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 “All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.”  - Oscar Wilde

  

The Meaning of Sacred Symbols in  Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance Painting

 Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance Art are rich in philosophical and Christian symbolism William H. Hunt once wrote "When language was not transcendental enough to complete the meaning of a revelation, symbols were relied upon for heavenly teaching, and familiar images, chosen from the known, were made to mirror the unknown spiritual truth."  Narrative paintings, with their layer upon layers of readily understood symbolic meaning, provided  instruction to the uneducated commoners that yearned for scriptural understanding.   Paintings were used as guides that helped  illuminate the divine mysteries of  Church doctrine. Most prominently featured  symbols and their meaning:

 

 

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Signs and Symbols in Western Painting