Sunday, December 27, 2009

Symbols of the Evangelists

When I was in Dublin in 2002 I visited Trinity college and got a glimpse of the Book of Kells, the finest surviving illuminated manuscript to have been produced in medieval Europe. The book contains the four Gospels.

Symbols of the Four Evangelists
From the Book of Kells

Folio 27 of the book contains an illumination of the symbols of the four Evangelists.

St. Matthew - a Man (upper left)
St. Matthew's Gospel begins with a description of the human generation of Christ; thus, his symbol is the face of a man.

St. Mark - a Lion (upper right)
St. Mark's Gospel begins with the prophecy of Isaias about St. John the Baptist proclaiming the Lord's coming. The Baptist lived many years in the wilderness among lions and other beasts; thus, his symbol is a lion.

St. Luke - an Ox (lower left)
St. Luke's Gospel treats more than the rest with our Lord's suffering and death as a sacrifice for our sins -- and an ox served as a symbol of sacrifice.

St. John - an Eagle (lower right)
St. John is pictured as an eagle because His Gospel soars to spiritual heights in its elevated preaching.

In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, at Deus erat Verbum.

1 comment:

Kindred Spirit said...

What a perfect post for the feast of Saint John! I would love to see the Book of Kells some day: what a grace you were given to have seen it!