"Christ, the good shepherd, carrying a lamb on His shoulders, is of very frequent occurrence on the lamps, the glass vases, and the fresco paintings. All exceedingly beautifull instance, taken from an early fresco on one of the Catacombs, is here engraved; and in Plate xli., No. 26, a similar figure will be seen represented on a lamp, the border of which is surrounded by bunches of grapes.
Lambs are symbols of the meek and faithful Christians: a series of twelve represents the Apostles; amongst which a thirteenth, raised on an eminence and crowned with a nimbus, is our Saviour; this generally carries a cross, or banner, and is called the Agnus Dei, or "Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world;" it is also tbe emblem of purity. The illustration in Plate xli. (NO. 23) is from Italian sculpture of the tenth century:
the figure of the cross in each limb of the cross of the nimbus is worthy of remark. The medallion marked No. 24 is from stained glass existing in Merton College Chapel, Oxford. It will be observed also that in this both the cruciform nimbus and the cross are introduced.
The rough outline of a fish, formed of two curves meeting in a point at their extremities, was also used to express the same symbolical meaning under the name of vesica piscis (No. 29). This was subsequently used to enclose the figure of our Saviour in His glorified state, The Father, the Holy Trinity, the Blessed Virgin, or the Patron Saint, and displayed in the pediments or over the porches of churches. It eventually became a very common ornament in Gothic work.
Fishes are also emblematic of Christians generally, in allusion to lie call of the Apostles, (Matt. iv, 19) or to the supposed meaning of the miraculous[number of fish caught] in John xxi.
The there are three examples of the introduction of the fish given on Plate 25, besides giving the sacred name, IESOUS CHREISTOS, exhibits an anchor with a fish on either side. No. 27 shows the three fish so combined as to represent a symbol of the Trinity. Both the above are from the tombs in the Catacombs. In No. 28 the two fish are placed side by side on a lamp, on the handle of which occurs the symbolic, pointing probably to their Christian interpretation."
Ravenna - Basilica di S. Apollinare in Classe.
The twelve lambs, six on each side of Christ, represent the 12 apostles. (Also the 12 above the dome.) This mage is displayed here for non-profit religious and educational purposes only. No other us is intended or permitted.
The text and greyscale graphics are taken from The Calendar of the Prayer-Book, Illustrated, With an Appendix of the Chief Christian Emblems, published at Oxford, 1909. It is from the Anglican tradition.
This page is the responsibility of Rev. Roger J. Smith. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you nave any comments. The text is by the Rev. Roger J. Smith, unless attributed to someone else, and is presented "as is". ©1997, Roger J. Smith.