List of Catholic Symbols and Meanings

Updated on July 21, 2017

Religious Symbols

Since the earliest times, the concept of symbolism has appeared in every human culture, social structure, and religious system. Signs and symbols play a vital role in all of the world's religions as objects on which thoughts and prayers can be focused.

Symbols point a way through the spiritual world. They act as badges of faith, teaching tools, and aids on the journey towards an understanding of complex philosophies.

Crucifix

The crucifix is a cross with the figure of the body of Jesus Christ attached to it. This is a very common Catholic symbol that is often placed on or above the altar where the Eucharist is celebrated.

A crucifix often has the letters INRI written across the top. These letters are short for a Latin phrase which translates as "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews." These are the words in which Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, ordered to be written over the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified.

A crucifix is a symbol of sacrifice.

Source

Alpha and Omega

These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet and are used at various times in the Church liturgical year.

In the book of revelation 22:13, Christ refers himself as the Alpha and the Omega, that is the first and the last: Christ is the beginning and the end of all creation.

The Cross

The most famous and widespread Christian symbol is the cross. It is found wherever there is a Christian presence.

In Roman times, the cross was seen as an instrument of torture and public humilation. Criminals were put to death on crosses.

For Christians, however, the cross became a symbol not only of Jesus' death but also of his resurrection.

The Sacred Heart

The Sacred Heart is a symbol of the love of Jesus for all of humanity.

The heart is a symbol of love. When depicted as the Sacred Heart, it is shown as pierced with a cross and thorns twisted around it. This shows the depth of Jesus' love. He was prepared to suffer and die for all people. His love is eternal.

IHS and Chi-Rho

The letters IHS often appear on liturgical items, building plaques, gravestones, and sacred vessels. IHS is a shortened form of the Greek word for Jesus.

The letters X and P are often used as another symbol for Christ. The first two letters of Christ's name in Greek are X and P. In the Greek alphabet, X equals CH and P equals R.

Also known as the CHi-RHO cross, the letters are usually inscribed one over the other sometimes enclosed within a circle, becoming both a cosmic and a solar symbol.

The Fish

One of the oldest Christian symbols is the fish. It was used by Christians to identify themselves and each other, often in times of persecution. It is often found in the Roman catacombs, a secret meeting place when the Christians were persecuted for their faith by the Romans.

It is based on an acrostic of the initial letters of the Greek words for Jesus Christ. To understand this symbol, you need to know the meaning of the acronym. The Greek word for fish is ICHTHUS, which is also an acronym for Jesus. (Iesous CHristos THeou Uios Soter translates as "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.")

Christ also referred to his apostles as "Fishers of Men" while the early Christian fathers called the faithful pisculi (fish).

Fleur de Lis

This is one example of a symbol of Mary. The whiteness and beauty of the lily is symbolic of the purity of Mary Immaculate.

The lily is often used to decorate shrines, chapels, or grottos dedicated to Mary.

The Dove

The dove is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. When Christ was baptized by John the Baptist, a dove descended on him (Matthew 3:16 and Mark 1:10).

The dove is sometimes depicted with an olive branch in its mouth as a symbol of peace. It also symbolizes God's grace.

Do you remember how in Noah's story, God sent a great flood and after the rain stopped, Noah sent out a dove to search for dry land? It returned carrying an olive branch from the Mount of Olives, a symbol of God's forgiveness.

Crossed Keys

Crossed keys are a symbol of the Pope's authority. This is because Christ said to St. Peter that he would give him the key to the Kingdom (Matthew 16:19). St. Peter was the first pope and those who succeed him share in the power Jesus gave him.

Source

The Lamb

One of the most important symbols of Christ is the Lamb. Christ as the Lamb of God is mentioned in John 1:35-36 and Revelation 5:6-14 and in the words of the Mass.

The whiteness of the Lamb symbolises innocence and purity. Lambs are often associated with sacrifice in the Old Testament. Christ, the sacrificial lamb, died for the sins of humanity.

The lamb is sometimes portrayed with a flag, symbolic of Christ's victory over death in his Resurrection.

Questions & Answers

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    • profile image

      amos maria igba 4 years ago

      i love GOD and our mother mary

    • profile image

      Matt 5 years ago

      The Fish is my favourite symbol.

    • profile image

      Gaganator 5 years ago

      i love this website, thanks for all the help :)

    • profile image

      madlife 5 years ago

      i need more symbols

    • profile image

      Dieudonne 5 years ago

      Thanks so much for the inside it has opened me to understanding the symbols used by the Church. I am not Oliver twist but i will be glad to read on more symbols.

