signs and symbols in christian art pdf

Signs and symbols in christian art pdf

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Introduction

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Signs and Symbols: What do they mean to a believer?

A religious symbol is an iconic representation intended to represent a specific religion , or a specific concept within a given religion. Religious symbols have been used in the military in many different countries, such as the United States military chaplain symbols.

Introduction

To browse Academia. Skip to main content. By using our site, you agree to our collection of information through the use of cookies. To learn more, view our Privacy Policy. Log In Sign Up. Download Free PDF. Biblical Symbolism in Renaissance Art: The spiritual value of contrast, black, white, blue and red in Renaissance paintings. Biblical colour symbolism and interpretation of Christian art. Benno Zuiddam. Download PDF. A short summary of this paper. B iblical colour symbolism is an important tool for the interpretation of religious paintings.

That this is still insufficiently recognized is evident, both from text books and specifically Christian approaches to the visual arts. A recent Cambridge textbook on Renaissance art Miller refers to and clarifies many things, but any explanation of possible symbolic values for colour is conspicuously absent. Even Fergusson's work on signs and symbols in Christian art, which is, more than sixty years after its first publication, still the only English standard work of its sort, is very scanty in its information on colours and their symbolism in Scripture and the arts Fergusson Also when individual Renaissance paintings and their symbolism are discussed in an admirable way e.

Bruyn , Hartau , one looks in vain for even the mentioning of colours, let alone any attempt to explain them. In other instances, scholars recognize that the colours in a particular work must have an important function, but fail to ascertain what function exactly or which symbolic role is attached to them e.

Philip , Boczkowska While art for the glory of God has enjoyed a revival of interest in recent decades, this has not yet led to study of colour from a Biblical and Church historical perspective. Francis Schaeffer sought to develop a God-focus for art, as a form of praise, if not worship : "The arts and the sciences do have a place in the Christian life -they are not peripheral.

For a Christian, redeemed by the work of Christ and living within the norms of Scripture and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the lordship of Christ should include an interest in the arts. A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God.

An art work can be a doxology in itself. Others, like Duncan Roper do mention and appreciates colour, but treat colour predominantly as an expression of creative beauty without considering symbolic or spiritual meaning : "It is my claim that in doing so we have a much better account of the aesthetic functioning of natural creation.

The latter is rich with nuances, in the shapes of trees, in the awesomeness of vistas, in the sound of waterfalls, creeks and raging storms, in the movements of birds, not to mention the smells, odours and tastes of all manner of things, the tender touch of a hand, and the visual effects of colour and shape. As such these nuances are an integral part of the functioning of natural creation as it is ordered in the coherence of all its different modes of meaning under the ordering hand of God's Word and Spirit.

Research design and methodological approachThis prima facia evidence suggests that colour is insufficiently recognized as a tool in the history of Christian art. In an attempt to embrace a more inclusive art history cf. Alexander , this article seeks to address this need from a theological, classical and philological point of view. Its aim is to propose meaning for the use of specific colours from a Biblical perspective, as specific symbolism was attached to colours and their expression in Scripture, also as Christianity functioned in its wider Greco-Roman context.

This is primarily a philological contribution, which seeks to explain colours from a Biblical and Classical perspective. It does not claim that the Biblical sign language it identifies, works for all Christian art, but argues that it may be significant for understanding visual art that operates from a Biblical and Classical framework. As the Renaissance as a period was inspired by both these influences, if the premise of this article is correct, religious paintings of this time are likely to reflect symbolic colour values that are also present in Holy Scripture.

In other words, how are colours used and appreciated in the Bible and its Classical context? And, secondarily by means of illustration: Do these values work if they are tested on religious paintings of the Renaissance?

For the first question, the methodology is philological, aiming at establishing the accidence and meaning of colours, particularly in their Greek primary context. The second question will be addressed in a comparative historical way, as the use of colours in specific paintings is given significance directly from a Biblical perspective, or indirectly as this Scriptural colour symbolism was utilized in the Christian liturgy. Symbolism has a long history in the tradition of Christian art has always been profoundly symbolic.

Some believe this is due to the Biblical prohibition of graven images and their worship Ex It should be kept in mind, therefore, that even when Christ or the saints are portrayed in Renaissance painting or sculpture, this is not intended as a real representation of their person or presence. Just like medievalism continues beyond the Middle-Ages cf. Diebold , this article argues that Biblical symbolism continues beyond Scripture and that its expressions are not merely the domain of Theology, but also of the visual arts.

