Signs and Symbols

+++Representing God and the Saints+++


ALB:. The alb is a white linen tunic reaching to the feet. It alludes to the robe of mockery with which Herod caused Christ to be clothed, and symbolizes chastity, purity, and the eternal joy of those who have been redeemed by the Blood of the Saviour. In the Middle Ages, embroidery was on the sleeves, chest, and at the hem of the alb to symbolize the five Wounds of Christ. It is sometimes still found on the alb worn by the traditional priest when saying Mass. It is put on after the Amice.

ALTAR: The Catholic altar is a raise edifice of stone or wood, and is usually beautifully carved. Situated in the center of the sanctuary, it is the chief focal point within the church. Liturgically, the altar faces the east and Jerusalem, the Holy Land of Christ's Passion and Death. This position is traditional and has scriptural authority in Ezekiel 43:4, "And the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east."

 The altar stone, a removable stone in the center of the altar, is essential to the Mass, and must be consecrated by a bishop, and large enough to support the host and the greater part of the chalice. Within this stone a relic is placed.

The high altar  is the the principal or main altar in a church. An altar is designated as a side altar when it is an altar other than the high altar. A doubled altar is an altar built so that Mass can be offered on either side of it. A fixed altar is one solidly built of stone and immovable.

ALTARAGE:The offerings received by a priest from the laity for performing ceremonies such as Baptisms, Marriages, or funerals. These are also referred to as stipends.

ALTAR BREADS: Round wafers [Hosts] baked of fine, wheaten, unleavened flour and used in the Consecration at Mass. There are two sizes, the smaller for the Communion of the faithful, the larger for the priest's Communion of the Mass and for exposition.

ALTAR CARDS: The three cards placed at the center and two sides of the altar table and on which are printed some parts of the Mass which are constant, or contained in the ordinary of the Mass.

ALTAR CLOTH: The altar cloth is of pure white linen, covering the top of the altar and extending downward on both sides. It is symbolic of the shroud that covered Christ. There are to be three cloths, always of linen, required by the rubrics of Mass, which are spread over the top of the altar and are specially blessed for use on the altar.

ALTARPIECE: The altarpiece is a painting placed immediately behind, the altar. It takes many forms: a latgen [single panel]; the more common triptych [triple panel]; or polyptych [numerous panels]; and it is richly ornamented. The central panel usually depicts the Crucifixion, although it may portray some other great event in the life of Christ. Often, the central panel is a representation of the Virgin and Child. The side panels portray events associated with Christ or the Virgin, or with the Saints to whom the particular church or chapel is dedicated. These side panels are often hinged, so that they can be closed for penitential seasons or opened on special occasions.

AMICE: The amice is the first vestment the priest puts on when vesting for Mass. It is an oblong piece of white linen upon which a cross is sewn or embroidered. It is an allusion to the cloth that covered the face of Christ during the mocking by the soldiers.

AMPULLA: The ampulla is the vessel that contains the holy oil. The blessed oils are used in the Sacraments of Holy Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and Unction. They are also used in the ceremony of Coronation. The holy oil is symbolic of consecration.

ANCHOR: The symbol of hope and in the early days of the persecution of the Church, it represented the Cross and steadfastness. This symbolic meaning rests on the Epistle to the Hebrews 6:19, which refers to the everlasting virtue of God's counsel in these words, "we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast . . ." The symbol was frequently used in this sense in the catacombs of ancient Rome, and was carved on old Christian gems. The anchor is the attribute of St. Clement, who was condemned to be cast into the sea bound to an anchor, and of St. Nicholas of Myra, patron Saint of seamen.

ARMOR: Armor is the symbol of chivalry. The warrior Saints, of whom St. George is outstanding, are frequently shown in armor, as is the Archangel Michael. Armor also suggests the Catholic faith as protection against evil. "Put you on the armour of God," says St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians, thay you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil" [6:11].

ARROW: The arrow is generally used to suggest a spiritual weapon, dedicated to the service of God. The arrow is an instrument of war and death figures in the portrayals of many Saints. St. Sebastian is usually depicted with his body pierced by arrows. St. Ursula is said to have survived torture by arrows. The arrow was also a symbol of the plague, and because St. Sebastian survived his ordeal of being shot by arrows, he became one of the patron Saints of all victims of the plague.

ANTEPENDIUM: The cloth hanging down in front of the altar from the front edge of the altar to the floor, varying in color with the liturgical season or the Feast being celebrated. It is required when the altar is not constructed of stone.

ASHES: In Christian symbolism, ashes are the symbol of penitence. On Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, ashes put the forehead express the penitential nature of the season. The ashes are from the palms of the previous Palm Sunday. Ashes also represent the death of the human body and symbolize the shortness of earthly life.

AXE/HATCHET: A symbol of destruction as well as of several Biblical figures, such as St. John the Baptist, preaching in Matthew 3:10: "For now the root of the axe is laid to the trees . . ." It is also an emblem of St. Joseph, indicating his work as a carpenter.

BALLS: Three balls, or purses, are one of the attributes of St. Nicholas of Myra, representing the three gifts of money which according to Tradition, the Saint threw into the window of the impoverished man with three marriageable daughters, to provide them with dowries.

BALM: The fragrant secretion of certain trees and plants which when mixed with olive oil forms chrism. See below.

BANNER: The banner, usually with a cross, is the symbol of victory. This alludes to the Emperor Constantine, who, seeing a cross in the clouds and thereupon being converted to Catholicism, included it in the design of his flag. In Christian art, the Lamb of God often bears a banner with a cross symbolizing the victory over death won by the Martyrdom of Christ. Christ Himself carries a banner only when rising from the grave, in the Descent into Hell, and in the Appearances on earth after the Resurrection and before the Ascension. St. John the Baptist is often represented with a banner, inscribed either with a cross or with the Latin words Ecce Agnus Dei [Behold, the Lamb of God]. It is also the attribute of military Saints and of those who carried the Gospel to foreign lands. A banner with a red cross is the attribute of St. George of Cappadocia and of St. Ansanus. St. Reparata and St. Ursula and St. Joan of Arc are the only female Saints to whom a banner is attributed.
BEEHIVE: The beehive has been used to symbolize great eloquence, as is suggested by the expression, 'honeyed words.' The beehive was given as an attribute to both St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Ambrose because "their eloquence was a sweet as honey."

BELLS: Bells in church towers and spires summon the faithful to worship. The Sanctus bell at the altar announces the coming of Christ in the Eucharist. St. Anthony Abbot is frequently portrayed with a bell attached to his crutch as a warning to demons.

BIRETTA: The biretta is a stiff, square hat with three or four ridges on the top. It may have a pompon attached at the center; it is worn by secular priests and by members of the hierararchy and by traditional priests at the Roman Mass [upon entering and exiting the Sanctuary]. The color of the biretta may distinguish the ecclesiastical rank the wearer: in general, black is worn by priests, purple by bishops, and scarlet by cardinals. Distinguished from the biretta is the cardinal's hat, having a broad brim, low crown, and chords with fifteen tassels each. Its color is always red.

