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<<  The Catechism of the Catholic Church Today!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church Today on Pictures and Images.


  • The Catechism Today
  • All the Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states on this issue:


I. Names And Images Of The Church


751 The word "Church" (Latin ecclesia, from the Greek ek-ka-lein, to "call out of") means a convocation or an assembly. It designates the assemblies of the people, usually for a religious purpose. (cf. Acts 19:39) Ekklesia is used frequently in the Greek Old Testament for the assembly of the Chosen People before God, above all for their assembly on Mount Sinai where Israel received the Law and was established by God as his holy people. (cf. Exodus 19) By calling itself "Church," the first community of Christian believers recognized itself as heir to that assembly. In the Church, God is "calling together" his people from all the ends of the earth. The equivalent Greek term Kyriake, from which the English word Church and the German Kirche are derived, means "what belongs to the Lord."


752 In Christian usage, the word "church" designates the liturgical assembly, (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:18; 14:19,28,34,35) but also the local community (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2; 16:1) or the whole universal community of believers. (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6) These three meanings are inseparable. "The Church" is the People that God gathers in the whole world. She exists in local communities and is made real as a liturgical, above all a Eucharistic, assembly. She draws her life from the word and the Body of Christ and so herself becomes Christ's Body.


Symbols of the Church


753 In Scripture, we find a host of interrelated images and figures through which Revelation speaks of the inexhaustible mystery of the Church. The images taken from the Old Testament are variations on a profound theme: the People of God. In the New Testament, all these images find a new center because Christ has become the head of this people, which henceforth is his Body. (cf. Ephesians 1:22; Colossians 1:18; Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 9) Around this center are grouped images taken "from the life of the shepherd or from cultivation of the land, from the art of building or from family life and marriage." (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 6)


754 "The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep. (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 6; cf. John 10:1-10; Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11-31; John 10:11; 1 Peter 5:4; John 10:11-16)


755 "The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing. (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 6; cf. 1 Corinthians 39; Romans 11:13-26; Matthew 21:32-43 and parallels; Isaiah 51-7; John 15:1-5)


756 "Often, too, the Church is called the building of God. The Lord compared himself to the stone which the builders rejected, but which was made into the corner-stone. On this foundation the Church is built by the apostles and from it the Church receives solidity and unity. This edifice has many names to describe it: the house of God in which his family dwells; the household of God in the Spirit; the dwelling-place of God among men; and, especially, the holy temple. This temple, symbolized in places of worship built out of stone, is praised by the Fathers and, not without reason, is compared in the liturgy to the Holy City, the New Jerusalem. As living stones we here on earth are built into it. It is this holy city that is seen by John as it comes down out of Heaven from God when the world is made anew, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 6; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9; Matthew 21:42 and parallels; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7; Psalm 118:22; 1 Corinthians 3:11; 1 Timothy 3:15; Ephesians 2:19-22; Revelation 21:3; 1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 21:1-2)


757 "The Church, further, which is called 'that Jerusalem which is above' and 'our mother', is described as the spotless spouse of the spotless lamb. It is she whom Christ 'loved and for whom he delivered himself up that he might sanctify her.' It is she whom he unites to himself by an unbreakable alliance, and whom he constantly 'nourishes and cherishes.'" (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 6; cf. Galatians 4:26; Revelation 12:17; 19:7; 21:2,9; 22:17; Ephesians 5:25-26,29)


In Brief


777 The word "Church" means "convocation." It designates the assembly of those whom God's Word "convokes," i.e., gathers together to form the People of God, and who themselves, nourished with the Body of Christ, become the Body of Christ.



Holy images and Holy images within the Mass.

1159 The sacred image, the liturgical icon, principally represents Christ. It cannot represent the invisible and incomprehensible God, but the incarnation of the Son of God has ushered in a new "economy" of images:

Previously God, who has neither a body nor a face, absolutely could not be represented by an image. But now that he has made himself visible in the flesh and has lived with men, I can make an image of what I have seen of God . . . and contemplate the glory of the Lord, his face unveiled.


St. John Damascene, De imag. 1,16:PG 96:1245-1248

1160 Christian iconography expresses in images the same Gospel message that Scripture communicates by words. Image and word illuminate each other:

We declare that we preserve intact all the written and unwritten traditions of the Church which have been entrusted to us. One of these traditions consists in the production of representational artwork, which accords with the history of the preaching of the Gospel. For it confirms that the incarnation of the Word of God was real and not imaginary, and to our benefit as well, for realities that illustrate each other undoubtedly reflect each other's meaning.


