A Handbook of Legendary and Mythological Art – The Fish

stone carving of a fish in coral on the side of New College, Oxford, England; swiped with permission from the flickr.com account of Brother Lawrence Lew, OPArticle

A fish, most frequently a dolphin, was the earliest and most universal of the Christian symbols. It has several significations. The Greek word for fish is composed of the initial letters of the Greek phrase that translates to Latin as Jesus Christus Deifilius Salvator, thus forming the anagram of the name of Jesus; and these characters are found in many ancient inscriptions, and upon works of art. The fish is an emblem of water and the rite of baptism; of thfe vocation of the Christian apostle, or “fisher of men,” especially in the hands of Saint Peter and others who were eininently successful in making converts; it is emblematic of Christians generally, they being likened to fish in the call of the Apostles (Matthew 4:19), and also typified by the miraculous draught of fishes (John 21). But it is not true that the fish is always a Christian emblem; according to Didron it is never met as such in Greek art, and he believes that this emblem on the tombs in the catacombs at Rome, signified the occupation of the person buried in them.

MLA Citation

  • Clara Erskine Clement. “The Fish”. A Handbook of Legendary and Mythological Art, 1871. CatholicSaints.Info. 10 February 2017. Web. 15 November 2019. <>