In Renaissance painting, St. Jerome is sometimes depicted wearing the cardinal's red hat and robe, even though the ecclesiastial rank of cardinal was not known in his day. St. Bonaventura is upon occasion distinguished by a cardinal's hat hanging on a or lying on the ground beside him.

BOAT: The boat-shaped vessel whoch holds the raw incense to be burned in the censor.

BOOK: The book, when used as a symbol in Renaissance painting, had a number of meanings, depending upon the person shown.

The book in the hands of the Evangelists and Apostles represents the New Testament. In the hand of St. Stephen, it represents the Old Testament. In the hand of any other Saint, it generally means that the Saint was famous for his learning or his writings. It is also used in paintings of St. Catherine of Alexandria, the Doctors of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux. In paintings concerned with monastic orders, the book, accompanied by a pen or inkhorn, indicates that the individual was an author, and the book is sometimes lettered with the title of his work. The open book, in the hand of a founder of an Order, is the symbol of his rule and is often lettered with the first sentence of the rule of the Order.

A book with Alpha arid Omega is an attribute of Christ. The sealed book is often placed in the hand of the Virgin Mary, in reference to the allusion of Psalm 138:16, " . . . in thy book all shall be written written . . ." St. Augustine is frequently portrayed with book and pen, attributes sometimes given to the four Evangelists. St. Anthony of Padua is sometimes depicted with a book pierced by a sword.
BOX OF OINTMENT: The box of ointment is most commonly used in Renaissance art as an attribute of St. Mary Magdalene. This refers, on the one hand, to the scene in the house of Lazarus after the conversion of Mary: 'Mary therefore took a pound of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair . . ." [John 12:3].
It also refers to the scene at the sepulchre, after the CrucifIxion:
"And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, brought sweet spices, that coming, they might anoint Jesus" [Mark 16:1].
The box of ointment is also used as an attribute of the brothers St. Cosmas and St. Damian, who, as physicians, are depicted holding a small box of ointment in one hand and a lancet, or some other surgical instrument, in the other.

BREAD: Bread has always been a symbol of the means of sustaining life, hence the phrase: "Bread is the staff of life." In the Old Testament bread was the symbol of God's providence, care, and nurture of His people. He sent manna to the children of Israel in the wilderness. See Exodus 16:15. Christ gave new meaning to bread when He said, ". . . I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger . . ." [John 6:35]. At the Last Supper, Christ initiated bread as one of the substances for consecration. See Luke 22:19.
ST. PAUL THE HERMITThree loaves of bread are given to St. Mary of Egypt as an attribute, for she went forth into the desert to a life of solitude and prayer, taking with her three loaves of bread.

A raven bearing a loaf of bread is one of the attributes of St. Paul the Hermit, for the raven brought him bread during his many years in the wilderness. A loaf of bread is also used occasionally as an attribute of St. Dominic, on the basis of the legend of his obtaining bread for his monastery by Divine intervention.

BURSE: The square case in which the corporal [see below] used at Mass is carried. It is of the same color as the vestments being worn. It is the the leather packet in which the pyx [see below] is carried. A third definition is an endowment given to a seminarian for his study for the priesthood.

CANDLES: Candles play a great and varied role in churches, and according to their use and numbers the teaching of the Church is expressed symbolically. Examples of this are the six lights on the altar, representing the Church's constant round of prayer; the sanctuary lamp, Christ's Presence in the Tabernacle; the Eucharistic candles, symbolizing the coming of Christ in Communion; the Paschal candle, symbolical of the risen Christ during the Easter season. Candles are also symbolical when used in groupings: three candles represent the Trinity or seven candles signify the Seven Sacraments. The Bishop's Candle is used when the bishop is pontificating, or is the celebrant of the Mass. The use of candles for devotional purposes, at shrines and in processions, is universal and frequently seen in Renaissance art. The candlestick, because of the symbolism attached to the candle, is usually a work of artistic beauty. Altar candles ought to be of the finest most pure wax, beeswax or at the very least contain more beeswax than any other kind.

CARBUNCLE: The deep blood-red of the carbuncle is signifIcant of
blood and suffering, hence the stone is considered to be symbolic of Christ's Passion and of Martyrdom. Five carbuncles are sometimes shown on the Cross to symbolize the five Wounds received by Christ during the Crucifixion.

CAULDRON OF OIL: A cauldron is used as an attribute of St. John the Evangelist, who, according to legend, was hurled into a cauldron of boiling oil, but was miraculously saved from death.

CLOAK/COAT: A cloak divided into halves by a sword is an attribute of St. Martin, who, in the midst of winter, befriended a poor man by giving him half of his own cloak.

CLUB/BAT: The club is one of the symbols of the betrayal of Christ. The club, or bat, is also the attribute of St. James the Less, for it was the instrument of his Martyrdom. According to Tradition, he was thrown to the ground from the top of the temple, but not being killed by the fall, he was afterward slain with a club, or a fuller's bat, as he rose to his knees to pray.

COINS: Thirty pieces of silver represent one of the symbols of the Passion, in reference to the betrayal of Christ by Judas Iscariot. St. Lawrence is sometimes shown bearing in his hand a dish of gold and silver coins. This rerers to his distribution of the wealth of the Church to the poor at the behest of Pope Sixtus II.

COMB: An iron comb is one of the attributes of St. Blaise, for, upon order of the Emperor Licinius, he was tortured by having his flesh tom by combs of iron, similar to the combs used for the carding of wool.

CRUTCHES: Crutches are frequently used as an attribute of St. Anthony to signify his age and feebleness after many years spent as a hermit in the desert. A bell is sometimes suspended from his crutch to symbolize his power to exorcize evil spirits.

CASSOCK: The cassock is the everyday dress of the clergy, and signifies their devotion to Christ and the Church. In general the distinguishing colors of the cassock are white for the Pontiff, scarlet or red for cardinals, purple for bishops, and black for priests. Occassionally when a member of a religious order is raised to the hierarchy, his cassock may retain the color of his order.
CENSOR: A censor is the vessel in which incense is burned. It is cup-shaped, with a pierced cover, and is suspended by chains. In the Old Testament, the censor symbolized the pleas of the worshiper that his prayer would be acceptable to God. "Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice" [Psalm 140:2]. In Catholic symbolism, the smoke of the incense symbolizes the prayers of the faithful ascending to Heaven. The censor is an attribute of St. Lawrence and St. Stephen.

CHALICE: A chalice is the cup-shaped vessel in which the Altar wine is consecrated at Holy Mass. It refers to the Last Supper and the sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross, but its significance goes back to the Old Testament, Psalm 115:13, "I will take the cup of salvation . . ." The chalice with a serpent is the attribute of St. John the Evangelist. The chalice and Host are attributes of St. Barbara; the broken chalice, of St. Donatus.  lt should be of gold or silver, or the cup should be of silver and gold lined; it is consecrated by the bishop with chrism and may not be touched except by those in Holy Orders or those to whom permission has been given, such as a goldsmith who refurbishes it when it is worn or some other sufficient reason.

