Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Sunday 01 August |
Saint of the Day: St. Alphonsus Liguori
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

How geometry was used to express Christian truths in art

JESUS MOSAIC

Boeresca | Shutterstock

Philip Kosloski - published on 08/25/17

Squares, circles, triangles; they all have deeper spiritual meanings.

The classical world saw beauty in the order and design of creation. Everything had a meaning, and Christians quickly adopted these fundamental truths when seeking to represent Christian teachings in art.

Circles were seen as a symbol of eternity and were used in halos of saints in heaven as well as a general representation of the Eternal God.


SAINT FRANCIS,HALO

Read more:
The ancient, secular reason why saints are shown with halos

Triangles were often used to represent the Holy Trinity. When God the Father was visually depicted he would sometimes have a triangular shaped halo.

Squares were seen as a symbol of the earth. Having four sides, the square was also often used in connection with the four evangelists, carrying the four gospels to the four corners of the earth.

Pentagrams, while often used by magicians in the Middle Ages, were first used by Christians to represent the five wounds of Christ.

Oval or almond shapes, called mandorlas, were a frequent symbol in Eastern iconography. A mandorla-shaped full-length halo shown behind Jesus Christ was used to represent his divinity and glory.

One geometric arrangement that was popular in Christian art was called the quincunx. Artist David Clayton explains it to be “the arrangement of five equivalent shapes that has four arranged symmetrically around the fifth which is centrally placed … The five dots on dice, for example, are in a quincunx shape.”

Clayton continues with the Christian symbolism, explaining, “quincunx can be thought of as the geometrical equivalent of the traditional image of Christ in Majesty. Around the central image of the enthroned Christ we see four figures representing the four evangelists carrying the Word to the four corners of the world.”


TRINITY SYMBOLS

Read more:
5 Ancient symbols of the Trinity

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
HIDILYN DIAZ
Cerith Gardiner
Gold-winning Filipina Olympian shares her Miraculous Medal for th...
2
SIMONE BILES
Cerith Gardiner
Simone Biles leaves the Olympics with an important lesson for her...
3
PRINCESS DIANA AND MOTHER TERESA
Mathilde De Robien
Did you know Princess Di was buried with a rosary?
4
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
5
JEDZENIE
Theresa Civantos Barber
The one thing we all should do before this summer ends
6
Zelda Caldwell
German women’s gymnastics teams modest dress protests sport’s ...
7
Lauren Daigle
J-P Mauro
After 3 years Lauren Daigle ousts herself from #1 Billboard spot
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.