Council of Nicaea II (787): COD 111

1161 All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are sacred images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints as well. They truly signify Christ, who is glorified in them. They make manifest the "cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1) who continue to participate in the salvation of the world and to whom we are united, above all in sacramental celebrations. Through their icons, it is man "in the image of God," finally transfigured "into his likeness," (cf. Romans 8:29; 1 John 3:2) who is revealed to our faith. So too are the angels, who also are recapitulated in Christ:

Following the divinely inspired teaching of our holy Fathers and the tradition of the Catholic Church (for we know that this tradition comes from the Holy Spirit who dwells in her) we rightly define with full certainty and correctness that, like the figure of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy images of our Lord and God and Savior, Jesus Christ, our inviolate Lady, the holy Mother of God, and the venerated angels, all the saints and the just, whether painted or made of mosaic or another suitable material, are to be exhibited in the holy churches of God, on sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, in houses and on streets.


Council of Nicaea II: DS 600

1162 "The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God." (St. John Damascene, De imag. 1,27:PG 94,1268A,B) Similarly, the contemplation of sacred icons, united with meditation on the Word of God and the singing of liturgical hymns, enters into the harmony of the signs of celebration so that the mystery celebrated is imprinted in the heart's memory and is then expressed in the new life of the faithful.


In Brief


1192 Sacred images in our churches and homes are intended to awaken and nourish our faith in the mystery of Christ. Through the icon of Christ and his works of salvation, it is he whom we adore. Through sacred images of the holy Mother of God, of the angels and of the saints, we venerate the persons represented.




IV. "You Shall Not Make For Yourself A Graven Image".

2129 The divine injunction included the prohibition of every representation of God by the hand of man. Deuteronomy explains: "Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in the form of any figure. . . . " (Deuteronomy 4:15-16) It is the absolutely transcendent God who revealed himself to Israel. "He is the all," but at the same time "he is greater than all his works." (Sirach 43:27-28) He is "the author of beauty." (Wisdom 13:3)

2130 Nevertheless, already in the Old Testament, God ordained or permitted the making of images that pointed symbolically toward salvation by the incarnate Word: so it was with the bronze serpent, the ark of the covenant, and the cherubim. (cf. Numbers 21:4-9; Wisdom 16:5-14; John 3:14-15; Exodus 25:10-22; 1 Kings 6:23-28; 7:23-2)

2131 Basing itself on the mystery of the incarnate Word, the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea (787) justified against the iconoclasts the veneration of icons - of Christ, but also of the Mother of God, the angels, and all the saints. By becoming incarnate, the Son of God introduced a new "economy" of images.

2132 The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed,

"the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype," and "whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it."


St. Basil, De Spiritu Sancto 18,45:PG 32,149C; Council of Nicaea II: DS 601; cf. Council of Trent: DS 1821-1825; Vatican Council II: Sacrosanctum Concilium 126; Lumen Gentium 67

The honor paid to sacred images is a "respectful veneration," not the adoration due to God alone:

Religious worship is not directed to images in themselves, considered as mere things, but under their distinctive aspect as images leading us on to God incarnate. The movement toward the image does not terminate in it as image, but tends toward that whose image it is.


St. Thomas Aquinas, STh II-II,81,3 ad 3

In Brief


2141 The veneration of sacred images is based on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. It is not contrary to the first commandment.




  1. Tertullian, (A.D. 160-218)
    St. Methodius of Olympus, (A.D. 250-311)
    Eusebius of Cæsarea, (A.D. c.263-338)
    St. Gregory of Nazianzen, (A.D. 318-389)
    St. John Chrysostom, (A.D. 344 - 407)
    Prudentius, (Aurelius Prudentius Clemens), (A.D. 348-c.413)
    Blessed Jerome of Jerusalem, (flourished in A.D. 385)
    St. Asterius Of Amasea, (A.D. c.350-400)
    St. Paulinus of Nola, (A.D. 353-431)
    St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428)
    St. John Cassian, (A.D. c.360 - 433)
    St. Nilus the Elder, (A.D. c.385 - c.430)
    Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus, (A.D. 393-458)
    Sozomen, (Salminius Hermias Sozomenus), (A..D. c.400-c.450)

Tertullian, (A.D. 160-218), North African; ecclesiastical writer, Christian apologist and lawyer, son of a centurion and contemporary of St. Irenæus, a native and citizen of Carthage. The zeal and ability with which he defended the Christian cause, and vindicated its faith and discipline, have immortalized his name, though it has suffered by his adoption, around the year A.D. 200, of some of the Montanist's errors, whose cause he is thought to have supported until his death. His works are numerous, and are written with great ability and erudition, but in an harsh style.