CHALICE VEIL: A square silk veil used to cover the paten and chalice. Also called peplum.

CHASUBLE:. The chasuble is the last liturgical garment with which the priest is vested. It is the outer garment covering the other vestments, and the Latin origin of its name, casula [little house], aptly describes it. The chasuble may be white, red, rose, green, violet, black, even gold, depending on the season of the Church's year or the Feast that is being observed. It usually has a cross embroidered on the back, which is an allusion to the Passion of Christ. Symbolically, this vestment alludes to the purple dress that Pilate ordered to be placed on Christ as "King of the Jews." It also recalls Christ's seamless garment for which the soldiers, on Calvary, cast lots. Because the chasuble covers the other vestmen ts, its symbolic meaning is Christian charity and protection; charity being the virtue that should supersede all others.

CHRISM:  A mixture of olive oil and balsam [balm] blessed by the bishop and used in the administration of the Sacraments of Baptism and Confimation, but not in the Ordination of priests. Chrism is used in the consecration of bishops, the consecration of churches, altar stones, chalices, patens, and in the solemn blessing of bells and baptismal water. Chrism is blessed on Maundy or Holy Thursday.

CIBORIUM: A chalice-shaped vessel, usually of gold, with a rounded cover, in which consecrated Hosts are contained for Holy Communion and reservation in the Tabernacle. Sometimes the term also refers to a canopy supported by four pillars over the Altar, stemming from the Ark of the Covenant.

CLOAK: Shelter. Righteousness. Charity.

COPE: The cope, the richest and most magnificent of ecclesiastical vestments, is a large cape fashioned in the form of a half circle and it reaches the floor. A highly decorative deep collar, suspended from the shoulders, ornaments its back. The color of the cope is that of the Church's season, except when used during Eucharistic processions and adoration, then it is white and gold. It is worn in processions and in services of great solemnity. Its symbolic meaning is innocence, purity. and dignity.

CORAL: In pictures of the Christ Child it denotes His protection against evil.

CORD: The cord, or cincture, is a linen rope [although it may be wool or silk] worn around the waist, over the alb and the stole of the priest. It is an allusion to the rope with which Christ was bound to the pillar during the Flagellation. Its symbolic meaning is chastity, temperance, and self-restraint.

CORPORAL: The corporal is a  square, white linen cloth laid on the altar, upon which the elements of bread and wine are consecrated. The priest carries it in the burse [see above]. The corporal symbolizes the winding sheet in which the Bofy of Christ was buried.

CROSIER: The ancestor of the crosier is generally supposed to be the shepherd's crook; however, it may also be a descendant of the walking staff common in the days of the Apostles. Now, greatly enriched since its humbler days, it is the pastoral staff of a bishop, archbishop, abbot, or abbess. It is still common practice for an abbot's staff to bear a white pendant veil. The pennanted staff often appears in paintings. It is the symbol of authority and jurisdiction. The crosier bearing a double cross is the attribute of St. Gregory, and also of St. Sylvester. St. Zeno carries a crosier with a fish.

The crosier is regarded as the symbol of mercy, firmness, and the correction of vices. Its hallmark is a rounded, curved top as you can see in the border image to your left.

CROSS: The cross is one of the oldest and most universal of all symbols. It is, of course, the perfect symbol of Christ because of His sacrifice upon the Cross. In a broader sense, however, the cross has become the mark or sign of Catholicism, the emblem of atonement, and the symbol of salvation and redemption.

There are many and varied forms of the cross. In Christian art, two major types, known respectively as the Latin cross and the Greek cross, are most commonly found.

The Latin cross has a longer upright than crossbar. The intersection of the two is usually such that the upper and the two horizontal arms are all of about equal length, but the lower arm is conspicuously longer. This cross is used to symbolize the Passion of Christ or the Atonement. Five red marks or jewels are sometimes placed on the face of the cross to represent the five Wounds Christ suffered while being crucified. In addition, Christ's Crown of Thorns is frequently shown with the cross or hanging upon it. Tradition says that Christ was crucified on a Latin cross.

The Latin cross fastened to the top of a staff or reed is the attribute of St. Philip, who is also sometimes represented with a plain Latin cross in his hand. The Latin cross; alone or in combination with other pictorial elements, is used as an attribute of numerous other Saints. The plain Latin cross is borne by St. Reparata and St. Margaret. John the Baptist frequently bears a cross made of reeds. St. Helena is depicted with a cross with hammer and nails or with a cross borne by Angels. St. Anthony of Padua has a flowered cross, while St. Catherine of Siena is given a cross with a lily. St. George of Cappadocia and St. Ursula are painted with a banner on which there is a red cross.
The Greek cross has four equal arms. This cross is used more often to suggest the Church of Christ than to symbolize Christ and His sacrifice for mankind.

Another well-known form of the cross is the St. Andrew cross, which consists of crossed arms which are not at right angles to each other, but diagonally placed in the shape of an x. The origin of this form is attributed to St. Andrew, who, when condemned to be crucified, requested that he be nailed to a cross of a different form than that upon which Christ was sacrificed in true humility. St. Andrew believed that, even in Martyrdom, he was unworthy to approach the likeness of his Redeemer. The St. Andrew cross has, therefore, come to be a symbol of humility in suffering.

Two adaptations of the cross, known as Ecclesiastical crosses, are used to distinguish different ranks in the hierarchy of the Church. The double cross, that is, a cross with two crossbars, is used by archbishops, while the triple cross, with three crossbars, is used exclusively by the Pope.

CROWN: Royalty: The crown, from very early days, has been the mark of  victory or distinction. From this, it came to be accepted as the mark of royalty. In Catholic art, the crown, when on the head of the Madonna, indicates that she is the Queen of Heaven. When the crown is used as the attribute of a Martyr, it signifies victory over sin and death, or denotes that the Saint was of royal blood. The crown is sometimes merely a circlet, but it may be a chaplet of flowers or a magnificent circle of gold and jewels.
The Crown of Thorns is one of the emblems of the Passion and the Crucifixion of Christ. "And the soldiers . . . clothed Him with purple and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about His head, and began to salute Him, Hail King of the Jews!" [Mark 15:17-18). Christ is usually pictured wearing the Crown of Thorns from this moment until He was taken down from the Cross. The tonsure of the monk, originally the sign of dedication to Divine service, is a reverential imitation of Christ's sacrificial Crown of Thorns.
The crown in various forms is used as an attribute of certain Saints. The triple crown, for example, is an attribute of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. St. Catherine of Alexandria is given the royal crown because of her rank. St. Catherine of Siena wears the crown of thorns because of her stigmata. St. Louis of France has the crown of thorns, as well as the kingly crown, to commemorate his discovery of the Crown of Thorns in the Holy Land. St. Louis of Toulouse is painted with a royal crown and sceptre at his feet in token of his refusal of the royal succession. St. Cecilia is painted with a crown of roses. St. Veronica and St. Mary Magdalene are sometimes accorded the crown of thorns. The Pope wears a triple crown as an emblem of his triple royalty. [See Tiara below]

CRUCIFIX/ROOD: The Crucifix is a representation of Christ on the Cross. From the word rood, the alternate English name for crucifix, comes the designation of the screen at the entrance of the sanctuary of a church as the rood screen, for it was customary to erect a great crucifix upon it. A number of Saints, including St. Francis of Assisi, are sometimes painted with a small crucifix in their hands. One of the attributes of St. Nicholas of Tolentino is a crucifix decorated with lilies. St. John Gualbert is sometimes painted kneeling before a large crucifix with the head of Christ bending toward him.

