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.


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.


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.


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.

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    amos maria igba 4 years ago

    i love GOD and our mother mary

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    Matt 4 years ago

    The Fish is my favourite symbol.

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    Gaganator 5 years ago

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

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    madlife 5 years ago

    i need more symbols

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    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

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    Amofah 5 years ago

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

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    Ricki 5 years ago

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

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    Ifeanyi Agu 5 years ago

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

  • profile image

    Andrew paul 5 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 5 years ago

    my project is now complete

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    Theresa 5 years ago

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

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    bernst19 5 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.


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    cheese 5 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

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    nana 6 years ago

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

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    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.

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    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?

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    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

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    Thanks so much for your help!

    ~God Bless~


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    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 :)

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    sarah 6 years ago

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

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    keelan 6 years ago

    thancks alot

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    Supplex 6 years ago

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

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    Seb-Mary 6 years ago

    I love the church's teaching

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    Samuel Ejika 6 years ago

    This site has opened my eye, Thanks so much.

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    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.

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    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 !

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    Mark, South Pacific 6 years ago

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

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    shepi 6 years ago

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

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    student 6 years ago

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

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    Fatima 6 years ago

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

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    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

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    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.

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    Owera 6 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.

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    rtyu 6 years ago


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    emily 6 years ago

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

  • profile image

    Francis 6 years ago

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

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    deepa 6 years ago

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

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    Guillermo 6 years ago

    This helps us understand the meaning of symbols!!

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    Nana Mbroh Joshua 7 years ago

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

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    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.

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    kary 7 years ago

    very well done explains the means great

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    Babe  7 years ago

    sweet. helped me stufy for RE exam. :P

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    Fernando 7 years ago

    i am a catholic, very nice hub


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    Saili 7 years ago

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

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    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.

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    catholic girl 102 7 years ago

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

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    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 -

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    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

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    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.

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    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


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    Pagan 7 years ago

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

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    Thomas Tay 7 years ago

    Good information for Catholic like mr

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    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!

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    ron 7 years ago

    great page fantastic

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    Nzenze Epie 7 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

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    Obembe joseph 7 years ago

    Thanks, but we still need more symbols

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    brock 7 years ago

    yor website rocks

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    tyler 7 years ago

    your website rocks

  • profile image

    Lor 7 years ago

    this website helped me alot! thank you.

  • Michael Shane profile image

    Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

    Very informative hub! Good job!

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     7 years ago

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

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    steph  7 years ago

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

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    boo 7 years ago


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    nomical17 8 years ago

    very informative ^_^

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    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.

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    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

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    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

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     8 years ago

    why cant we have info on all the symbols

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    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.

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    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

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    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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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..

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     8 years ago

    great sighns of the church

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    pamela edison 8 years ago

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

    can't wait to

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    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.

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    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!

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    PRINCE 8 years ago


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    Jenny 8 years ago

    What is greek symbol for faithful?

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    Sam  8 years ago

    this really helped

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    BoReD 8 years ago

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

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    Carl 8 years ago

    thanks for that, it really helped.

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    Make Money 8 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.

    God bless


  • Kushal Poddar profile image

    Kushal Poddar 8 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.

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    tim bourdon 8 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.

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    Rosa 8 years ago

    Thank you for your site; brief and informative.

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    Erick Smart 8 years ago

    A very informative hub with Easter just around the corner.