"You may begin from parables: Where is the lost sheep sought for by the Lord, and carried back upon His shoulders? Let the very pictures of your chalices come forth, if even in them the interpretation of that animal will clearly shine forth, whether it portray the restoration of a sinner that was a Christian, or a Gentile."

De Pudicti. n. 7, p. 559.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 304

St. Methodius of Olympus, (A.D. 250-311), Asia Minor; bishop, ecclesiastical writer, martyr.

In this fragment occurs the following passage:

"Reflect that God has various images of Himself; some made, as it were, of gold, formed, that is, of a spiritual and purer substance, such are the angels; but some made of plaster or of brass such are men. Since then, here on earth, every image of a king, on account of his figure that is impressed thereon, is valued and honored, so is it by no means to be thought that we, who are the image of God, are so far to be dishonored as to have to be utterly annihilated."

St. Methodius, Bibl. PP. t. iii. pp 831-832.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 305

"The images of earthly kings, even though they may not be made of the more precious substances of gold and silver, have honor from all men; for men, after venerating those made of the more precious material, do not make small account of those made of a viler material, but honor every such image on earth, even though it be of plaster or of brass ; and whosoever utters a contumelious word against any one such whatever, is not let go as if he had despised a piece of clay, or judged as having slighted a piece of gold, but as having acted impiously against the King himself, and Lord. The golden images which we make of the Lord's angelic principalities and powers, we make unto His honor and glory."

The above extract is given by St. John Damascene as being from St. Methodius, in his:
Orat. iii. de Imagin. t. i. p. 301,
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 305

Eusebius of Cæsarea, (A.D. c.263-338), appointed Bishop of Cæsarea in A.D. 314, Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist, scholar of the Biblical canon who was deeply embroiled in the Arian controversy.

"Since I have fallen upon the mention of this city (Cæsarea-Philippi), I do not think I ought to pass over a circumstance which deserves to have its remembrance preserved amongst us. They say that the woman who labored under an issue of blood, and who obtained a cure of her complaint from our Savior, as we learn from the sacred Gospels, was born here, that her house is shown in the city, and that there remains a wonderful monument of the Savior s bounty towards her. For near the gates of her house there is said to stand, on a lofty pedestal of stone, a representation in brass of a woman on her knees, and with her hands stretched out before her as in the act of supplication; and facing this another upright statue of a man, made of the same material, fairly enveloped in an outer garment, extending a hand to the woman. At the feet of this statue, out of its base, there is said to grow a strange kind of plant, rising up to the hem of the robe of brass, and that it is a choice cure for all kinds of diseases. They say that this statue is the image of Jesus. It has remained to this day, as we, when dwelling in that city, saw with our own eyes. And it is no wonder that they of the Gentiles who were formerly benefited by our Savior should have done this, when we have learnt, that the images also of the Apostles, Peter and Paul, and even of Christ Himself, are preserved in paintings. As is likely, the men of old were accustomed without discrimination (or, unguardedly), in this manner to honor amongst themselves after a Gentile custom such a had been their benefactors."

H. E. L. vii. c. xviii.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 304-306

Frequent mention is made by Eusebius of various images of the cross used under Constantine, and it will not be unprofitable to cite a few passages, in order to enable the reader to understand in what light this practice was viewed by this historian. Having described (L i. De Vita Const, c. xxviii.) the appearance of the cross to Constantine, he says in the next chapter:

"The emperor said that he doubted within himself what this appearance could be, and that night came on him whilst still pondering and busied in reflection; that then Christ the Son of God appeared to him during his sleep, with the sign which he had seen in Heaven, and ordered him to make a representation of the sign which he had seen in the heavens, and to use it as a defense, on his standards, for his armies."

Then follows a description of the (Labarum. In c. xxiii. Ibid), he tells us that Constantine sent for certain Christian priests to interpret the meaning of the vision and sign:

"they told him it was God, the only-begotten Son of the one and alone God; and that the sign which he had seen was the symbol of immortality, and a trophy of the victory over death which he had gained when he came upon this earth."