To practically illustrate the symbolic values that may be established from primary Scriptural and Classical sources, this article uses religious Renaissance paintings. In the methodology used, these have a mere illustrative function, as this contribution does not pretend to explain all artistic aspects in these paintings. Its methodological aim is that to show that Biblical symbolism is helpful for the interpretation of these pictures from a spiritual perspective.

Religious paintings from this period are especially suitable, as the Renaissance combined the appreciation of Classical and Biblical values, Scripture and its Greco-Roman context. The Renaissance is also unique in the sense that soon afterwards religious symbolism weakened, particularly from the 17 th century onwards. German and Dutch painters at the time also introduced new icons and motives Dittrich Either the French Revolution or the year is seen as demarcation line for the demise of religious symbolism in Western Europe Hermsen Also symbolism in the visual arts in general has been in decline since.

Only with the introduction of abstract art came a renewal of appreciation of Christian allegory Pfeiffer , albeit within a new context of modern and post-modern times.

This often misses the former consistency, clarity and universally understood patterns of the medieval and Renaissance art, which were rooted in a firm belief in divine presence, truth and revelation.

In the new perception, a work of art is not true because it is an intermediary for truth, but because it is perceived as a true work of art Leuenberger This statement would have been inconceivable in the days of the Christian Renaissance and appreciated as a departure from a Biblical worldview and value system. This contribution is written from a theological perspective and appreciates the visual arts as an expression of spiritual values.

It subsequently looks at colour as manifestation, gemstones as the colour palette in Scripture and Antiquity and the spiritual value of contrast, particularly light versus darkness. It then considers the role of four specific colours in Scripture and argues for the following symbolic values: black as the absence of God and a reminder of his judgement; white as the colour of God's presence and holiness, blue for heaven as the seat of God's authority, red as cloth of divine authority and reminder of earthly sufferings.

These four colours were selected as their symbolic meaning is relatively straightforward in Scripture. Their use is also confirmed by the liturgy of the Church, as retrospective section will show. Black, white and red were the most important liturgical colours in the Western Church and blue functioned prominently in the Middle-Ages because of its symbolic Biblical associations with heaven. Scripture: colour as manifestationColour in the Bible was in the first place a manifestation.

Many of the colours that we today know in a defined and abstract way were less straightforward concepts in Biblical times. Colours were often called after their concrete appearance in creation. Where modern Bible translations speak about red, blue and yellow the words used in holy Writ may actually be precious stones like jasper, sapphire and topaz. The significance of gems in Biblical times was tied in probably not with their colour only, but also with their worth and significance as a precious stone.

This is, for instance, suggested by the use of agate, which was found as the second stone in the third row of the High Priest's breastplate or breast-piece Ex. Usually, an agate does not have one specific colour, but the same stone may include red, orange or dark yellow as well as blue colour combinations. The Hebrew word conveys the idea of a flame, or something that is split in tongues.

This is suitably applied to agate as a form of chalcedony a fine-grained variety of quartz , which lines or bands streams of colours together. These may range from white to dull yellow, red, brown, orange, blue, black and grey. All primary colours, and therefore per inference possibly all colours, are represented in agate. John Gage Color and Meaning: Art, Science, and Symbolism , for instance, only refers to a 13 th century lapidary of Albertus Magnus , but not to any Classical sources.

Lapidaries, however, have a much longer history and were very much a part of Classical civilisation and served as a context for Biblical symbolism. The oldest treatise on stones extent today was written by Theophrastus Grk. Theophrastus was a native of Lesbos, a pupil of Plato's and successor to Aristotle in the lyceum after the latter's expulsion from Athens Watson He also refers to their use as seals, to authorize agreements or promises. He also distinguishes between male and female sardion and cyan, where the male is the darker of the two.

Christian lapidaries in the Middle-Ages tend to focus on the breastplate of Moses adorned with twelve stones symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel , the ornaments in Ezekiel's prophecy and the twelve stones that are portrayed as the foundations of the heavenly Jerusalem. In context these provide contrast with the wicked city of Babylon, emblem of sin, who is adorned with precious stone as well see Rev , cf. Reader From the fourteenth century several authors, like John Mandeville , suggest that diamonds and other precious stones occur as male and female, beyond masculine and feminine as gender, actually producing little stones by themselves Watson Although Scripture assigns gender to stones, as it does to all nouns, it does not claim any miraculous multiplication of stones.

