many ancient pagan symbols were transformed into Christian symbols and thus incorporated into Christian doctrine. Many of the symbols can be found in the richly decorated churches and on graves. Regards, Hein Pragt.
Copyright © Hein Pragt.

Alpha Omega symbol

AO symbol This symbol stands for the Greek letters Alpha and Omega and these are often used in Christian symbolism. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the classical Greek alphabet and thus symbolize the beginning and the end. The meaning as the beginning and end of the cosmos dates back to the time before Christ from hellenistic era (Greek history) and has been adopted by the Christians. The foundation of this Christian symbolism is biblical texts such as "I am the first and I am the last, and apart from me there is no god" (Isaiah 44:6). In the Apocalypse of John (1:8) it says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." These two letters were also widely used to decorate Christian graves, to indicate that the buried person believed in God as the beginnings and the end goal.

Anchor symbol

anker symbol The anchor is the general symbol of hope, in Christian culture, it stands for hope and trust in Jesus Christ. This symbol was also the emblem of Saint Clement, the Bishop of Rome who, according to tradition, was tied to an anchor thrown into the sea. In early Christian times, its cross shape made it a disguised symbol of salvation ('crux dissimulata'). A crossbar ('stick') underneath the ring for the anchor rope gives the impression of a cross, which was concealed by the lower parts of the anchor. In Christian tomb sculptures the anchor is often depicted in combination with fish.

Angel symbol

Engel symbol The word angel is said to come from the Greek "ïngelos" meaning "messenger" and the Hebrew word for angel. is "mal'ach" which also stands for "messenger". The Arabic word "malak" is also related to this. Angels often have wings as a sign of their divine power and this comes from ancient times where birds were often seen as a connection between the earth and heaven. There are many angels, the Bible speak of tens of thousands times tens of thousands and in the Christian tradition seraphim are at the head of the angel hierarchy. It is also written in the Bible that angels have supernatural power, knowledge and abilities, and theology supports these qualities of angels. Angels are above the laws of nature and are capable of things that are for the man impossible.

Cross symbol

kruis symbol The cross is a very old symbol, it was used in many cultures before it became a general Christian symbol. The cross was already a symbol of reconciliation, synthesis between heaven and earth and the four wind directions. As a Christian symbol, it is found in various forms. The cross is the symbol for Christians of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. He died on the cross (a Roman instrument of torture) and Christians believe that this suffering and dying was necessary, because he has thereby undergone the punishment, for all the wrong things we do in everyday life. It is therefore a symbol of the reconciliation between God and men, the central symbol of the Christian faith.

Dove with palm branch symbol

Duif met palmtak symbol The dove is a Christian symbol for reconciliation and peace. The dove also refers to simplicity, innocence and purity. Within the Christian church the dove is also a sign of purity and peace, it refers to the Holy Spirit. In the Bible, the dove is also the symbol of the end of the flood, when the dove returns to Noah's ark with an olive branch. At the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, the spirit of God descends in the form of a dove (Matthew 3:16). The Holy Spirit is almost always presented as a dove and also the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, reason, good advice, strength, knowledge, piety and fear of God) were symbolized by seven doves.

French Lily symbol

Franse Lelie symbol The French Lily or Fleur-de-Lis represented prosperity and royalty in Byzantine times. King Louis VII of France gave the lily a place in his family coat of arms and under his reign the lily became the emblem of the French monarchy and the symbol of the Blessed Virgin for Christians. The French lily became the emblem for the French kings. In the Bible the Lily also occurs, Matthew (6:28) "And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin".

Frog symbol

kikker symbol The metamorphosis of the frog was associated by Christians with the resurrection of Christ. In the Middle Ages, the dried Body of a frog was often carried in a silk pouch around the neck as protection against epilepsy. The toad was less popular beacuse it was considered an accomplice of the devil and witches. In the Bible, the frog does not occur so positively, for example it was one of the plagues in ancient Egypt (Exodus 8:2-14) and in the Revelation of John (16:13) it says, “Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.”

Greek cross symbol

Grieks kruis The Greek cross is a very early form of the Christian cross. However, the Greek cross predates the Latin cross and was not intended to represent the cross of the crucifixion, but instead the four directions of the earth, which represent the spread of the representing gospel. The Greek cross was also once a popular form for Eastern churches.

Huguenot cross symbol

Hugenotenkruis The Huguenot Cross has the Maltese Cross as its main component, this was the markingplate of the knights of Malta. This was a spiritual knighthood from the Middle Ages. The Cross has equal arms, with a widely divergent top. The Maltese Cross was seen as a symbol of the rebirth. The eight points represent the eight beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 5:3-10). The arms of the cross are connected by a wreath of four lilies or hearts. These are the symbols of purity and faithfulness. The original appendage at the bottom was a tear, later the tear was replaced by a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Huguenot Cross is nowadays the symbol of Reformed Christians.

