the Holy Apostles
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.
Symbols of the 12 Apostles
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.
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.
- the Holy Apostles
- Apostle Matthew (3 money bags)
- Apostle Peter (Two crossed keys)
- Apostle Andrew (Fish on a cross saltire)
- Apostle James The Less (stones and saw)
- Apostle Philip (Basket, cross, and spear)
- Apostle Thomas (carpenter’s square, rocks, arrow, and spear)
- Apostle Bartholomew (Bible and a ﬂaying knife)
- Apostle James the Greater (Stalt and Scallop Shell)
- Apostle Simon (Fish on a Bible)
- Apostle Matthias (Bible and Scimitar)
- Apostle John (Snake in a Chalice)
- Apostle Jude ship (thought to be a fisherman), staff (missionary, pilgrim), square rule)
- Summary Symbols of the Apostles
- Resources Symbols of the Apostles
Let us dive into the Symbols of the Apostles with explanations.
Apostle Matthew (3 money bags)
The battle-axe 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 Peter (Two crossed keys)
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 to the cross.
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 Andrew (Fish on a cross saltire)
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 James The Less (stones and saw)
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.
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 Philip (Basket, cross, and spear)
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 Thomas (carpenter’s square, rocks, arrow, and spear)
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.
Apostle Bartholomew (Bible and a ﬂaying knife)
Saint Bartholomew Quick Fact: also known as Nathaniel, converted Polymius to the King of Armenia.
Apostle James the Greater (Stalt and Scallop Shell)
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 Simon (Fish on a Bible)
Saint Simon the Zealot was the inspiring companion of Jude.
Both were 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 Matthias (Bible and Scimitar)
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 John (Snake in a Chalice)
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, Mary.
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)
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.
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