CRUET: The cruet is a small vessel that contains the wine or water of the Eucharist. It is symbolic of redemption.

DAGGER: A dagger is one of the attributes of St. Lucy, who suffered martyrdom by being stabbed in the throat with a poniard.

DALMATIC: The dalmatic is the traditional liturgical vestment of deacon. It is a long-sleeved outer tunic which the deacon wears over the alb. Bishops and abbots may wear it under the chasuble at Solemn Pontifical Masses, and in Renaissance paintings bishops and abbots are often shown wearing both vestments. Its shape, which is the form of a cross, refers to the Passion of Christ. It symbolizes joy, salvation, and justice. The dalmatic is one of the attributes of St. Stephen and St. Lawrence.

DICE: Dice are sometimes used as a symbol of the Passion, referring to the incident of the soldiers who, after the Crucifixion, cast lots for Christ's coat.

DISH: Apart from the paten, the dish itself is not a symbol used in Christian art, but a dish sometimes appears as part of a symbol or attribute.

Dish Bearing Head: This is one of the attributes of St. John the Baptist. It refers to the slaying of John at the request of Salome.

Dish Bearing Eyes: A symbol of St. Lucy. Her name means light, which refers to the eyes, she was said to have had beautiful eyes and one of her tortures during Martyrdom may have involved her eyes [according to a traditional story which cannot be confirmed], although she was finally slain by having a dagger driven through her throat.

Dish or Basket Bearing Roses: An attribute of St. Dorothea, who, at the place of her execution, received a gift of roses and apples from an angelic messenger.

Dish Bearing Money: This has come to be an attribute of St. Lawrence, who was commanded by Sixtus, Bishop of Rome, to distribute the treasures of the Church to the poor.

Dish Bearing Female Breasts: This is an attribute of St. Agatha, who, as a part of her Martyrdom, had her breasts torn by shears, or pincers. Seldom used in art. Generally pictures of the Martyr depict as covering her breasts and upper torso with her arms as best as she can.

DOSSAL: The dossal is a richly embroidered hanging placed behind the altar. It is usually a brocade of embroidered needlework on a cloth of gold. If the dossal is extended so that the sides of the altar are included, these extensions are known as riddles.

DOMINICAN HABIT: A white frock covered with a black cloak. The white represents the purity of life that is covered with the black of mortification and penance. This habit was dictated by the Blessed Virgin Herself, in a vision to the Blessed Reginald of Orléans and to Saint Dominic.

EWER: The metal pitcher from which water is poured for the washing of the hands of a bishop or other prelate during a High Pontifical Mass. In paintings of the Virgin Mary, the ewer is symbolic of purity.

FANON: The red and gold striped capelike vestment worn only by the Pope when celebrating Pontifical High Mass. It is made of white silk with narrow red and gold stripes and is worn over the alb on the shoulders. In the plural [fanons], the two small flaps which hang down from the back of a mitre; the infulae.

FETTERS/CHAINS: One of the symbols of the Passion, referring to the Flagellation of Christ by the soldiers. St. Leonard is usually depicted bearing in his hand some broken fetters, symbolic of his work on behalf of the prisoners of King Clovis of France, to whose court the Saint was attached.

FOUNTAIN: The fountain is one of the attributes of the Virgin Mary, who was regarded as "the fountain of living waters." This interpretation is based on the famous passage in Song of Solomon 4:12ff:, and upon Psalm 36:9, which reads, "For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light." The fountain is also the attribute of St. Clement, who miraculously found water in the desert for his followers.

FRONTAL: The frontal is a decorative piece, usually rmovable, covering the front of the altar. This oblong pane was often richly figured with paintings or sculptural reliefs. In the Renaissance, the frontal was often of silk or brocade, frequently embroidered, and in the color of the Church season or feast.


GATE: The gate has a number of symbolic meanings in Christian art. The gate  signifies death and departure from life in this world. ". . .Thou hast liftest me up from the gates of death" [Psalm 9:15]. It also represents the entrance into the heavenly Paradise. "Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates . . ." [Psalm 23:7]. The gate carries both of these meanings in scenes of the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. It also appears as the dividing barrier between the righteous and the damned in scenes of the Last Judgment. A gate is always a central feature in representations of the Descent into Hell. Christ has broken through it and its fragments lie strewn at His feet. The Vigin Mary is sometimes referred to as the Closed Gate, in reference to her unblenushed virginity. She is also given the tile "Gate of Heaven" because she is not only the Mediatrix of All Graces. but primarily because she consented to be the Mother of God.

GIRDLE/CINCTURE: The girdle, or cincture, was worn over the other clothing and, in ancient costume, served as purse, protection, and ornament. Many symbolical meanings were attached to it. Christ used it to symbolize preparation for any service that God might require of His children. "Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning in your hands"[(Luke 12:35]. St. Paul called the girdle the symbol of truth in the Christian's armor. [Ephesians 6:14] When worn by the prophets, the girdle is the symbol of humility and contempt of the world, and is made of leather. The girdle of the monks, signifying their vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, was probably developed from the prophetic meaning. The girdle is also symbolic of chastity. The Biblical origin of this meaning lies in the ancient practice of virtuous women, of making very beautiful girdles which became symbolic of their virtue and chastity. [Proverbs 31]
The girdle, as an attribute of the Virgin Mary, signifies chastity. It also refers to the tradition that she lowered her girdle from the sky to convince the unbelieving St. Thomas that she had actually ascended to Heaven. There are a number of masterpiece paintings that depict this tradition.

GLASS: Glass, being clear and transparent, is a symbol of purity. In this sense, it is often depicted in scenes from the life of the Virgin. In pictures of the Annunciation of the Virgin, the lily is often placed in a vase of transparent glass. It is also symbolic of the Immaculate Conception; In pictures of the Creation, God is sometimes shown holding a crystal ball, symbolic of the Divine world of light before the creation of the earth.

A crystal glass containing a serpent, or a broken crystal glass, is sometimes used as an attribute of St. Benedict, with reference to his miraculous escape from death by poisoning.

GLOBE: The globe is a symbol of power. As such, it is frequently shown as an attnbute of God the Father. In the hands of Christ, the globe is an emblem of His sovereignty. In the hands of a man, the globe is the symbol of imperial dignity.

