12 Apostles Symbols Meanings

The Symbols of the twelve Apostles are one way the church has passed on the faith. Their lives inspire us to follow in the footsteps of Christ. We imitate them in the same way that they imitated Christ.

The church assists us in remembering their stories by assigning Symbols of the Apostles, and the symbols remind us of that disciple’s life. They are a church treasure that allows us to learn more about our history.

the symbols of the apostles
The symbols of the apostles

Let us investigate the symbols that the church bestowed upon the twelve apostles and see how they aid in our understanding of our faith. The Symbols of the 12 Apostles are one way the church has passed on the faith. Their lives inspire us to follow in the footsteps of Christ. We imitate them in the same way that they imitated Christ.

The church assists us in remembering their stories by assigning symbols to each of the apostles, and the symbols remind us of that disciple’s life. They are a church treasure that allows us to learn more about our history.

Let us investigate the symbols that the church bestowed upon the twelve apostles and see how they aid in our understanding of our faith.

You will see that many of the symbols give clues to how the Apostles died.

Let us dive into the Symbols of the Apostles with explanations. Find the catholic saints symbols images for each apostle.

Apostle Andrew (Fish on a cross saltire)

saint andrew
Andrew the apostle symbol

Saint Andrew accompanied his brother Peter to Jesus. The fish reveals that he transitioned from his previous occupation as a fisherman to his larger calling as a fisher of humanity.

The saltire cross, also known as St. Andrew’s Cross, is the traditional form of the cross on which he was crucified after preaching the gospel in Greece.

Saint Andrew Quick Fact: Andrew was Peter’s brother, brought him to Jesus Christ & he recognized Christ at first sight.

Apostle Bartholomew (Bible and a flaying knife)

symbol saint bartholomew
Bartholomew the apostle symbol

The Bible and a flaying knife are signs for Saint Bartholomew. He had firm faith in the word of God, which he preached freely. He met his martyrdom by being flayed alive.

Saint Bartholomew Quick Fact: also known as Nathaniel, converted Polymius to the King of Armenia.

Apostle James the Greater (Stalt and Scallop Shell)

saint james the greater
James the Greater the apostle symbol

In his preaching and teaching, Saint James the Greater walked a lot. The stalt, which can be seen on his emblem, was used in his pilgrimages.

The scallop shell on display was a simple dish with numerous applications. King Herod executed James with a sword that appears to cross the staff. James was so active and brave that even after his death, his accuser converted to Christianity.

Saint James the Greater Quick Fact: part of the prominent group (Peter, James, John). He was present at Jairus’ daughter’s rising, transfiguration, and the Agony in the Garden.

Apostle James The Less (stones and saw)

saint james the less
James the Lessthe apostle symbol

Saint James the Less was a brother of Jesus.

While little is known about him due to his retiring nature, it is known that he preached throughout Jerusalem until he was stoned to death and his body was sawn asunder, hence the stones and saw on his emblem.

While little is known about him due to his retiring nature, it is known that he preached throughout Jerusalem until he was stoned to death and his body was sawn asunder, hence the stones and saw on his emblem.

Saint James the Less Quick Fact: author of the first Catholic epistle, son of Alphaeus and Mary, brother of the Lord, witness of Resurrection, pillar of the Church.

Apostle John (Snake in a Chalice)

saint john
John the apostle symbol

According to legend, an attempt was made on John’s life by putting poison in his chalice. Saint John was the only one of the 12 to live to a ripe old age and die naturally.

He is remembered as a beloved disciple who was close to Jesus and who looked after Jesus’ mother,

Saint John Quick Fact: was the first to see the grave & believe Jesus had risen, one of the 7 disciples who saw Jesus at the shore. His close relationship with God earned him the name “the disciple whom Jesus loved”.

Apostle Jude ship (thought to be a fisherman), staff (missionary, pilgrim), square rule)

emblem saint jude
Jude the apostle symbol

A ship with a cross on the sails symbolizes heroic Jude on missionary expeditions accompanied by his friend Simon.

Saint Jude is sometimes known as Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus

Saint Jude Quick Fact: sought in desperate situations, letter in New. Testament, patron saint of desperate cases & hopeless causes.

Apostle Matthew (3 money bags)

saint matthew
Matthew the apostle symbol

The emblem for Saint Matthew, the former tax collector, depicts three purses, a nod to his previous occupation

The battle-ax he was killed with is also depicted.

Apostle Matthew Quick Fact: invited Jesus for supper at his house with sinners and tax-collectors, “I came not to call the just, but sinners.

Apostle Matthias (Bible and Scimitar)

symbol apostle matthias
Matthias the apostle symbol

The apostles chose Saint Matthias to take the place of Judas the traitor. Matthias was well-versed in the scriptures, as evidenced by the Bible depicted in his emblem. After fearless service as a missionary in Judea, he was beheaded with a scimitar, which is also depicted on the emblem.

Saint Matthias Quick Fact: was with Jesus since baptism by John the Baptist. Filled the place of Judas the traitor (either him or Barsabas) becomes associated with the eleven apostles.

Apostle Peter (Two crossed keys)

saint peter
Peter the apostle symbol

Peter’s emblem depicts two crossed keys, which represent the Church’s founding confession of faith:

“You are the true Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16: 16).

Anyone who possesses the same faith that Saint Peter expressed so clearly and firmly has the keys to enter the Realm of God. The inverted cross represents how, during his crucifixion, Peter asked that his head be placed where his Master’s feet were nailed

Saint Peter Quick Fact: answered Jesus that he was Christ, the son of the living God. He is the rock upon which Jesus would build his Church

Apostle Philip (Basket, cross, and spear)

symbol saint philip
Philip the apostle symbol

The basket in Saint Philip’s emblem represents the feeding of the multitude, which was a major concern of his.

The Tau cross and spear represent the way he gave up his life for Him who is the Bread of Life.

Saint Philip Quick Fact: a disciple of John the Baptist, one of the Apostles. Mentioned only in New Testament in John, called by Jesus and brought Nathaniel/Bartholomew.

Apostle Simon (Fish on a Bible)

saint simon the zealot
Simon the Zealot the apostle symbol

Saint Simon the Zealot was the inspiring companion of Jude and was martyred in Persia on a missionary journey.

A relentless fisher of humanity through the power of the Gospel, Simon is symbolized by a fish on a Bible.

Saint Simon the Zealot Quick Fact: sometimes called Simon the Zealot because of his zeal about the Mosaic law.

Apostle Thomas (carpenter’s square, rocks, arrow, and spear)

symbol of saint thomas
Thomas the apostle symbol

Saint Thomas‘s emblem includes a carpenter’s square.

According to legend, he built a church in India while carrying on his ministry there. The rocks, arrows, and spear also depicted tell the story of a painful but valiant death.

Saint Thomas Quick Fact: known as doubting Thomas.

Summary Symbols of the Apostles

Christians have always used symbols to help us understand the faith. We have a long history of beautiful images with significant meanings, and many of us don’t understand them.

The symbolism of Christian saints has been used since the religion’s inception. Each saint is said to have lived an exemplary life, and symbols have been used to tell their stories throughout the Church’s history.

Iconography is the study of these in art history. They were especially used to help the illiterate recognize a scene and to give each of the saints a personality in art.

Resources Symbols of the Apostles

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