Christian Symbolism  T to Z


All A








All B







Book / Bible

Brazen Serpent




All C









Crescent Moon




All D







Double Cube

All E


Easter Egg


All F




Fleur de lis






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All H




All I



All K



All L




Large M





All M







All M


Mill / Millstone





All N



All O


Olive tree


Oven / Furnace


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Promised Land



All R


Right and left












Rose Window

All S









Shepherd's Cross


Ship of Fools







Star of David




All T


Thistle / Thorn






All U



All V



Vesica piscis



All W





Wheel of Fortune









All Z


All #'s














      T -----------------------------


Temple: The House of God. That being you yourself.  "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up....he spoke of the temple fo the body." (John 2:19-21)  "Do you not know that you are God's temple, and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16) In Christendom the church or any altar or any place of community worship functions as a temple.

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Thistle / Thorn: Grief, pain, suffering and sorrow is what you reap when you sow the seeds of sin. "... thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you." (Gen. 3:17-18)  "What was sown among thorns is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches chokes the word, and it proves unfruitful."(Matt. 13:22) 

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Throne: "Heaven is my throne, and earth my footstool."(Isaiah 66:1) "The rivers of the waters of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb."(Rev.22:1)  The Bible makes it very clear that God creates everything separate from Himself.  That His very position is to sit upon all that creation flows from.  Makes you wonder about the notion (or fact) of singularity in nature and black holes. Or the very concept of a singularity which in math is the zero entity. At a singularity all the rules of nature vanish and the best anyone can come up with is that things are there, are defined best as waves, and can not be individualized, and events (such as the polarization of a particle on either side of the singularity) are determined at equal measurements from the singularity.  Sounds like a Cartesian Coordinate system to me. So what is zero?  Is it God? And does that amount to anything on (which) side of the singularity?  Anyway, my musing should remind you to depict a throne as the apex of worldly creation(s).  But also note that in medieval iconography that the Madonna and child shown on a throne represented the new Christ's new reign on earth.

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Tower: Spiritual elevation and ascent. It shares the symbolism of the ladder and the pillar.

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Tree: Again the ladder and the pillar and the tower, but a tree not only branches out in all directions, it also is alive and rooted. And from the beginning trees carry special attributes. "the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil" and the 'Tree of Life' both from (Gen. 2:9)  Good fruit and bad fruit.  Several times the cross is referred to as a tree, Christ is the True Vine. Man is depicted as a tree in Jer.17:7-8.  Fig trees are spoken of and miracles and parables surround them.  But you're always going to run into the universal symbol of a tree either as a softening touch for your backgrounds or as a symbol for a family tree. And that too is Biblical. It was Isaiah who said: "There shall come forth a shoot from the tree of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." Referring to Jesus.

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Trinity: Although never considered a symbol it is the very symbol of 3 divine persons in one being. The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion -- the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another. Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God."  I can't over come the temptation to bring forward both an English lesson and a gender lesson here.  When the Bible or any doctrine says God the FATHER, and/or HE is our God or when the term PERSON is employed it is never (ever) intended to denote gender.  Just as a Chairman is not male or female.  Just as a cat is always an IT and never a HE or SHE; the term PERSON denotes a conscious being - usually with the potential for everlasting life and capabilities to extend consciousness beyond the thermodynamics of this universe. MAN and HE are terms for anyone who is of Godly extract.  Just as a star of David denotes any Jew as opposed to a menorah denoting only females: man as opposed to woman. The PERSON of GOD is not human.  The PERSON inside you is not human.  Such chatter gets me in trouble very often - especially among gal-pals - but it is both a matter of our spoken tongue and separation of gender and inanimate. And very important for a student of the Bible.  I dare say that an entire dimension of the Bible was completely lost to me until I understood this very simple, everyday fact.  Don't  be too Freudian

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U -----------------------------

Unicorn: Chastity and purity, the horn - being one and unique - according to myth would purifies everything it touches. According to legend it can be captured only by a virgin; in whose lap it finds rest. The story of the "Lady and the Unicorn" became an allegory for the Incarnation of Christ and the 'horn of salvation for us.' (Luke 1:69)


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Unleaven: The Israelites ate unleaven bread for seven days to prepare for the exodus from Egypt.  Unleaven dough is able to absorb yeast (Holy Spirit) and is the backwards symbol of Leavened bread. See also: Leaven and Bread.