GRIDIRON: The gridiron is frequently used as an attribute of St. Lawrence, who is was tortured by being roasted upon a gridiron.
HALBERD: The halberd is the attribute of St. Jude, who, on his travels with St. Simon, is said to have been killed with a halberd.

HAMMER: The hammer was used to nail Christ to the Cross, and so it is one of the instruments of the Passion and is a symbol of the Crucifixion.
HARP: The harp is recognized as the attribute of King David.[1 Chron. 13:8] The harp has come to be the symbol of the Book of Psalms and of all songs and music in honor of God. The harp as an instrument of Divine music is referred to in Apoc. 5;8. In his explanation of the Ten Commandments, St. Augustine used the symbolism of the ten strings of David's harp.

HAT: Symbol of a pilgrim. Red Cardinal's Hat: Tribute to St. Jerome.

HONEY: The purity and sweetness of honey have made it a symbol of the work of God and the ministry of Christ. Paradise, the reward of the faithful in their labors for Christ, is known as "the land of milk and honey."

HOST: The Host is the flat, round piece of unleavened bread which the priest consecrates at Holy Mass. Its name is derived from the Latin word hostia, meaning victim or sacrifice. As such, and especially when shown with the chalice, it symbolizes the Sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross.

IVORY: Ivory has two outstanding qualities: the whiteness of its color and the firmness of its texture. From these qualities come the symbols of purity and moral fortitude. Ivory, is, on occasion a symbol of Christ, in reference to the incorruptibility of His Body in the tomb. This is in all probability the origin of the custom of carving crucifixes from ivory.

KEY: Jesus said to St. Peter, in St. Matthew 16:19, "And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also n Heaven . . ." Thus, St. Peter is regarded as the guardian of the Gates of Heaven and his attribute is a key, or a pair of keys. St. Martha, as patroness of feminine discretion and good house keeping, is also sometimes depicted with a large bunch of keys hanging from her girdle.
KNIFE: A knife is most frequently shown as an instrument of Martyrdom. St. Bartholomew is always shown with a large knife of a peculiar shape, and sometimes with a piece of human skin over his arm, which refers to his having been flayed alive. St. Peter Martyr is also given a knife, either in his head or in his hand, because it was also the instrument of his Martyrdom.
LADDER: The ladder is one of the instruments of the Passion and is frequently shown in scenes of the Descent from the Cross. It also refers to the vision of Jacob: "And he saw in his sleep a ladder standing upon the earth, and the top therof touching Heaven: and the Angels also of God ascending and descending oby it" [Genesis 28:12]. In some paintings the ladder is used as an attribute of St. Benedict, who, in a vision, saw the brethren of his Order ascend to Heaven on a ladder.

LAMP: The lamp, because of the light it sheds, is used as a symbol of wisdom and piety. The Bible describes the Word of God as a lamp unto the faithful. In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, a lighted lamp is used to indicate the wise ones. It is in this sense that the lamp has been given as an attribute to several Saints, notably St. Lucy. The use of the lamp with St. Lucy refers to her vision of St. Agatha, who appeared to her and said, "Lucy, that art indeed a light."
LANCE: The lance, used to pierce the side of Christ on the Cross, is a symbol of the Passion. St. George of Cappadocia is frequently shown bearing in one hand a lance, often broken, slaying the dragon with his sword instead. The lance, or javelin, is also the attribute of St. Thomas, since it was the instrument of his Martyrdom.

MANIPLE: The maniple is a narrow strip or band of silk worn over the alb on the left forearm by the celebrant of the Mass. It is of the same material and color as the chasuble and stole. It is an allusion to the rope with which Christ was bound and led to Calvary, and symbolizes good works, vigilance, and penitence.
MANTELLETTA: The mantelletta is a knee-length, sleeveless outer vestment, open in the front, worn by cardinals, archbishops, and bishops. Its color is determined by the ecclesiastical rank of the wearer. Cardinals wear a red mantelletta; bishops, a purple one. The vestment is worn as a sign of limited jurisdiction or authority.

MENSA: the flat altar top or stone: generally refers to the whole surface on which Mass is said, and includes the linens.

MILLSTONE: The millstone is used as an attribute for St. Florian .nd St. Vincent, becauSe each Was Martyred by being thrown into the water with a millstone tied to his neck.

MIRROR: A mirror bearing the image of the Virgin is one of the attributes of St. Geminianus. The spotless mirror is a sytribol of the Virgin Mary.

MISSAL: The liturgical book containing the text of all Masses used by the priest in reading Mass. This is called, in the Roman Rite, Missale Romanum.
The name missal is also that of the faithful's book of Mass prayers, either called a Daily Missal or a Sunday Missal, depending on its completeness.

MISSAL-STAND: A small wooden or metal support upon which the missal is placed during the Mass to assist the priest in ease of reading.
MITRE: The mitre [see the border image] in its modern form is a tall head-dress with the top cleft crosswise, its outline resembling a pointed arch. It is a liturgical hat, and is worn by the Pope, cardinals, archbishops, and bishops and, with special permission, by some abbots. It is symbolic of their authority.

Mitres may be inlaid with precious stones, embroidered with orphreys, or unadorned and made with white linen or silk. Abbots wear only this latter type, except by special privilege.

The mitre is reminiscent of the pointed hat worn by the Jewish high priest as a symbol of authority, but it was not derived directly from that. The two horns of the mitre are an allusion to the two rays of light that issued from the head of Moses when he received the Ten Commandments. They are also symbolic of the Old and New Testaments. Attached to the back of the mitre, and falling over the shoulders of the wearer, are two flaps, or fanons, which are symbolic of the spirit and the letter of the Testaments. Three mitres are given as an attribute to both St. Bernard and St. Bernardino, in token of the three bishoprics that each man refused.

MONEY: Two hands filled with money are sometimes used as a symbol of the Passion, in allusion to the betrayal by Judas. A bag of money is an attribute of St. Matthew the Apostle, who was a publican [tax collector] before he was converted to Catholicism. Three bags of money are one of the attributes of St. Nicholas of Myra. A dish with money, or bags of money, may be used to identify St. Lawrence, who distributed the treasures of the Church to the poor. Other Saints notable for their charity may also be represented giving money to the poor. Among them is St. Elizabeth of Hungary.

MONSTRANCE: The sacred vessel in which the Blessed Sacrament is usually exposed for adoration at Benediction or in which it is carried at processions. it is also called the ostensoriuma. Its name is derived from the Latin word monstro, meaning show.

MORSE [BROOCH]: The morse, or brooch, is a clasp used to fasten the front of the cope.

MORTAR AND PESTLE: The mortar and pestle, instruments used by the apothecary in preparing medicine are often attributes of the two physician Saints, Cosmas and Damian.

MOZZETTA: The mozzetta is an elbow-length cape with an ornamental hood. It is a non-liturgical garment, and is not worn to administer the Sacraments. It is worn by the Pope, by cardinals when not in Rome, and by archbishops, bishops, and abbots, within the limits of their jurisdiction.