      Remain Blessed

    • profile image

      Amofah 5 years ago

      Am proud to be catholic in the catholic church everything is in order.

    • profile image

      Ricki 6 years ago

      What does the circle around the centre of the cross (as displayed on catholic churches etc) represent.

    • profile image

      Ifeanyi Agu 6 years ago

      Is good for one to act what he/she believe & believe what he/she act. i love catholic.

    • profile image

      Andrew paul 6 years ago

      I love catholic church.i wil like to be a priest presenly am a minor seminarian if u went to help jus contect me on facebok Andrew Paul on facebook.

    • profile image

      tate 6 years ago

      my project is now complete

    • profile image

      Theresa 6 years ago

      I love th Catholic church and its teachings are so pure.

    • profile image

      bernst19 6 years ago

      Thank you for this explanation. Do you or any one reading this know what the capital 'M' with a cross above it, surrounded by an oval or circle of dots mean?

      It's hard to describe in words,but its on the back of a cross necklace my husband owns, that I got from a catholic store.

      Thanks!

    • profile image

      cheese 6 years ago

      thanks, this helped me with my r.e assesment!:D

    • profile image

      gregorytenia 6 years ago

      thankyou very much it helped alot about my religion (roman catholic) and my project thankyou very much!! :)

    • profile image

      Bobby 6 years ago

      Thank you for all the work! This helped sooo much

    • profile image

      nana 6 years ago

      were are the candles , 10 commandments ,the cup and the bread

    • profile image

      Kathy N 6 years ago

      Thank you so much for your beautiful work. It's very helpful. May God reward you.

      I've tried to be a good catholic and feel so blessed to attend holy masses. Now I understand the signs in the churches.

    • profile image

      GuyfromNorway 6 years ago

      Thanks for help for my homework! :D

    • profile image

      Hy 6 years ago

      What do the beads on the cross necklace mean?

    • profile image

      Cynthia 6 years ago

      Everything is Jesus Then why need meaning for specific things. but the meaning for every image and letters are really clear and every christian must know it well to share with non catholics

    • profile image

      emt 6 years ago

      thanks man that help me a lot

    • profile image

      francis 6 years ago

      Am really proud to be a catholic am really proud

    • profile image

      CRISSYBELIEVERluvsENRIQUE IGLESIAS 6 years ago

      Thanks so much for your help!

      ~God Bless~

      CRISSY:)

    • profile image

      lily therese 6 years ago

      I go to a private catholic school and we take our faith REALLY seriously (which of course is a good thing. my teacher just gave me an assignment to look up symbols and write an essay this really really helped thank you :)

    • profile image

      sarah 6 years ago

      thank, you very much my home work is now complete :D

    • profile image

      keelan 6 years ago

      thancks alot

    • Supplex profile image

      Supplex 6 years ago

      As a new convert, I am often amazed and pleased at the richness of Catholic tradition.

    • profile image

      Seb-Mary 6 years ago

      I love the church's teaching

    • profile image

      Samuel Ejika 6 years ago

      This site has opened my eye, Thanks so much.

    • profile image

      Joseph Orabu 6 years ago

      On December 2011, we (YOUTHS)have yes retreat Nangina parish. I was given the topic to discuss about signs of the church. Thank you to sana.

    • profile image

      punitha 6 years ago

      thank you somuch..................

    • profile image

      nike2010 6 years ago

      ok thank you this answerrs my question

    • profile image

      Student 1 6 years ago

      Thanx so much... this helped me heaps in re !

    • profile image

      Mark, South Pacific 6 years ago

      Symbols helps. We are living in the world of symbols.

    • profile image

      shepi 6 years ago

      Jesus said i am the way the truth and the life. Why is it Catholics pray through Mary?

    • profile image

      student 6 years ago

      thank you so much this site has helped me so much with my school assignment =)

    • profile image

      Fatima 6 years ago

      It is always good for the Church to explain and teach it's faith

    • profile image

      Xhoxho 6 years ago

      I believe that symbols don't mean anything to our Christian faith what God real wants is the we believe as the bible says in Romans1:17 "For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." W can only be justified in our walk with through faith and not symbols again the bible says in 2Corinthian5:7 "For we live by faith, not by sight" and symbols are sight not faith

    • profile image

      lois 6 years ago

      I am trying to find out the meaning of the slanted cross on catholic cemetary headstones and so far am not able.

    • profile image

      Owera 7 years ago

      Thank you very much for the information.I'm a Catholic and I've never understood some of the symbols in the church.This site has really opened my eyes.

    • profile image

      rtyu 7 years ago

      THX!

