Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Wednesday 24 February |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Josef Mayr-Nusser
home iconTravel
line break icon

Understanding icons: What do Jesus’ hand gestures mean?

Dreamstime

Daniel Esparza - published on 05/17/18

A visual guide to Christian iconography.

Have you ever wondered, while looking at religious icons, why the figures of Christ and the saints make certain hand gestures? Each gesture has a specific meaning, but it’s no wonder we can’t always understand them: they’re “written” in Greek! Classical Greeks and Romans developed a well-established, quite complex hand-gesture code, which was used by both orators and rhetoricians alike, when they were giving speeches in the agora or the Senate, during their private addresses, or even in the classroom. The gestures accompanying the oratory, of course, were a matter of public knowledge at the time. That is, they were quite common and understood by almost everybody. But not by us. So we need a bit of help to decipher them.




Read more:
What Do the Hand Gestures in Icons Mean?

Take a look at the slideshow to discover what hand gestures in icons mean!

Tags:
ArtCatholic historyCatholicismHistoryMedieval
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
TEMPTATION OF CHRIST,WILDERNESS,DESERT
Philip Kosloski
Why does Lent last 40 days?
2
Meat
Philip Kosloski
Here’s why Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays during...
3
Jim McIngvale
Cerith Gardiner
Mattress Mack steps up again to help those suffering freezing wea...
4
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
5
FATIMA
Philip Kosloski
Rarely seen photos of Fatima visionaries, Lucia, Jacinta and Fran...
6
NOTRE DAME
J-P Mauro
Notre Dame’s spire will need over 1,000 oak trees to rebuil...
7
Via Dolorosa FIFTH STATION
Zelda Caldwell
Franciscans in the Holy Land offer virtual Way of the Cross for L...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.