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS: Musical instruments, in addition to being one of the attributes of St. Cecilia, are frequently represented in the hands of Angels shown in scenes of the Virgin and Child. Choirs of Angels are portrayed playing musical instruments to symbolize their eternal praise to God.

NAILS: Nails, because of their use in the Crucifixion of Christ, are a symbol of the Passion. Early crucifixes show four nails piercing each of the hands and feet of Christ. On most crucifixes, there are only three nails, both feet being pierced by one nail. The number three was preferred when the nails were painted separately as instruments of the Passion, perhaps with symbolic reference to the Trinity.

OIL: Oil is the symbol of the Grace of God. It is used in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination, and Extreme Unction.

ORDO: The book giving the directions and norms for Holy Mass and includes the variant portions of the Mass, that is the Feast Days and their orations, the rules of fast and abstinenece, etc.; It is published each year for religious provinces and orders. For instance the FSSP publishes an Ordo annually, called the Roman Ordo.

ORGAN: The organ is used to symbolize the praise that the Church is continually offering to the glory of God. It is an attribute of St. Cecilia, the patron Saint of music.

PAINTING: A painting of the Virgin is one of the attributes given to St. Luke, who is often shown painting her portrait.

PALL: The pall is a white linen cloth used to cover the chalice. It symbolizes the linen in which the body of Christ was enshrouded.

PALLIUM: The pallium is a narrow band of white wool worn around the shoulders. It has two short pendants, one hanging down the front, the other down the back, and is ornamented with six black crosses. It is a symbol of the papal authority, and may be given by the Pope to archbishops to indicate their participation in his authority. Its Y shape is symbolic of the Crucifixion.
PATEN: The paten is a shallow plate for the Hosts. It symbolizes the dish used at the Last Supper.

PEN: The pen alone, or sometimes with an inkhorn, is given as an attribute to the Evangelists and Doctors of the Church. Notable among those to whom this attribute is applied are St. Augustine, St. Bernard, St. Mark, and St. Matthew.

PILLAR: The pillar to which Christ was bound during the Flagellation is used as one of the emblems of the Passion. The pillar is an attribute of Samson, who died tearing down the pillars of the palace of the Philistines. St. Sebastian is usually shown bound to a pillar, his body pierced with arrows.

PINCES/SHEARS: Pincers are an attribute of St. Agatha, who had her breasts torn with shears, or pincers. They are also an attribute of St. Apollonia of Alexandria, who, as a part of her Martyrdom, is said to have had her teeth pulled out with pincers.

PITCH: Pitch, because of its color and clinging quality, is a symbol of evil. 'Black as pitch' is a familiar phrase used to denote a sinful state or condition.

PLANE: The carpenter's plane is an attribute of St. Joseph, who followed the carpenter's trade in the village of Nazareth.

PURIFCATOR: The purificator is a white linen cloth used to cleanse the chalice after the celebration of Mass.

PYX: The word pyx is derived from the Latin word pyxis, meaning box. In earlier times the term was applied to all vessels used to hold the Eucharist. In ordinary usage it now refers to the vessel in which the Host is carried to the sick. In Christian art, the pyx is an attribute of St. Clare of Assisi, who, according to Tradition, placed a pyx containing the Host on the threshold of her convent, whereupon the infidels who were besieging it threw down their weapons and fled. 

RELIQUARY: The reliquary is a contaiIier for keeping or exhibiting a relic or relics. It may be of any form and material, but is often shaped in the form of the relic it contains.

RING: The ring worn by members of the hierarchy symbolizes not only spiritual marriage with the Church but also the ecclesiastical office of the wearer.

The ring or circlet, has been universally accepted as the symbol of eternity and never-ending existence. It is also the symbol of eternal union. As noted above the ring of a bishop suggests his union with the Church. Marriage rings are symbols of permanent union. Two rings linked, or two circles one above the other, are emblematic of the earth and sky. Three rings linked together signify the Holy Trinity.

The bridal ring is the attribute of St. Catherine of Siena, who dedicated herself to a religious life and prayed that Christ would be her Bridegroom.

The papal ring is known as the Fisherman's Ring because it bears the image of St. Peter fishing. It is of plain gold. It is put on the finger of a new Pope at the time of his election. Since it bears his name, it is broken at his death. The Pope always wears a cameo; the privilege of wearing a carved gem is reserved for him.

The cardinal's ring is a sapphire, which he receives from the Pope at the time of his elevation. On the inside of this ring is engraved the coat of arms of the Pope who bestows it.

A bishop also wears a gemmed ring, and he may choose any stone he wishes except a sapphire, which is reserved for the exclusive use of cardinals.

Abbots and abbesses may also wear very simple gemmed rings. A plain metal band, or a band in the form of a cross, may be worn by a nun to symbolize her marriage with Christ. This is represented pictorially in the many paintings of the Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine of Alexandria.
A ring is also used liturgically, and when it serves this function it is known as the Pontifical Ring. Such a ring is ornamented with a beautiful, large stone, and its band must be of a size which can easily fit over a gloved finger.

As a general rule, priests do not wear rings unless there is one signifying the order to which they belong, if that is the case and to Doctros of Theology, except it is not worn at Mass.

ROBE: The scarlet or purple robe is one of the emblems of Christ's suffering, while He was in the common hall, and is, therefore, one of the symbols of the Passion. See Matthew 27:27-31. The seamless robe is also one of the symbols of the Passion. See John 19:23, 24.

  ROCHET: The rochet is a knee-length, pleated tunic, of white linen with tight sleeves. The bottom, shoulder pieces, and ends of the sleeves are ornamented with lace lined with silk of a color that distinguishes the ecclesiastical rank of the wearer, that is, only bishops and abbots. It can take the place of the surplice.

ROCKS: Rocks are a symbol of the Lord. This meaning is derived from the story of Moses, who smote the rock from which a spring burst forth to refresh his people. Christ is often referred to as a rock from which flow the pure rivers of the Gospel. St. Peter, too, is referred to as the rock, the foundation of the Church, because of Christ's statement: ". . . that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church . . ." [Matthew 16:18].

ROPE: The rope is one of the symbols of the betrayal of Jesus by Judas: John 18:12. St. John is the only one of the Evangelists to mention that Jesus was bound on this occasion, but Matthew and Mark mention that He was bound when taken to Pilate the next morning. According to tradition, it was with a rope that Judas hanged himself after the betrayal, in despair of his awful deed.

ROPE BELT: Franciscan monks wear one with three knots, symbolizing the vows of Chastity, Poverty, and Obedience.

ROSARY BEADS: The Rosary is the traditional devotion in honor of the Mother of God, combining
vocal and mental prayer. It is composed of 15 decades which are divided into 3 parts of 5 decades, each of which recall Our Lord's Life, Passion, and Glory.

The Rosary is the prayer which is most pleasing to Our Lady. The word, rosary, means a garland or wreath of roses, thus each prayer said in the Rosary is a spiritual rose offered to our Blessed Mother.