In the second book he introduces the pagan Licinius as scoffing at the cross, "as a disgraceful symbol with which Constantine dishonored his army," and then goes on to remark that, in the battles that ensued, complete victories were gained, "the saving sign being advanced in front of the emperor's armies"

"For where soever this sign appeared the enemy fled, and the victorious soldiers pursued. Which, when the emperor perceived, as soon as he noticed any division of his troops in difficulty, he ordered the saving sign to be advanced there as the means of securing victory, and victory instantly followed upon his order, resolution and strength, by a kind of divine certainty, being added to the combatants."

In chapters viii. and ix. he states that he learnt from Constantine's own lips, that of the fifty chosen to carry the Labarum, not one fell that clung round it; and he adds, that he had it from the same authority, that the staff which bore the cross received the weapons aimed at the standard-bearer, and served as a perfect defense. In chapter xvi. he notices that

"Licinius, having discovered by facts, what a divine and ineffable power there was in the saving trophy, by means of which the army of Constantine had learned to conquer, ordered his soldiers not to advance on any account against it, nor even incautiously to cast their eyes upon it; for it was fearful in power, and his enemy fought against him."

In the third book (c. ii.), having remarked that Constantine gloried in the name of Christian, he says:

"At one time signing his countenance with the saving sign, at another glorying in the victorious sign." (c. iii.)

"He also on a lofty tablet placed before the vestibule of his palace, placed, to be seen by all, the saving sign painted as resting on his head; but that enemy and adverse wild beast, which, by means of the tyranny of the ungodly, had vexed the Church, he represented under the shape of a dragon rushing headlong down. ... I am filled with wonder at the powerful understanding of the emperor, who, as it were, by a divine inspiration, symbolized those things which the words of the prophet had long before proclaimed."

Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 307-308

In the same work (I. iii. c. xlix.) he says:

"You might see at the fountains, in the middle of the market-places, representations of the Good Shepherd, well known to those acquainted with the divine word, and Daniel with the lions, fashioned in brass. . . . And so great was the love of God that possessed the soul of the emperor, that, in the noblest chamber of the royal palace, he fixed up the symbol of the saving Passion, and this the godly emperor seems to have made the defense of his empire."

Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 308

"The emperor honored that sign which brings victory, having learnt by experience the divinity that is in it. For by this he subdued the hosts of hostile troops; by this the powers of invisible demons are troubled (or, expelled); by this the vauntings of those who warred against God were repressed; by this slanderous and impious tongues were silenced; by this barbarous tribes were subdued; by this the childish follies of superstitious deceit were refuted; to this the perfection of all good things, the emperor, as if paying back a debt, has built in every part of the earth triumphal monuments."

De Laudio. Constant c. ix. p. 740.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 309

The following is the account given by Eusebius of the public respect shown by Constantine to the cross, immediately after his victory over Maxentius:

"He (Constantine), as if piety towards God had been inbred in him, was no wise moved by their acclamations, nor elated by their praises; but feeling deeply the assistance which he had received from God, he immediately ordered the trophy of the Lord's passion to be placed in the hand of his own statue; and the Romans having set up his statue, holding in its right hand the saving sign of the cross, in the most thickly peopled part of Rome, he ordered this very inscription, in the Latin language, to be placed on the base: "By this saving sign, the true proof of manly resolution, I freed your city from the yoke of the tyrant."

H. E. 1. ix. c. ix.
See also De Vita Constant. l.i. c. xl.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 306-307

St. Gregory of Nazianzen, (A.D. 318-389), Cappadocian; archbishop, theologian, Doctor of the Church.

"White and shining robes are such as are given to angels when they are represented in a bodily shape, this being, I fancy, a symbol of the purity of their nature."

T. i. Orat. xxiii. p. 409.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 309

St. John Chrysostom, (A.D. 344 - 407), Syrian; archbishop, Doctor of the Church. Born at Antioch in 344; he was ordained priest in A.D. 383, and raised to the see of Constantinople in the year A.D. 398. His eloquence gained him the title of Chrysostom, or the mouth of gold. His expositions of Scripture, especially the Epistles of St. Paul, are very valuable. This illustrious prelate died on his road to exile, in A.D. 407.