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Vase: Just as a vase will hold water to its own shape so God holds all things to the design of His Will. A vase holding a lily, seen in many works of the Annunciation, represents the order established over the chaos of the waters of the deep by the Spirit of God.  See also water.

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Veil: Here's a favorite. Symbolizes both (at the same time and separately) concealment, revelation.  and protection.  The Ark of the Covenant was hidden behind a veil not so much as to hide it but to protect mere mortals from its radiance. And, yes, also to separate humans from it: "And the veil shall separate for you the holy place from the most holy." (Ex. 26:33)  In a common church the rood screen and the iconostasis perform the same function.  The best use of a veil is to suggest mystery which in Christendom we all hope will someday be removed: "Only through Christ is the veil taken away."(2 Cor. 3:14)

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Vesica piscis: Also known as mandorla is the elongated almond-shape formed by 2 intersecting circles.  The circles depict heaven and earth. See also Fish.


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Vine: "Thou didst bring the vine out of Egypt."(Psalms 80:8)  With the devastation of Israel 'the vine withers.' (Joel 1:12)  The nation of Israel in the Old Testament is the vine.  In the New Testament Christ becomes the vine. So keep that in mind when drawing it up.  Your audience will determine the symbol. "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser..."(John 15:1)

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Vineyard: "The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is Israel." (Isaiah 5:7)  Like with Vine (see directly above) the Old Testament pictures Israel as God's vine and vineyard.  The New Testament makes Christ the Vine and the arena of the world as the vineyard.  Refer to Matt. 21:33-46, where Jesus drives home the change of image from all of Israel to just the leaders of Israel.  And compare it to the wider definition in Matt. 20:1-16) 

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w -----------------------------

Water: "The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters." (Gen 1:2) Water is everywhere both around us and in the Bible. Noah and the Flood (Gen. 6-9). Moses and the Red Sea (Ex. 14:21-31). Extracting water from a rock (Ex. 17:1-7; Num. 20:10-13). The Crossing of the Jordan River(Joshua 3-4). Gideon's Fleece (Judges 6:36-40).  Jonah and his whale(Jonah 1-2).  The wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). Jesus' Baptism (Mark 7:4) Jesus walking on water (mark 6:47-51). Besides the holy water (q.v.) which is used by the Church in so many of her rites of blessing, and besides the water employed in the washing of feet and hands and in the baptismal font (q.v.), water has its recognized place in the ritual of every Mass and in a certain number of pontifical and extraordinary offices which include some form of washing. With regard to the water mingled with the wine in the Mass, the Fathers from the earliest times have tried to find reasons why the Church uses a mixed chalice though the Gospel narrative implies that Christ consecrated pure wine. St. Cyprian (Ep. lxiii, 13) discussing this question sees an analogy to the union of Christ with His faithful people, but, as the Council of Trent points out (Sess. XXII, De Missa, vii), there is besides this a reference to the flowing of blood and water from Christ's side, from which the Church, the dispensatrix of the sacraments, was formed, like a new Eve from the side of the new Adam.  A complex symbol, wouldn't you say?  Override all this with our nonsecular image of water as sexual, cleansing, sensual and productive then you have a tough item to work with.

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WHEAT: "And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:10-12 KJV)

You're a good egg, Charlie Brown, if, for all eternity, wheat is the symbol recalled for you.


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Well: Every instance of a well in the Bible - that I've come across - is of a traveller coming upon just the very thing he or she needs; life giving water.  Except one, and that is arguable: when Jesus comes across a woman at a well and He states, "Every one who drinks of this water shall thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water I shall give him will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4:7-15) So although Moses comes upon a well and seven cute gals after his sojourn in the desert, and wells are mentioned all over the Bible, it is this well that is most remembered because it is at this well that Jesus announces clearly that His gift to us is eternal life (without thirst, I should add).  