Neither did Theophrastus. Gems as colour palette in Scripture and AntiquityWhen one looks at precious stones and their use in the Bible, the following overview emerges. As today's names for gemstones are not always equivalent to their antique use, I have added references to Plinius the Elder who perished near Pompei in AD Plinius is particularly useful, because he was a contemporary of the Apostles and lived in the times of the New 13 And thus St.

Epiphanius explains the names of the twelve gems; and the great Andrew on the book of the Vision of John does the same. And it was on the ankle-length garment upon the shoulders of the high priest when he entered the Holy of Holies three times a year, on the festival of Passover and on Pentecost and on the day of Atonement. And they saw it sparkling bright, whitened like the snow, and they were filled with joy, for the shining of heavenly light rendered the jewel brilliant.

The very first words that God spoke in Scripture were "Let there be light" Gen It is within the created light that all of subsequent creation comes into being. This association of God with light is a consistent pattern throughout the Old and New Testament. Darkness, on the other hand is associated with his absence, a fallen world subjected to death sin and the power of Satan.

The contrast between the two is prominent in the prophets. Malachi symbolizes the activity of God with light: "But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings". Isaiah announces the coming of the Messiah as light breaking through the darkness Is : "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Matthew cf. Lk

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Religious symbolism and iconography , respectively, the basic and often complex artistic forms and gestures used as a kind of key to convey religious concepts and the visual, auditory, and kinetic representations of religious ideas and events. Symbolism and iconography have been utilized by all the religions of the world. Since the 20th century some scholars have stressed the symbolical character of religion over attempts to present religion rationally. The symbolic aspect of religion is even considered by some scholars of psychology and mythology to be the main characteristic of religious expression. Scholars of comparative religions, ethnologists, and psychologists have gathered and interpreted a great abundance of material on the symbolical aspects of religion, especially in relation to Eastern and local religions.


In addition to a discussion of objects treated symbolically in Christian art,. George Ferguson explores Old Testament characters and events and their symbolic.


Signs and Symbols: What do they mean to a believer?

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted 74—77 Fabulous beasts in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, 78—79 Dragons photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the 80—81 Plants prior written permission of the copyright owner. PEKJ ne of our distinguishing features as A sign is straightforward in its function: it may Homo sapiens is our enquiring mind. Signs give us death, and what is the meaning behind the a simple message that is of immediate natural phenomena around us. Over thousands momentary relevance.

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Christian symbolism is the use of symbols , including archetypes , acts, artwork or events, by Christianity. It invests objects or actions with an inner meaning expressing Christian ideas. The symbolism of the early Church was characterized by being understood by initiates only, [1] while after the legalization of Christianity in the Roman Empire during the 4th-century more recognizable symbols entered in use. Christianity has borrowed from the common stock of significant symbols known to most periods and to all regions of the world. Only a minority of Christian denominations have practiced Aniconism , or the avoidance or prohibition of types of images. These include early Jewish Christians sects, as well as some modern denominations [ which?

Icon: painting or mosaic of Jesus, Mary, a saint, or a Church feast. Used as an aid to devotion, usually in the Christian Orthodox tradition. Devotion: in a religious context an act of worship which usually involves prayer. They hold the common Orthodox faith, and are in communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Belonging: can be defined in a variety of ways including a sense of belonging through connections to: people, places, groups and communities. Belonging can enhance our sense of identity and aid the development of relationships within particular groups and communities.

During the Renaissance period, hands were as important a focus of attention as the face was, because they were the only other visible area of the body. Hence, representation of the position of the hands became a decorative element that was almost as important as the face. Thus, given its high visibility, hand gestures in portraits and paintings have been one of the most effective ways of conveying secrets, codes and messages. From the historical and religious perspective, hand signs in visual art may provide clues about the underlying iconographical symbols. This paper will examine the eventual hidden meanings behind a peculiar hand gesture that has been widely used by several painters. The art of a particular period is a suitable subject of investigation for exploring the existence of congenital deformities or medical illness based on physical depictions in drawings, paintings and sculptures or peculiar gestures and symbolic hallmarks. In particular, the meanings of secret hand signs and their hidden messages in artworks have intrigued art experts since the Renaissance.

Religious symbolism and iconography

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