After having condemned a number of superstitious practices in use amongst Christians, he says:

"Now, that amongst Greeks (Gentiles) indeed these things should be done, is no marvel, but that, amongst those who worship the cross, and have been made partakers of ineffable mysteries, and who hold principles so sublime, this unseemliness should prevail, this is indeed a matter that deserves many tears. God has honored thee with a spiritual anointing, and dost thou defile thy child with mud? God has honored thee, and dost thou dishonor thyself? And when thou ought to inscribe the cross on his forehead, the cross, which affords an invincible security, dost thou put this aside, and fall into a Satanic madness? . . , How canst thou ask for the seal to be put, by the hand of the priest, where thou hast been smearing the mud? Let not these things be, brethren; but, from earliest childhood, encompass them with spiritual weapons, and instruct them to seal the forehead with the hand; and before they are able to do this with their (own) hand, do you imprint upon them the cross."

T. x. Hom. xii. in 1 Ep. ad Cor. n. 7, p. 126.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 310-311

"Whilst our father's house is burning, we are slumbering in a deep and senseless sleep. Yet whom has not this fire touched? Which of the images (or, statues) that stood in the Church?"

T. xi. Hom. x. in Ep. ad Ephes. n. 2, page 89.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 311

Prudentius, (Aurelius Prudentius Clemens), (A.D. 348-c.413), Roman Christian poet, born in the Roman province of Tarraconensis, now Northern Spain. He probably died in Spain, as well. The hymn Salvete, flores Martyrum, is by this writer.

"Whilst on my journey to the world's mistress, Rome, a hope sprang up within me, that Christ would be triumphant. I was lying prostrate on a tomb, which a sacred martyr, Cassian, with his body dedicated (to God) made beautiful. Whilst with tear I was considering within myself my wounds, and all the labors and bitter pains of life, I raised my face upwards; there was before me, painted in dark colors, the representation of the martyr, covered with countless wounds, lacerated in every limb, and with the skin minutely punctured. Around him, oh sad sight, there was a countless crowd of boys who with their pens pierced the wounded limbs. . . . The keeper of the building said, in answer to my inquiries, That which thou seest, stranger, is no empty or idle fable. The picture tells a history [after the well-known history, he continues:] These are the circumstances which, expressed in colors, have excited your wonder: This is Cassian's glory. If thou hast any just, or praiseworthy desire, if there be anything that thou hope for; if thou be inwardly troubled, but whisper it. The most glorious martyr hears, believe me, every prayer, and those which he sees deserving of approval, he renders effectual. I then ran through the list of my secret difficulties; I then murmur forth my desires, and my fears, my household left behind in hopes of future good. I am heard. I visit Rome; I am successful; I return to my home, and I loudly praise Cassian."

Galland. T. viii. Hymn. ix. pp. 452-3.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 313-314

Blessed Jerome of Jerusalem, (flourished in A.D. 385), a presbyter of Jerusalem.

"As your Scripture no where permits you to adore the cross, why then do you adore it? Reply to this to us Jews and Greeks, and all the Gentiles who put this question to you." Answer: "On this account, O foolish and shameless of heart, did God perhaps permit every nation that venerated Him, without exception, to adore something on earth that was the handiwork of man, that you might not be able to reclaim against Christians in the matter of the cross, and the veneration (adoration) of images. As, therefore, the Jews venerated (adored) the ark of the covenant, and the two molten images of gold of the cherubim, and the two tables that Moses polished, though it was nowhere permitted of God that these things should be adored or worshipped, so neither do we Christians worship the cross as God, but as showing the sincere affection of our souls towards Him that was crucified."

Galland. t. vii. p. 530; ap. S. J. Damase; l. iii. De Imag. t.i. page 385.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 304-317

St. Asterius Of Amasea, (A.D. c.350-400), born in Cappadocia, bishop of Amasea (A.D. 380-390), after having been a lawyer. Not to be confused with the Arian polemicist, Asterius the Sophist.