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Whale: In medieval iconography the jaws of the whale represent the gates of hell and the belly of the whale is hell itself.  This all hails from Jonah being swallowed up by a whale for 3 days. (Jonah 1:17-2:10) But is nothing more than a prophecy of Jesus spending 3 days in the tomb and in hell. The symbol nowadays must be put on hold.  You're better off with a smiling whale or the like to depict man's efforts to redeem the planet's environment.  The image of the whale which should symbolize man's apparent separation from God (as with the 3 days in the tomb or the belly) due to our pride in thinking we don't need God is a hard sell and should be left to medievalists.  Or until God comes crashing through our neighborhoods again and reminds us pride is a sin of ignorance.  Then we can resurrect the whale, the monastery, the 40 lashes, religious intolerance and all those other horrors still going on in the Mid East and parts of Asia.

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Wheel: No metter how you employ this symbol it will always remind people of the Hindu Caste System. And it also gets a lot of attention from all those seklf declared sane people over at the Church of Wicca.  But this is a library of Christian symbols so let's focus on the wheel's Christain symbom. And because I am one to lean toward the Hindu symbol as well as an adant believer of "Time" as it is defined by modern science, I will quote from The Elements of Christian Symbolism by John Baldock for this definition and the next. 
The wheel is a symbol of the sun and the cycle or cycles of time. It symbolises the universe and the whole of creation. The wheel combines movement with stillness: the rotation of the spokes and the outer rim around a stable axis.  The spokes of the wheel link the cenral axis to the rim and represent the apparent division of the One into the many: the Creator and the multiplicity of the created world.  These apparent divisions, however, remain contained within the wholeness or unity of the outer circumference of the wheel's rim.  It signifies the created or manifested world which while dependent on its Creator (the central axis) appears to revolve independently around it.  As the wheel travels along a horizontal plane the meeting-point of the two (i.e. the circular rim of the wheel and the straight line of the horizontal plane) is the 'point' at which the world as we know it comes into being - the point at which time and space emanating from the central axis unfold themselves into the linear time and space of the created world. (This process of unfoldment is represented diagramatically by the spiral.)  This point, though, is not confined by linear time and space.  It is the 'wheel within a wheel', beneath God's throne (Ez. 1:16).  The potter working at his wheel is anallegory of God's continually active presence in the created world, 'Can I not do with you as this potter has done?...Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand.' (Jer. 18:6).  The wheel drawing water from the well and the grinding function of the circular millstone are similarly allegorical, providing us with the water and bread of life.  The wheel motif, inseparable from that of the circle, occurs frequently in Christian art and symbolism.  The 'Chirho' mongram forms a six-spoked wheel. The development of the simple circular window into the 'wheel windo' and thence into the elaborate symbolism of the great stained-glass rose windows of the French Gothic cathedrals is a subject for study in its own right.

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Wheel of Fortune: Again, I will quote from The Elements of Christian Symbolism by John Baldock:  Medieval symbol of the instability of human existence referred to in Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy. Like the wheel, it represents the cyclical nature of time.  The small figutres depicted either clutching to its rims or falling off it may be taken to singify the paradoxical situation of man's raising himself up leading to his fall, or man's fall leading to his being raised up.  "Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it.' (Luke 17:33)

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Wilderness: Wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness brings to mind images typical of the sinner's state, In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. (Deut 32:10). See  also Israel and  Desert.

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Window: Oh, gosh; Xerox steals the saying 'The eyes are the windows to the soul,' to describe a little, whacky computer interphase they devised during the late '60's, then Apple" Steve Job steals that platform and finally Microsoft's Bill Gates calls it WINDOWS and if you don't have eyes you missed out on the entire Information Age!  And all through that so called revolution the symbol of a window as a source of light, the barrier between the interior life and the exterior still holds fast. I'll bet you 2 donuts that no one consciously looks at a window on their computer screen and thinks it a dialog form listing data from off a disc.  Nope: it's the radiation of Bill Gates' given, wondrous information from Cyberspace.  Yeah, right. Denote your windows as thresholds to dreams and you'll never go wrong.