In its present form the Rosary is due to St. Dominic of the Order of Friars Preachers which he propagated in obedience to a revelation received from the Blessed Virgin in the year 1206. To him we owe also the spread of the devotion which for many centuries has produced the most marvelous results in the Christian world: heresies have been uprooted, morals reformed, misfortunes averted, wars ended. The origin of the the 15 decades is from Our Lady's Psalter, or the 150 Hail Marys, each one representing one of the 150 Psalms. While the religious daily prayed the Psalms and had copies of them, the ordinary laity, called to other duties were not always able to memorize all the Psalms, so they substituted the Hail Marys  to honor Our Lady and seek her aid. When she  appeared to a Saint she sometimes referred to the Rosary as her "Psalter".  At Fatima she asked for the daily recitation of the Rosary, usually a third [5 decades] or one set of Mysteries because many people have daily duties that prevent all 15 being said devoutly. The third is the specified requirement for the Sabbatine Privilege.

RULE: A carpenter's rule is one of the customary attributes of the Apostle St. Thomas, builder of the heavenly palace of Gondophorus in India.

SALT: Salt is the symbol of strength and superiority. Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount, called His disciples "the salt of the earth" [Matthew 5:13]. Since salt protects food from decay, it is sometimes used as a symbol of protection against evil and, in this context, is sometimes placed in the mouth of the child being Baptized. Salt is blessed by the priest which is then a sacramental, to be placed in its container which was also blessed at the same time.

SAW: The carpenter's saw, together with a plane and hatchet, is commonly used as an attribute of St. Joseph, who was a car penter. The saw is also the attribute of St. Simon Zelotes, who was Martyred by being sawed asunder. It is also a symbol of St. Euphemia and Isaiah.

SCALES: The Archangel Michael is frequently portrayed bearing a pair of scales, for one of his responsibilities is to weigh the souls of the departed. In general the scales symbolize equality and justice.

SCAPULAR: The scapular, meaning shoulder, is a narrow length of cloth placed over the shoulders and extending to the hem of the garment, both in the front and in the back. It is a part of most monastic habits, and probably developed from some kind of large apron to protect the clothing. It is symbolic of the yoke of Christ. Our Lady also gave the sacramental Scapular to St. Simon Stock of the Carmelites and when she appeared as Our Lady of Fatima she was wearing it. Today Catholics who are consecrated to Our Lady wear her Brown Scapular. In addition the Church recognizes other similar Scapulars as sacramentals, the Blue, the Red, the Black, and the Green, the last being for converson.

SCEPTRE: The sceptre, or wand, carried in the hand is the symbol of authority. It is borne by princes of this earth and by the Archangels, notably Gabriel.

SCOURGE: The scourge is one of the symbols of the Passion. It is sometimes shown in combination with the pillar to which Christ was bound. In general, the scourge in the hands of a Saint or at his feet suggests the penance which he inflicted on himself. In the hand of St. Ambrose, however, it is an allusion to his work in driving the Arians out of Italy.

SCROLL: A scroll, or rolled manuscript, is sometimes used in place of a book to suggest the gifts of an individual as a writer. This is particularly true of St. James the Great, who is frequently portrayed bearing a scroll in one hand. Scrolls, as the ancient type of book, are more often given to the Old Testament authors.

SCYTHE: The scythe, like the sickle, symbolizes the cutting off of the strand of life and is, consequently, used as the attribute of Death. Death is frequently portrayed as a skeleton with a scythe in hand.

SEAL: The seal is the mark, or signature, of God. See Apoc. 7:2, 3. This was known as the seal of the living God. SCALLOP SHELL

SHELL: The shell, notably the cockleshell, or the scallop shell, generally used in Catholic art to signify pilgrimage. The scallop shell is used specifically as an attribute of St. James the Great. It generally supposed to allude to the countless pilgrimages made to his celebrated shrine at Compostella in Spain. St. Roch is customarily painted in the dress of a pilgrim with cockleshell in his hat. And the scallop shell is associated with St. John the Baptist because he Baptized Christ. Most paintings depicting this scene in the life of Christ have the Baptist holding a shell from which water is pouring forth.

SHIP: Through a number of different associations, the ship came to have a special meaning as symbolic of the Church of Christ. The ark of Noah, which floated safely in the midst of the deluge while everything else was overwhelmed, was an obvious symbol for the Church. St. Ambrose, in his writings, compares the Church to a ship, and the Cross to a ship's mast. The miracle of the Sea of Galilee, when Christ calmed the waves and saved the vessel of the Apostles from disaster, likewise served to give the ship a symbolic religious meaning. The ship is also the attribute of a few Saints. The best known are St. Vincent and St. Nicholas of Myra. In paintings of St. Julian, a boat is frequently shown in the background, referring to his self-imposed task as a ferryman.

SPEAR: The spear, because it was used to pierce the side of Christ on the Cross, is one of the symbols of the Passion.

SPONGE: The sponge is one of the emblems of the Crucifixion. This meaning is drawn from the scriptural story of the Crucifixion in Matthew 27:48.

STAFF: The pilgrim' s staff is used alone and in combination with various other objects as an attribute of numerous Saints who have been noteworthy for their travels and pilgrimages. The pilgrim's staff, together with a scroll and a scallop shell, are the customary attributes of St. James the Great.

The palm tree staff is always the attribute of St. Christopher, a man of great strength, who tore up a palm tree by the roots for his staff: Ater he had carried Christ, in the semblance of a child, across the river, he was told: "Plant thy staff in the ground and it shall put forth leaves and fruit." When this miracle took place, St. Christopher was converted to Catholicism.

Other Saints commonly given a pilgrim's staff as an attribute include St. John the Bapist and St. Jerome; St. Philip the Apostle is given a staff with a cross. St. Ursula frequently bears a staff with a banner on which the cross is inscribed. St. Roch is sometimes shown with a staff, cockleshell, and wallet.

STAKE: The stake, as the instrument of those who were tortured by fire, is used as an attribute of St. Dorothea, who was burned at the stake, and of St. Agnes, who was miraculously saved from a similar death.

STOCK: Either the metal container for the holy oils or the black piece of cloth [priests] or purple piece of cloth [prelates] worn onthe breast beneath the collar at the opening of a suit coat.

STOLE: The stole is a narrow, embroidered vestment worn about the neck. When used as one of the Mass vestments, it is crossed over the breast and made secure by the cord. Its color matches that of the chasuble and maniple. It may have three crosses, one on each end and one in the middle. When worn for other liturgical offices or by a bishop, it is not crossed. The deacon wears a broad stole over his left shoulder, across the breast, and fastened at the waist. The stole is a sign of priestly dignity and power. It symbolizes the yoke of Christ and the Christian duty of working loyally for His Kingdom, and the hope of immortality.

STONES: Stones are symbols of firmness. They are used as an attribute of St. Stephen, who was stoned to death. St. Jerome is frequently portrayed at prayer beating his breast with a stone.

SURGICAL INSTRUMENTS: These instruments are attributes of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, the physician brothers, who are customarily shown holding a lancet, or some other surgical instrument, in one hand. [See Mortar and Pestle above.]

