New Advent
 Home   Encyclopedia   Summa   Fathers   Bible   Library 
 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 
Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > I > Christian Iconography

Christian Iconography

Help support New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download or CD-ROM. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more — all for only $19.99...

The science of the description, history, and interpretation of the traditional representations of God, the saints and other sacred subjects in art. Almost from the beginning the Church has employed the arts as potent means of instruction and edification. In the first centuries the walls of the catacombs were decorated with paintings and mosaics (see CATACOMBS), and in all later times churches have lent their walls, ceilings, and windows as well as their altars, furniture, and liturgical vessels and books, to be adorned with scenes from the Old and the New Testament, from the lives and legends of the saints, and even from old mythologies, modified, of course, and harmonized with Christian teaching. (For the details of Christian iconography see the articles, DIPTYCHS; IVORIES; METAL-WORK; MOSAICS; PAINTING; RELIQUARIES; SCULPTURE; WINDOWS; WOOD-CARVING.)

The object of iconography is to give the history of these various representations, to note their prevalence or absence at some particular time or in some particular place, to compare those of different lands and different periods, to explain the personal or historical, and to interpret the symbolical. Studied thus, they have an important historical and dogmatic interest, as they attest the unity of ecclesiastical tradition and the faith of the ages in which they were produced.

Special articles dealing with subjects of Christian iconography, besides those already mentioned, are ANCHOR; D.V.; EARLY SYMBOLS OF EUCHARIST; SYMBOLISM OF FISH; LAMB; NIMBUS. See also ECCLESIASTICAL ART.


About this page

APA citation. Christian Iconography. (1910). In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07625a.htm

MLA citation. "Christian Iconography." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07625a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Michael C. Tinkler.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at newadvent.org. Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.

Copyright © 2012 by Kevin Knight. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

CONTACT US