    • profile image

      emily 7 years ago

      this website needs more viewers. it is an awesome website. ill tell you this. ADVERTISE!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      Francis 7 years ago

      Well presented. Symbols are in our prayer life. It reminds of of the God who loved us so much. Thanks.

    • profile image

      deepa 7 years ago

      great photos and very , to the point informative hub, keep writing and join helium.

    • profile image

      Guillermo 7 years ago

      This helps us understand the meaning of symbols!!

    • profile image

      Nana Mbroh Joshua 7 years ago

      I am just in love all that I have read. A proud Catholic.

    • onceuponatime66 profile image

      Jackie Paulson 7 years ago from USA IL

      I love this hub and the topic and the layout. I love that you have symbols and words to make understanding so easy.

    • profile image

      kary 7 years ago

      very well done explains the means great

    • profile image

      Babe  7 years ago

      sweet. helped me stufy for RE exam. :P

    • profile image

      Fernando 7 years ago

      i am a catholic, very nice hub

      Fernando

    • profile image

      Saili 7 years ago

      thans alot, this knowledge will me defend my catholic faith.

    • lea86 profile image

      lea86 7 years ago

      Hi, I want to add about the symbol of cross; besides what has you mentioned, a cross is also a symbol of victory over death and sins. To catholics, a cross with Jesus attached bring an important meaning, where it refers Jesus's victory and as accomplishment of the Father's Word. Usually for protestant point of views, they claim that Jesus should be put down, because it hurts Him.But Catholic believe that it is a sign of Jesus's great faith to His Father and also His love upon humanity.

    • profile image

      catholic girl 102 7 years ago

      i am catholic and i think this website was okay but i didn't get what i needed!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      rsagbersab 7 years ago

      exellent job. i learned a lot.

    • susan.dawson45 profile image

      susan.dawson45 7 years ago from UK

      This is a wonderful post. The Church is full symbolism. This is the beauty of the Catholic tradition - http://bit.ly/c8ddcs

    • profile image

      tony nou 7 years ago

      Thanks for the info, helps me alot on my faith experience project. I am a protestant and am visiting a catholic church for my project. God Bless You

    • profile image

      Andrew 7 years ago

      I feel it would be have been more insightful if you had also explained the pagan origins of these symbols and their translation to the catholic church.

    • profile image

      Bernard price 7 years ago

      I notice during the recent papal visit a symbol being worn . It is a circle with a bar through it

      in the form of a pendant. Anyone know what this is?

      Many thanks

      Bernie

    • profile image

      Pagan 7 years ago

      Key word it's 'Catholic' symbols, they are not Christian symbols...

    • profile image

      Thomas Tay 7 years ago

      Good information for Catholic like mr

    • profile image

      oscar 7 years ago

      when did the chi rho cross get replaced with the latin cross?

    • thecatholicexpert profile image

      thecatholicexpert 7 years ago

      thanks for explaining all the different symbols and the Latin words in all of them. really useful stuff! God Bless!

    • profile image

      ron 8 years ago

      great page fantastic

    • profile image

      Nzenze Epie 8 years ago

      Thanks a lot for this information. i once read these from a book but could no longer lay hands on it again. But i would love to read more on the developments if any. God bless you. Thanks again

    • profile image

      Obembe joseph 8 years ago

      Thanks, but we still need more symbols

    • profile image

      brock 8 years ago

      yor website rocks

    • profile image

      tyler 8 years ago

      your website rocks

    • profile image

      Lor 8 years ago

      this website helped me alot! thank you.

    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 8 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      Very informative hub! Good job!

    • profile image

       8 years ago

      great advice on the easter symbols ill definetly be coming back to this site late on in life thanks

    • profile image

      steph  8 years ago

      i love this site i use it everyday! thanks heaps for this

    • profile image

      boo 8 years ago

      awesome

    • profile image

      nomical17 8 years ago

      very informative ^_^

    • profile image

      ern 8 years ago

      Thank you so much for this information. You answered many questions I have had for years. I have a couple rosary beads I purchased from Rome when I lived in Naples (was in military). I am not a Catholic and have been wondering what the symbols are on the rosary. When I traveled Italy, I noticed on the outside of the churches it would have the letters IHS and now I know what it means! I also have wondered what INRI was. On my rosary it has the alpha symbol as well as the omega symbol, which I knew, but it also had a 'P' with an 'x' at the bottom of the P overlapping it. Now I know what it means. My daughters rosary has the sacred heart so I will let her know exactly what it means. The backside of the rosary with the alpha, omega, and chi-rho symbol has what looks like a shield with a cross and a M and a helmet on top of the shield. It reminds me of the armor of God, but if anyone knows what this means, please let me know. Thank you so much for the information you have provided and God bless you.