  SURPLICE: The surplice is a knee-length, white linen tunic. Its large flowing sleeves and hem are usually trimmed with lace. Worn over the cassock, it is used during the administration of the Sacraments and for various other liturgical purposes. It is symbolic of man renewed in justice and in the holiness of truth.

SWORD: The sword ISS used as an attribute of numerous Saints who, according to tradition, suffered Martyrdom at the sword's edge. Among these are St. Paul, who was beheaded; St. Euphemia, who was similarly beheaded after lions had refused to destroy her; St. Agnes, who met her fate in similar fashion; and St. Peter Martyr, who was assassinated. St. Justina is sometimes shown with a sword piercing her breast. The Archangel Michael is given the sword of the warrior, as is St. George of Cappadocia. St. John Gualbert is sometimes portrayed with a sword in hand, referring to his pursuit of the assassin of his brother. St. Martin is shown with a sword and the cloak which he divided, in order that he might share its warmth with a beggar.

TABERNACLE: The small compartment sealed by a door at the center of the main altar wherein the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. On a liturgical altar
the tabernacle is covered by the canopy.

TABERNACLE VEIL: The veil prescribed by the Ritual in the strictest terms as a covering for the entire tabernacle in which the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. Its presence is certain indication of the Real Presence.
TABULA:The wooden clapper, used instead of a bell, to give signals on Holy Thursday and Good Friday; a crotalum.

THRONE [CATHEDRA]: The official throne or chair of the bishop, properly called a "cathedra," is a symbol of episcopal dignity which goes back to the very early days of the Church. It is located on the gospel, or left, side of the sanctuary, though in former times its position was behind the altar. This location is still retained in the Church of St. Peter in Rome: The cathedra was the chair of the teacher in ancient times, and from this it derives its name. The Bishop's church, which is the principal church of a diocese, is called a cathedral. This name originates from the fact that the cathedra (Bishop's throne) is located there as the symbol of his authority and jurisdiction. The phrase, "ex cathedra" is derived from this, meaning "from the chair", and is either the solemn pronouncement and or definition of a dogma to be believed by all the faithful using language, such as, "I declare," or "I define" or "the matter is closed to discussion" etc. It also refers to teachings of the Popes alone without a council on matters commonly believed from the very beginning by all the Church either implicitly or explicitly and being merely restated to another generation, that is to the whole Church once more, in a less solemn manner. All papal pronouncements "from the chair" are infallible by definition. Any statement by a Pontiff, sitting in the Chair of Peter, is not in of itself "from the chair" as such. For instance, a speech he gives to a group of visiting dignitaries, whether Catholic or not. It may contain portions of formerly defined infallible statements but his speech in of itself as such has no guarantee from the Holy Ghost. Thus a pope can state material [unintended or in blindness or ignorance] errors in his ordinary duties, one of the reasons why the Papal Coronation Oath, recently discarded, was so important, for in this oath the new Pontiff promises to not deviate from Tradition but to safeguard and hand down [tradere] the faith whole and entire without any change. If it were an impossibility of happening there would be no need of such an oath to begin with. It is of significant note that the modern Popes have discarded it, this itself a departure from Tradition.

TIARA: Headdress of a Pope. The three tiers are symbols of the Trinity or the three estates of the Church: Rome, Christendom, Spiritual Sovereignty, and the three prerogatives or mandates of the Church: to teach, to govern, to sanctify. It has a long history, but was first known in its present form in 1315. In art, the tiara is an attribute of St. Gregory the Great and St. Sylvester.

TONSURE: Tonsure was the custom of shaving the hair from the top of the head. This practice, during the Renaissance and in the early days of the Church, was adopted by the secular clergy and the monastic orders. It has a triple symbolism: the remembrance of the crown of thorns; the rejection of temporal things; and a renlinder of the perfect life. In the traditional Roman Rite it is the symbol of a man passing from the lay state to that of the clerical.

TORCH: The torch is one of the emblems of the Betrayal, and, therefore, of the Passion. This meaning is based upon John 18:3, which describes the betrayal by Judas.

Christ as the Light of the World was sometimes portrayed by the torch in scenes of the Nativity.

The torch is also used as an attribute of certain Martyrs. St. Dorothea, as an example, is sometimes depicted with a torch at her side, for she was burned at the stake. A dog With a flaming torch in its mouth is an attribute of St. Dominic.

TOWEL: A spotless towel is a symbol of purity, and is sometimes used as an attribute of the Virgin Mary. A towel with a pitcher is sometimes employed as a symbol of the Passion, in reference to Pilate's washing his hands.

TOWER: The tower, generally with three windows, is the customary attribute of St. Barbara because when her tower was being built she instructed that it should have three windows instead of two, the three windows signifying the

TUNICLE: The tunicle is a short dalmatic worn by the sub-deacon at High Mass. It is the symbol of joy and contentment of heart.

VASE [see Glass above]: A vase holding a lily is one of the most frequendy depicted objects in paintings of the Annunciation. The vase is very often of transparent glass; for glass, being clear and translucent, symbolizes the perfect purity of the Virgin.

In a general sense, the empty vase symbolizes the body separated from the soul. A vase with birds on its rim, quenching their thirst, is a symbol of eternal bliss.

VEIL: The veil, because it covers the wearer, symbolizes modesty and chastity. The veil with the head of Christ depicted on it is the attribute of St. Veronica. who dried the sweat from the face of Christ on His way to Calvary with her veil, and that the imprint of His face remained on it. It is also an attribute of St. Agatha, with reference to her veil staying a flow of lava from Mt. Etna which had menaced the city of Catania.

VESPERAL CLOTH: The cloth used to cover the mensa [see above] when it is not in use to prevent soiling the linens.

WELL:. The well or fountain is the symbol of Baptism, of life and rebirth. The flowing fountain symbolizes the waters of eternal life. The sealed well or fountain is a symbol of the virginity of Mary. See above.

WHEEL: Rotating force is the symbol of Divine power; hence the wheel, burning or otherwise, carries this meaning. It appears in the Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. The Throne of God is often shown borne upon flaming wheels with eyes and wings, an allusion to the vision of Ezekiel 1:1-28. The wheel is the special attribute of St. Catherine of Alexandria, who was tortured upou the wheel.
WINEPRESS: The winepress is the symbol of the wrath of God. It takes this meaning from the passage in Isaiah 63:3, "I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there is not a man with Me: I have trampled on them in My indignation, and have trodden them down in My wrath . . ."

WIMPLE: The wimple is a linen covering around the head, neck, and cheeks of a nun.

WINGS: Wings are the symbol of Divine mission. That is why the Angels, Archangels, Seraphim, and Cherubim are painted with
wings. The emblems of the four evangelists, the lion of St. Mark, the ox of St. Luke, the man of St. Matthew, and the eagle of St. John, are all depicted as winged creatures.

ZUCHETTO: The zuchetto or skull-cap is close-fitting and rimless. As with other ecclesiastical garments, its color is in accord with the rank of the wearer.