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The Hidden Symbolism of the Chalice in Western Painting


The Definition and Meaning of the Chalice as a Christian Symbol in Western Painting

The sacred meanings, origins and early customs surrounding Christian symbols date back to early times when the average person was illiterate and most had never laid eyes on the written word. The early Christian community relied upon holy iconography and symbolic representation of important Christian ideas.  Byzantine, Gothic and Renaissance paintings are rich in philosophical and Christian symbolism regarding the chalice. The Chalice has long been a sacred symbol with a variety of meanings.


The Chalice is symbolic of the Consecration. Reference to the Chalice  Symbol in the Bible "You shall consecrate yourselves therefore and be holy, for I am the Lord your God" Leviticus 20:7

In the Carolingian, Byzantine and Gothic art periods a person depicted holding a chalicesignifies that they are set apart from evil, have turned to the Lord, and are Gods servant.

The Chalice points to the centrality of the Lords Last Supper.

The Chalice symbolizes the Holy Communion and the blood shed by Jesus on the cross. Reference to the Chalice Symbol in the Bible "
 Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." - Matt. 26:27

Chalice with a serpent is one of many symbols and emblems of John the Evangelist

The Meaning of Sacred Symbols in Paintings. Most prominently featured  symbols and their meaning:

The  Serpent

Good Shepherd


Adam and Eve



Mythological Creatures


Virgin Mary


The Four Evangelists

The Anchor

The Apostles



The Cross

Architectural Elements



The Saints









Household Object

Clothing and Accessories

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