Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Thursday 26 November |
Saint Leonard of Port Maurice
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

How the griffin became a symbol of Christ

GRIFFIN,CHRISTIAN SYMBOLS

Shutterstock

Philip Kosloski - published on 08/14/17

A popular image in the ancient world was adopted early on by Christians.

Among the many fantastical creatures of the ancient world is the griffin. With the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle, the griffin was an active part of Greco-Roman mythology.

Similar creatures can be found in other cultures and are often seen in connection to the divine. The chariot of the Greek god Apollo was pulled by a griffin. Alternatively Apollo is often seen riding a griffin in Greek art.

The griffin also represented strength and power, which is why it became a frequent image on medieval coats of arms.


BASILISK

Read more:
The biblical and Christian roots of the basilisk

When the image was taken up by Christians it became a surprising symbol of Christ. According to the Academy of Classical Christian Studies, “The griffin became for [Christians] a rich symbol of the two natures of Christ Himself: the eagle, which is lord of the sky, reminds us of the divine nature, while the lion, which is lord of the earth (the ‘king of beasts’), reminds us of the human nature. Together, they remind us that our Lord is the true King of the heavens and the earth.”

Saint Isidore even notes how, “Christ is Lion because He reigns and has strength; Eagle, because after the Resurrection He rises into Heaven.”

The griffin is also closely connected to the book of Revelation, where it is mentioned: “And round the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures … the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like a flying eagle” (Revelation 4:6-7).

For medieval artists the griffin was a popular image to put in manuscripts as well as in churches. Its depth of meaning proved it to be a worthy symbol for Christian art.


PHOENIX DETAIL FROM ABERDEEN BESTIARY

Read more:
This is how the phoenix became a Christian symbol

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 eight languages: English, French, Arabic, 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
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful...
Luz Ivonne Ream
What’s the secret of this couple’s 64 years o...
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio's favorite prayer of petition
CHRIST THE KING
Edifa
Why do we say that "Christ is King"?
CHRISTMAS AD
Cerith Gardiner
This heartwarming TV ad focuses on what reall...
Cerith Gardiner
This Irish blessing is what we all need to he...
Zelda Caldwell
SpaceX’s ‘Resilience’ commanded by astronaut ...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.