Have you ever noticed all the halos in icon art? Placing a glowing light that circles something is a symbol of holiness in icon art. Thinking about the Earth and divine creation, it may be reasonable to take a moment for reflection. The moon and the earth are round like the arc of light around the head of a saint or holy person. The mind is the place of thought and there all our reality is created and defined. What is the symbolism of halos when artists place them behind the heads of animals and birds?
Halos in Icon Art Are Classic and Interesting.
It is not common to use the symbolism of halos for the holiness of animals, especially not in icon art. However, these rings of light are placed on animals such as doves, eagles, bulls, lions, and lambs. Animal figures with a halo depicted in Egyptian art also allude to the same sacred quality in Christianity. The concept creates an interesting effect and allows us to deduce why halos are behind the head.
Why Do Many Saints Have Halos in Icon Art?
I was once asked about the history of the halo in icon art. It is an intersting topic, especially because Jesus does not have a halo in the Bible. The closest reference may be of Moses who was surrounded by a crown of light or rays of light. St. Jerome translated this to “Horns of Light” which is why you sometimes see Moses with horns.
Painters of religious art often put a halo
around the heads of angels and saints in their icon art.
A circular halo in icon art usually represents light or the glow of knowledge. The word halo means “glory or majesty.” the symbolism of halos enhances the idea of a physical presence of energy. Kings, queens, emperors, wizards and saints have glory or majesty, and it is their energy that influences where they make their activities known. I cannot imagine having a halo, but I am comfortable with the idea of an aura. That could be another post for another day.
Halos in Icon Art from Other Cultures
In addition to classical byzantine icon sources, we also see halos in icon art from Egipt. The sun disk found in Egyptian crowns might have been an early way of painting halos in icon art to signify the importance of these people. Some people even think that the halo traveled from West to East and even ended up in Asia, as we see in depictions of the Budha, which we can witness from art of the 1st and 2nd centuries.
Christians Adopted the Halos in Icon Art from Other Contemporaries
Halos like many other painted icon symbols represent something. Everything in icon writing represents the spiritual, the higher self and the power of God.
Christians took on the round halo from other painters and used a circular shape to denote perfection, divinity and holiness. Later, halos were used for Christ, the angels, the virgin and then saints.
LIFE in CHRIST My latest book explains icon images and the visual language of Iconography. For more info about technique and What is the symbolism of halos check out another book Iconography and Meditation