"Thence I went to the temple of God to pray at leisure; and after having done this, as I was passing hurriedly through one of the porticoes, I saw there a certain picture, and the sight of it completely arrested me. You would have said it was one of Euphranor's skillful pieces, or of one of those old painters, who raised their art to so great eminence, making their canvas (tables) well nigh breathe into life. Come, if you please, for I have now leisure for the narrative, and I will explain the painting to you. . . . A certain holy woman, a spotless virgin, had consecrated her virginity to God. They call her Euphemia. By a tyrant of that time persecuting the truly religious, she very readily chose to encounter death. Her fellow-citizens and associates in the religion for which she died, admiring her as a resolute and holy virgin, reverencing her sepulcher, and also placing her bier near the temple, pay her honor, celebrating her anniversary as a common and crowded festival. . . . And the painter also has piously, by his art, to the best of his ability, represented on canvas the whole history, and placed the sacred spectacle near her sepulcher. And the beautiful work is as follows. The judge is seated aloft on his throne, looking at the virgin intently and fiercely . . . there are the magistrate's attendants, and numerous soldiers, and men with their writing tablets for their notes, and styles in their hands, one of whom has raised his hand from the wax, and looks earnestly at the virgin who is being questioned, with his whole countenance bent towards her, as though bidding her speak louder. . . . The virgin stands there in a dark robe, indicating her wisdom by her dress, and is of a beautiful countenance, as the painter has fancied her, but, to my judgment, beautified in mind by her virtues. Two soldiers force her towards the president (archon), one dragging her forward, the other urging her from behind. . . . One of the soldiers has seized the virgin's head and bent it back, and presents the virgin's face as to the other soldier, in a favorable posture for punishment, and he standing by her has dashed out her teeth. . . . The instruments of punishment are seen to be a mallet and chisel. At this I burst into tears, and my feelings intercept my words. For the painter has so plainly depicted the drops of blood, that you would say that they were really flowing from her lips, and would go your way sorrowing. After this there is a prison, and again the venerable virgin in her dark robes is seated alone, stretching out both her hands to Heaven, and calling upon God, the helper in trouble; and there appears to her whilst in prayer, above her head, the sign which it is the custom of Christians both to adore and to represent in colors, a symbol, I think, of the passion which awaited her. The painter then, a little further on, has lit up in an other compartment, a vehement fire . . . and has placed her in the midst of it, with her hands stretched out towards Heaven ; her countenance bears on it no sign of sadness; but, on the contrary, is lit up with joy, for that she is departing unto a blessed and incorporeal life."

Combefis, t. i. Enar. in Martyr. S. Euphem. pp. 207-210.
See also in the last of the Photian. Excerpta, the usual account of the statue erected by the Syrophenician woman, Ib.p. 285.
Also for some curious customs connected with pious pictures on clothing, see his sermon
"In Divit. et Lazar. Ibid. p. 6."
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 311-313

St. Paulinus of Nola, (A.D. 353-431), Roman; convert and bishop Of Nola, Born at Bordeaux he was ordained priest in 393, and was appointed bishop of Nola in 409; may have been indirectly responsible for Augustine's Confessions. One who knew St. Paulinus well says he was "meek as Moses, as priestly as Aaron, innocent as Samuel, tender as David, wise as Solomon, apostolic as Peter, loving as John, cautious as Thomas, brilliant as Stephen, fervent as Apollos."

St. Paulinus Of Nola expostulates with Sulpicius Severus for having placed, in the baptistery of his basilica, a painting representing St. Martin of Tours, and his friend, the writer Paulinus.

"You did right to have a painting of St. Martin in the place where man is formed anew; he, by a perfect imitation of Christ, portrayed the image of a heavenly being; and thus the image of a celestial soul would meet, as an object of imitation, the eyes of those who were putting off in the laver the old man of earthly form. But what does my picture there, I, who neither equal children in innocence, nor men in wisdom?"

Ep. xii. ad Severum, p. 191, T. ii. Bib. Max. SS. PP.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 314-315

In one of the poems, given by Gallandius, St. Paulinus tells us, that a thief stole "an image of the cross, little thinking that it would prove instead of his treasure, his betrayer." Its recovery he describes as effected by the prayers of a boy to St. Felix.

Carm. Nat. xi. Galland. T. viii. p. 215, v. 381- 600.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 315

St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428), North African; born in Tagaste in A.D. 354, baptized in Milan in A.D. 387, ordained a priest in A.D. 391 and appointed bishop of Hippo in A.D. 395, Augustine is one of our greatest theologians. His numerous works display genius of the highest order, and have ever had great weight in the Christian churches. He is also a Doctor of the Church.

Speaking of certain writings falsely ascribed to our Savior, he says:

"When they wished to feign that Christ wrote something of this sort to His disciples, they reflected to whom especially it would be most readily believed that He might have written, as to persons who had been more familiarly attached to Him, unto whom this matter might be fitly entrusted as a secret; and there occurred to them Peter and Paul: I suppose they saw them painted together with Him in many places, for Rome is accustomed to honor with greater solemnity the merits of Peter and also of Paul on account of their martyrdom being on the same day. So did they indeed deserve to err, who sought for Christ and His Apostles, not in the holy writings, but on painted walls: no wonder that forgers were deceived by painters."