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Wine: Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine.(Acts 2:13) Like now wine is the straight path to a silly time.  From the first book of the Bible to its last: When he (Noah) drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.(Gen. 9:21)   For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. (Rev. 18:3) wine gets a bad rap. But there are 3 kinds of wine in the Bible. The first is like grape juice - "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." (John2:10). The second is for medical and fermenting reasons -  The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, "If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself." (Luke 23:36) and: He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine.(Luke 10:34). And the third was refined wine for a good time and good dinning. It is this wine which, like bread, is produced by a process of transformation involving yeast, see leaven and unleaven. Thus the bread and the wine of the Holy Eucharist.  Wine will always symbolize the blood of Christ.  , "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.(1 Cor. 11:25) But as you learn your Bible history, wine will take on the 3 levels of symbols. Then reading the last passage I typed will still make sense when you also read Revelations 14:9-10, : "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath."

Bottoms up!

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Winepress: It was a culture of spirits, my friends. That's for sure. The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. (Judges 6:11) You have to wonder if the authors of the Bible are just trying to be journalistic or the picture they want to convey has more meaning to it. If all the rest of the Bible seems so figurative, well, chances are the latter is true. Thus you and I are greeted with a treasure throve of symbols to design with! If you care to take a moment, read that book of Judges I quote from - Judges 6.  The Winepress symbolizes God's wrath, especially when man chooses to ignore Him.  I choose this particular passage (and there are so many others) because in this case the image still applies but it is the man who is doing the pressing. A most interesting book, that one.

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Woman: Will you believe that one of our members actually wrote me (during the construction of this library) "...and I can't wait to see what you say about WOMEN after that anti-feminist report about men!" Well, I do enjoy commenting here and there, my dear members, but most of what you get here are direct quotes from the Bible and from Biblical scholars, but I'll try to be gentlemanly with this one. (Gosh, that sounds somewhat chauvinistic-piggy, doesn't it...yikes, never know where I stand with these gals.)  In symbolic terms 'Woman' stands for what is referred to as the feminine principle whereas 'man' represents the masculine. See also Right and Left.  That's a quote from  John Badock (giggle). "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name... he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree...He has helped his servant Israel... as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever."      (Excerpts from Luke 1.) Surely the greatest honor bestowed upon any human being was the dignity of bringing to birth God's own Son.  But let's look at it from a more truthful perspective. There is neither salve or free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28)

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Woodpecker: A bird which no culture or religion has over looked.  In Christian symbolism it is the Devil itself and heresy undermining belief. 


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Word: I don't know exactly how you would draw this up; the symbol remains an abstract one. And a complex one.  Just read John 1:1-18 and you will sense the titillating puzzle. A profound mystery is the better depiction.  The Word of God is what creates the world and in a very unique fashion  (and this is doctrine, by the way)  that Word is regarded as a self-revelation of God through His interactive presence with the creation of all things. For the nay-sayers among us, this is not at all at the level of the spoken word or of tradition. Nor is it a bedazzlement over man's lucky ability to form words and communicate. Nor is it on the level of integrity though that's apparent when the word (lower case w) of God comes around (when not in message, aka: angel) After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, A your very great reward." (Gen.15:1) Since some mysteries have to remain intact, suffice to use the teaching of the Church as the word of God.  Paint Jesus as the Word. And while strolling a wonderful landscape with loved ones, or gazing dreamily into a starry sky, if a moment of transcendence should capture you.... take it from there.

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Woven Fabric: Any garment which conceals or hides.  The weft represents the material side of the world.  The wrap (vertical threads) represents the form of the garments which, of course, represent the transcendent spirituality of things.

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Z -----------------------------

Zodiac: The Zodiac is a wheel divided into 12 units called houses. If you place the earth at the center it appears to pass through each house over a long duration of time. Each house takes a different amount of time to pass over but each house remains an equal size. We are presently leaving the house of Pieces and entering the house (or age)of Aquarius. Mostly the Zodiac is of the non-secular world and you might as well leave it there. See also Twelve.

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