animals in Christian art

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Animals in Christian art have greater importance than in pagan art. In the catacombs we find the lamb, symbol of the soul, accompanying the Good Shepherd. The fish, symbol of Our Lord, is perhaps of widest distribution. After Constantine, most of the decorative schemes are derived from the Apocalypse: the dove is the Holy Spirit, the lamb is Christ the Victim, and the “four living creatures” (man, lion, ox, and eagle) are personifications of the four Evangelists. The fantastic animals of Byzantine art are found in Romanesque sculpture. In the 15th century in the cathedrals of France, especially Notre Dame of Paris, animal sculpture reached great perfection. With the Renaissance, animals were used only as an accessory to the human figure, and no thought of individual symbolism was retained. Saints are often represented with animals; thus, the lion is the emblem of Saint Jerome, the dog of Saint Roch.

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MLA Citation

  • “animals in Christian art”. New Catholic Dictionary. CatholicSaints.Info. 21 August 2018. Web. 17 June 2021. <>