T. iii. De Consens. Evangelist. L.i.c.x.n.16, col. 1253.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 313

St. John Cassian, (A.D. c.360 - 433), ordained a deacon by St. John Chrysostom and a priest in Marseilles, a Christian theologian celebrated in both the Western and Eastern Churches for his mystical writings. He is known both as one of the "Scythian monks" and as one of the "Desert Fathers". His opinions on grace being in opposition somewhat to those of St. Augustine and the Church, caused him to be opposed by St. Prosper.

"As the hymns of the Consubstantialists were seen to be, in those chantings of hymns by night, accompanied with more splendor, for he (St. John Chrysostom) devised silver crosses, which supported lighted torches of wax, the Empress Eudoxia furnishing the money that was required for them, the Arians."

H.E.L. vi. c. viii. p. 322.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 316

St. Nilus the Elder, (c. A.D. 385 - c. 430) (also known as Nilus of Sinai, Neilos, Nilus of Ancyra), Syrian, was one of the many disciples and fervent students of St. John Chrysostom; an eyewitness of the martyrdom of Theodotus.

He gives the following advice to Olympius, who was about to build a church in honor of the martyrs, and who proposed to cover the walls with hunting and fishing scenes, so as to represent all the animal creation, and to erect therein "countless crosses," and "images of plaster," "To what you have written I will answer, that it would be trifling and puerile to delude the eyes of the faithful with the things named above, but it would be the act of a solid and masculine mind to represent, in the sanctuary towards the east, one, and only one cross; for through one saving cross is the human race saved, and to the hopeless is hope everywhere proclaimed. And fill the holy building on every side with the histories contained in the Old and New Testament, done by the hand of the most skilful painter; in order that they, who are not acquainted with letters, and are unable to read the divine Scriptures, may have a remembrancer of the worthy actions of those who have nobly served the true God, and be excited to emulate the glorious and celebrated excellencies, by which they despised earth for Heaven, and prized things invisible above the visible. But in that common building, when divided into many and various chambers, it is enough that each chamber have placed in it the precious cross."

L. iv. Epist. Ixi. pp. 491-92.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 316-317

St. Paulinus of Nola, (A.D. 353-431), Roman; convert and bishop Of Nola, Born at Bordeaux he was ordained priest in 393, and was appointed bishop of Nola in 409; may have been indirectly responsible for Augustine's Confessions. One who knew St. Paulinus well says he was "meek as Moses, as priestly as Aaron, innocent as Samuel, tender as David, wise as Solomon, apostolic as Peter, loving as John, cautious as Thomas, brilliant as Stephen, fervent as Apollos."

Having spoken of the veneration in which Saint Simon Stylites was held, and of the crowds that flocked to him from all parts, not only of Europe, naming amongst the rest the British, but also from Asia, he says:

"as to Italy, it is superfluous to speak. For they say, that he has become so celebrated in mighty Rome, that they have set up at the entrances to all the workshops, small images of him, deriving (or devising) thence to themselves a kind of protection and safety."

Side note: The entire basilica seems to have been adorned with paintings. In one of his histories he tells us that the main events, both of the Old and New Testament, were represented; and he gives us a list and description of the chief among them, together with his reasons for having recourse to this kind of ornament. See Carm. Nat. ix. pp. 289-90.

T. iii. Hist. Reliq. c. xxvi. p. 1272.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 315

"Now Greeks, Romans, and Barbarians, treat of as God, the crucified, and venerate the sign of the cross."

T. v. Curat. Grcec. Affect. Disp. vi. p. 880.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 315-316

Sozomen, (Salminius Hermias Sozomenus), (A..D. c.400-c.450), Palestinian; was a historian of the Christian church. He composed an Ecclesiastical History in nine books, comprising the period between A.D. 324 and 439.

Of the statue said to have been erected at Caesaraea-Philippi, by the woman spoken of in the Scriptures as laboring under an issue of blood, he says:

"As soon as Julian (the apostate) learnt that in a city of Phoenicia, called Paneas, there was a remarkable statue of Christ, which the woman who had been freed from her infirmity, dedicated there, he overthrew it, and set up his own. But a sudden fire fell from Heaven, and tore the parts about the breast of that statue, and threw down the head and neck. . . . And, from that day to this, it has stood in this state, covered with the blackness caused by the lightning. But as to the statue of Christ, the Pagans of that time dragged it away, and broke it. But afterwards, the Christians having gathered the pieces together, placed them in the church, where they are even now preserved."