    • profile image

      birdy 8 years ago

      im baptist but my boyfriend is catholic i see no wrong in it just the diff. in them i want to know more... how can i know more besides keep going to church with him ...i already do that...but i want to do it on my own time too

    • profile image

      david brown 8 years ago

      i would like to know how when priests make the sign of the cross and say the words the son spirit and holy ghost across their body how is it signed left to right right to left up down how? please send explanation

    • profile image

       8 years ago

      why cant we have info on all the symbols

    • profile image

      Illum 8 years ago

      if you do your research, all of these symbols are based in pagan ideas and practices. interesting thing about mainstream christianity, they fail to read their history books. Edict of Milan for example. Truth stands on the four pillars.

    • profile image

      School girl  8 years ago

      me and my friend used this site even though im not catholic (go chuch of england) and the fish was on my old school logo it was a lutheran school

    • profile image

      Soccer Chick  8 years ago

      i think this site was good.

      i had to use this for work at school (Merici Colleage Camberra the cool school) and it was great thanks

    • profile image

      ruby 8 years ago

      the Chi-Rho was developed by Constantine for his battles. IN THIS SIGN SHALL YE CONQUER was the motto for the Chi-Ro.

    • profile image

      Mike 8 years ago

      Thanks....Great page

    • profile image

      EDWARD MENSAH 8 years ago

      This site is just too great and wonderful.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 8 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Absolutely Fantastic article with wonderful photos. GBY Dear Heart.

    • profile image

      obel 8 years ago

      I'm not a christian, but i really love and believe in jesus. i want to convert to christian can anyone guide me what should i do. I pray to jesus everyday but don't know it is in the correct way or not. christianity is a beautifully peace religion , it gave us faith and gave the power how to love other.. i feel very good and feel god's love when i was in the church near my home..

    • profile image

       8 years ago

      great sighns of the church

    • profile image

      pamela edison 8 years ago

      good hub....very very informative...

      can't wait to read more...

    • profile image

      Marcus 8 years ago

      Deuteronomy 4:15 Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire:

      Deuteronomy 4:16 Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,

      Deuteronomy 4:17 The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air,

      Deuteronomy 4:18 The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth:

      Deuteronomy 4:19 And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.

    • profile image

      student 8 years ago

      thankyou. i am doing a project on religious symbols and have been stuck for a while. Thankyou for all your help.

    • thecatholicexpert profile image

      thecatholicexpert 8 years ago

      Great job, I appreciate the explanations behind all the different symbols it was interesting to read about them all!

    • profile image

      PRINCE 8 years ago

      I AM A CATHOLIC BUT I DONT KNOW THE MEANING OF THE CATHOLIC SYMBOLS TILL I VISITED THIS SITE. WILL DONE KEEP THE CATHOLIC FAITH BURNING

    • profile image

      Jenny 8 years ago

      What is greek symbol for faithful?

    • profile image

      Sam  8 years ago

      this really helped

    • profile image

      BoReD 8 years ago

      thanks for that wonderful piece of information. I'm studying for a test and this will hep a lot

    • profile image

      Carl 8 years ago

      thanks for that, it really helped.

    • Make  Money profile image

      Make Money 9 years ago from Ontario

      Very nice Hub MM Del Rosario.  I should write some Hubs like this myself instead of spending all my time in the HubPages forums.  It's fun too though.

      Tim Bourdon I also happen to be wearing one of those medals myself attached to my scapular.  It is called the Medal of the Immaculate Conception or more popularly known as the Miraculous Medal.  It has quite the history to it.  So this spurred me on to writing a Hub about the Miraculous Medal.  You can get this medal for free from a link on my new Hub.

      https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Miraculou

      God bless

      Mike

    • Kushal Poddar profile image

      Kushal Poddar 9 years ago from Kolkata,India

      Beautifully told. It is interesting how the same symbols can mean different to different culture or even in different time.

    • profile image

      tim bourdon 9 years ago

      Help me find the name of a medal I ware?

      Mary on the front: Inscribed - O Mary concieved with out sin

      Pray for us who have recourse to thee

      On the back: A M with a cross on top of it, below that are two hearts not the same. If someone can help please e-mail me.

      timbourdon49@yahoo.com

    • profile image

      Rosa 9 years ago

      Thank you for your site; brief and informative.

    • profile image

      Erick Smart 9 years ago

      A very informative hub with Easter just around the corner.

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