Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Wednesday 22 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Maurice and the Theban Legion
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Why are there anchors in Christian art?

CROSS ANGEL ANCHOR STATUE

Shutterstock

Anchor - A symbol of safety, anchors were adopted by early Christians as a symbol of hope for the future. Christ is the unfailing hope of all who believe in him and the anchor of one's faith.

Philip Kosloski - published on 06/10/17

It was an early Christian symbol that had various meanings.

Before Christianity adopted the symbol, anchors were known in the ancient world to stand for security. Travel by sea was very common in the Mediterranean area and anchors were a basic instrument used by any sailor or fisherman. An anchor kept the ship firmly planted in a specific area and was a necessary tool to have.

In the early centuries of Christianity the symbol was adopted by Christians and often used in Roman catacombs. It is believed that part of the inspiration came from the following passage in Hebrews.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever after the order of Melchiz′eek. (Hebrews 6:19-20)

Hope then became associated with the anchor, specifically the hope of salvation. This symbol was etched onto catacombs, along with such words as pax tecum, pax tibi, in pace, in Christian hope that the deceased would be anchored in Heaven.

ANCHOR CROSS WINDOW
Shutterstock

Additionally, in some instances the anchor is made into a cross, representing the crucifixion. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “Of even greater interest in this connection is the representation of a cross-anchor with two fishes suspended from the cross-beam, also found in the cemetery of St. Priscilla. There can scarcely be any doubt that the author of this and similar representations intended to produce a symbolic picture of the crucifixion: the mystic Fish (Christ) on the suggested cross (the anchor).”

FISH CHRISTIAN SYMBOL
Shutterstock

Besides this ancient meaning, the anchor can also be seen in depictions of saints, such as Saint Clement, who was killed by being thrown into the sea with an anchor tied around his neck.


IHS Crucifix

Read more:
What does the IHS monogram mean?

Tags:
Art
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
ANMOL RODRIGUEZ
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
2
ARGENTINE CHILDREN
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
3
RESURRECTION
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
4
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
5
PRAY
Philip Kosloski
Pray this Psalm when you successfully recover from an illness
6
OUR LADY
Philip Kosloski
An alternative Hail Mary to Our Lady of Sorrows
7
PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI
Cerith Gardiner
12 Habits of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that every young adult...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.