IHS symbol

graf ihs symbol The symbolic meaning of the monogram IHS is often explained by the initial letters of "Iesus hominum salvator" which stands for "Jesus the savior of men" or "in hoc salis" which stands for "herein lies salvation". IHS are also the first three letters of the Greek word (IHSOYS) meaning Jesus. Another explanation is "In hoc signo" which stands for "In this sign thou shalt overcome". IHS can also be found on church facades, confessionals and prayer cards and the monogram was in the past widely used by the wealthy Catholic order of the Jesuits.

Ichtus sign or fish symbol

visje symbol The origin of the sign is from the time when the first Christians were persecuted. Although from Roman history there was no active persecution of the Christians beacuse they were Christians, but not recognizing the Roman gods was punishable. The early Christians used the fish sign to see if the other person also was a Christian and it probably also showed the direction for secret Christian meetings. ICHTHUS literally means 'fish'. The I stands for Jesus, the CH for Christ, the T for THeou, the U for Uios, the S for Soter. This is a rough translation for Jesus Christ God's son and redeemer. Nowadays one often sees the fish symbol on the back of a car as a sign that the owner of the car is a Christian.

Lamb symbol

lam symbol The lamb has been the symbol for Jesus Christ for centuries, the image offers powerful protection against infertility and also it enforces peace. It is also a symbol of purity and innocence and the lamb, depicted with cross and Nimbus is the symbol of Christ's sacrificial death. The image of the divine shepherd leading his people like a flock produced an image of the good shepherd Jesus, looking for lost lambs. In John (1:29) John the Baptist calls Jesus "the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world." In the revelation (14:1) it says, "Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads." Still today the passover lamb with the banner is the symbol of victory over death a beloved symbol of the resurrection. Also, in the Bible, the lamb is often used as a sacrificial lamb and the symbol of martyrdom.

Maltese cross

Malterzerkruis Maltese Cross was the markingplate of the knights of Malta. This was a spiritual knighthood from the Middle Ages. The Cross has equal arms, with a widely divergent top. The Maltese Cross was seen as a symbol of the rebirth. The eight points represent the eight beatitudes from the Gospel of Matthew (Matthew 5:3-10). The arms of the cross are connected by a wreath of four lilies or hearts. These are the symbols of purity and faithfulness.

PAX symbol

graf pax symbol Pax means peace in Latin and it is the symbol of Christ who brought peace to earth. Pax was originally a Roman goddess of peace, more specifically of the calm and peaceful state of a country. Christians have turned Pax into the peaceful message of Jesus Christ.

PX symbol

PX symbol The PX symbol is the monogram of Christ. The monogram is composed of the Greek letters X and P, which form the first letters of Christ. The oval circle, the egg, is the symbol of birth and new life.

PXAO symbol

PXAO symbol The PXAO symbol is also a monogram of Christ. The monogram is composed of the Greek letters X and P, which are the first letters of Christ. This symbol is supplemented by the Greek letters Alpha and Omega which symbolizes Jesus omnipotence. Alpha and Omega are the first and the last letter of the classical Greek alphabet and thus symbolize the beginning and the end. (See also: Alpha Omega symbol)

Raven symbol

Raaf symbol In Christian symbolism the raven is equal to other crows such as the rook and the crow and it is a bird that usually has an evil meaning, but it is sometimes also appreciated for his wisdom. In the Bible, the prophet Elijah receives bread from the ravens in the desert. In the early Christianity the raven was accused of not informing Noah of the end of the flood and so the raven became the symbol of the slave of worldly lusts, which drowns with his conversion, for he calls out "eras, eras" (Lat. tomorrow, tomorrow).

Rosary symbol

Rozenkrans symbol The rosary has a long history, in earlier times it was a string with knots at certain distances.. After each prayer, the string, which was held in the hand, was pushed one knot further. At the end of the string, the praying cycle was ready. Later in time, the ends were tied together and in the subsequent version, the knots were replaced by beads. For many people, the rosary has become more than a help for prayer, it has become a kind of amulet. It works as a protection against mischief, from temptation to witchcraft and even physical diseases. Polish farmers walk three times around their house with a bell, candle and a rosary to ward off lightning and in Austria a special version is used to protect children from disease and the Evil Eye. Although most people think that the rosary is connected to the Catholic faith, a round cord of prayer beads also was used in India in the ancient cult of Shiva. From India the rosary ended up in Tibet and China and from China to Japan. The Christian rosaries did not appear until around the year 1000. The precise number of beads in a rosary varies by religion.