H.E. L. v. c. xxi. p. 212.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Page 3



God alone is the object of our worship and adoration but Catholics use pictures and images similar to relics for:

      • the representations of Christ
      • the mysteries of their blessed religion, and
      • the holy saints of God

to honor and venerate them and to enliven their memories towards heavenly things, beyond what is due to every profane figure. They don't believe there is any virtue in the picture or image, but the honor given to the picture or image is referred to the prototype, or the thing being represented. Christians and even secularists do this today when they carry a picture or image of their family in their wallets.


In the Old Testament, only images of strange gods were prohibited as appears not only from the words in Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:7, but also from the cherubim (Exodus 25:18) and the brazen serpent (Numbers 21:8), which Yahweh ordered to be made. The mural decorations of the Jewish synagogues in the early Christian period from excavations abundantly attest to this.


There is a question therefore, not of a separate commandment which forbids the worship of all images, but of an application of the precept forbidding the worship of strange gods. The prohibition of image worship, already discussed, does not contemplate the case of an image of Yahweh, most probably forbidden in the Book of the Covenant. Deuteronomy 4:16 insists, however that he did not appear in material form lest the people should be led to make an image out of him and misapprehend his spiritual nature. The prohibition of idols is found in the Book of the Covenant. It appears here in an amplified form most probably as a later addition to the decalogue to illustrate and safeguard the first commandment. The Latin division of the commandments is thus the more reasonable one and the more likely to be original.




The Church's Scriptures that support Pictures and Images:


Jesus recounts Moses lifting up the carved image of a serpent in the wilderness

14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."


John 3:14-15

The Lord commands Moses to make two (statues|images) of cherubims from beaten gold

18 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying. . . . Thou shalt make also two cherubim of beaten gold, on the two sides of the oracle.

Exodus 25:18

The Lord commands Moses to make a (statue|image) of a brazen serpent

8 And the Lord said to him; make a brazen serpent, and set it up for a sign; whosoever being struck shall look on it, shall live. 9 Moses therefore made a brazen serpent, and set it up for a sign, which when they that were bitten looked upon, they were healed.

Numbers 21:8-9

The Israelites display an ungodly use of the images the Lord commanded Moses to make

4 He (Ezechias) destroyed the high places, and broke the statues in pieces, and cut down the groves, and broke the brazen serpent, which Moses had made; for till that time the children of Israel burnt incense to it, and he called his name Nohestan.

2 Kings 18:4

Solomon furnishes the temple with carved images of cherubim, palm trees and open flowers

29 He carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubim and palm trees and open flowers, in the inner and outer rooms. 30 The floor of the house he overlaid with gold in the inner and outer rooms. 31 For the entrance to the inner sanctuary he made doors of olivewood; the lintel and the doorposts formed a pentagon. 32 He covered the two doors of olivewood with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers; he overlaid them with gold, and spread gold upon the cherubim and upon the palm trees. 33 So also he made for the entrance to the nave doorposts of olivewood, in the form of a square, 34 and two doors of cypress wood; the two leaves of the one door were folding, and the two leaves of the other door were folding. 35 On them he carved cherubim and palm trees and open flowers; and he overlaid them with gold evenly applied upon the carved work.

1 Kings 6:29-35

Products of Hiram the Bronzeworker done for Solomon: lions, oxen, and cherubim.

23 Then he made the molten sea; it was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference. 24 Under its brim were gourds, for thirty cubits, compassing the sea round about; the gourds were in two rows, cast with it when it was cast. 25 It stood upon twelve oxen, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east; the sea was set upon them, and all their hinder parts were inward. 26 Its thickness was a handbreadth; and its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily; it held two thousand baths. 27 He also made the ten stands of bronze; each stand was four cubits long, four cubits wide, and three cubits high. 28 This was the construction of the stands: they had panels, and the panels were set in the frames 29 and on the panels that were set in the frames were lions, oxen, and cherubim. Upon the frames, both above and below the lions and oxen, there were wreaths of beveled work.


1 Kings 7:23-29

Solomon carved cherubim on the walls.

7 So he lined the house with gold — its beams, its thresholds, its walls, and its doors; and he carved cherubim on the walls.


2 Chronicles 3:7


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