Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Friday 09 June |
Saint of the Day: St. Ephrem of Syria
Aleteia logo
separateurCreated with Sketch.

Wait, why is there an Egyptian ankh in a Catholic church?


Einsamer Schutze | CC

Philip Kosloski - published on 07/07/17

The symbol, while pagan in origin, was adopted by Christians in Egypt from the very beginning.

What can God do in your life with one Bible verse a day?
Subscribe to Aleteia's new service and bring Scripture into your morning:
Just one verse each day.
Click to bring God's word to your inbox

The ankh is one of the most widely known symbols of the Egyptian world. It is a hieroglyph that represents life and is seen in many of the tombs in Egypt. Ancient Egyptians would carry it as an amulet, believing it held sacred power to grant strength and well-being in this life and in the next.

Artists would frequently depict various gods or goddesses holding the ankh while touching the dead. The scene symbolized the deity granting eternal life to the deceased.


The Coptic people quickly converted to the Christian faith and a stronghold of Christianity developed in Egypt. However, like many other pagan converts, they held on to some of their traditions and incorporated them into their newfound faith.

The ankh was then “baptized” by the early Christians, but retained some of its original meaning. It became a symbol of the resurrection and eternal life and because of its visual closeness to the Tau-Rho symbol, a sign of victory and the crucifixion.

Read more:
Is this the earliest depiction of the cross of Christ?

The symbol continued in use after the Egyptians stopped using hieroglyphs to write and record history and the Christianization of the ankh helped it to survive. To this day it is an image that can be seen in many Coptic churches and has recently received a revival as a piece of Christian jewelry.

Coptic Christian

Read more:
5 Things to know about Coptic Christians

Support Aleteia!

Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Thanks to their partnership in our mission, we reach more than 20 million unique users per month!

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting and transformative Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Support Aleteia with a gift today!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Entrust your prayer intentions to our network of monasteries

Top 10
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.