Russian cross symbol

Russisch kruis symbol This kind of cross is used in the Russian Orthodox Church, the top bar represents the sign with the letters "INRI", the meaning of the bottom bar is not entirely clear.

Scallop Shell of St. James

Jacobsschelp symbol The Scallop Shell is the emblem of St. James and its symbolism relates to two layers of the human condition; the physical and the spiritual. St. James was an ordinary pilgrim like the rest of us. He walked a long difficult road with Jesus; he was imprisoned by his raging emotions, and he went through metaphoric fires to free himself and discover the vastness of his spirit. The symbolism of the shell in general goes back further in time, there are known images of shells in Roman times, where the shell was a symbol of birth and rebirth. The shell is also the general symbol for pilgrims and in particular the emblem of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. They wear the shell, sewn on the hat or on the jacket to giver them protection from highwaymen.

St Christopher symbol

Sint Kristoffel symbol St Christopher was the saint for the travelers and the amulet was therefore quite popular as a protector of people who were traveling or far away from home. Even today, the amulet is still for sale and is still a popular amulet. His original name was Offero and he lived with by a raging river, where he carried travelers to the other side. That was not difficult for him since he was a big giant was (according to tradition even twice as long as the giant Goliath). One day a little boy asked if he wanted to bring him to the other side and he took the child. on his shoulders and went into the water. But halfway down the river, the child's weight began to push him down, how could a child be so heavy, and he became afraid that they would drown together. The child told him that he was so heavy because the weight of the whole world rested on his shoulders. When Offero understood that this child was Jesus Christ, after which the child disappeared. The moral of this story was that when we recognize the power of Christ, there is a great burden is taken from our shoulders.

Snake as symbol

Snake as symbol The snake is the animal whose symbolism shows many contradictions, in many cultures it is used as symbol of the underworld and the realm of the dead, presumably because he lives in secret and crawls away in burrows. Death and life are symbolically united in this animal in such a unique way that there are hardly any cultures where the snake is not used as a symbol. The word serpent appears 36 times in the Bible in 33 verses, but also synonyms such as viper, basilisk and the Leviathan are used in the Bible, usually in a very negative sense. It was the serpent that convinced Eve to eat the fruit of the tree that God had said that they were not allowed to eat from. When Moses was called to Egypt, he had to fight the serpent. When the people during the Exodus complain about the food they are given, God sends fiery serpents upon them (Num. 21:5-6). Yet it is also the case that when the people confessed their sins, Moses prayed to God, whereupon God instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent so that everyone who would look at it would be healed. In the Bible, the serpent (almost) always has a negative meaning. He is a smooth-out, a sniper and with his split tongue he sows doubt and discord. In many images in churches we encounter snakes as a sign of evil and destruction.

XP symbol

graf xp symbol This symbol is also called the Labarum and stands for the Greek letters X (chi) and P (rho) which form the first letters of Christ. According to another tradition are the Greek equivalents of the initial letters of the Latin Christus Rex which stands for "Christ is King". In combination with the cross it is a symbol for the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

XPAO symbol

graf xpao symbol This symbol is the combination of the Greek letters X (chi) and P (rho) which form the first letters of Christ in combination with the Greek letters Alpha and Omega which comes from Christianity and which symbolizes Jesus omnipotence and Alpha and Omega are the first and the last letter of the classical Greek alphabet and thus also symbolize the beginning and the end. (See also: Alpha Omega symbol)

Meaning of colors in the Christian churg

In the early days of the Christian church, the clothing was almost the same as the clothes that people were used to at home. The roman citizens who the could pay wore white clothing, but in the Bible the color white also had a symbolic meaning. In the Old Testament, white is a feast color, color of purity and of forgiveness of sins. In the New Testament, white is also the color of purity and devotion to god. In old images of the church we see that the pastors wore white clothing but when there was more prosperity, the robe of the pastor got more decoration. Around 1200, the Pope gave rules for the use of colors in worship: white for the holy days, red for the martyrs' days, black for the days of penance and green for the days that remained. The Lutheran and Anglican churches also had their own colors.

  The color black symbolizes death, so at funerals people often wear black clothing. In worship is black the liturgical color for Good Friday.
  Green is the symbol and color of growing plants. It is also a symbol of life and liturgically green is the triumph of the life over death. The color is used in the time between other Cristian events.
  Red is the color of blood and liturgically it is the color for the commemoration of the saints and martyrs of the church. As color of fire it is used for the Feast of Pentecost.
  White is the symbol of purity and innocence and it is the liturgical color for the holy days of Christmas and Easter.
  Purple is the color of penance and mourning and it is also the color for a royal robe. The liturgical color is used in the weeks of Advent and the preparation for Easter. (the 40 days)
Last update: 22-08-2021


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