“Wait … is that St. Scholastica or St. Adalsinda?”
It’s only natural that, upon entering a church, we don’t recognize more than half of the saints featured in the stained glass windows, sculptures, altarpieces, and other decorative or liturgical elements in the building: Christianity is a long, vibrant, diverse, and often complex tradition that is also responsible for some of the greatest works of art in history. Cathedrals, churches, abbeys, basilicas are all filled with symbols and images that not only condense a unique iconographic tradition, but also convey theological, historical, hagiographical, doctrinal messages to the spectator.
That is the reason understanding the basics of Christian religious symbolism and iconography requires attentiveness to detail, to say the least. In this slideshow, we included some very simple, introductory keys to help you distinguish some of the church’s most popular saints by looking at the attributes with which they’re often represented:
The “mystical winepress,” a forgotten motif in Christian art