Eye of God



Christian symbols

Eye of God, All-Seeing Eye
Eye of God in Supper at Emmaus by Jacopo Pontormo, 1525. Uffizi, Florence. Image: WGA..

Visual representations and signs - also known as symbols - are very important in the Christian religion. Christians may be called "people of the book" (meaning they are readers of the Bible) and "people of faith" (meaning they believe in unseen things). Still, imagery plays an important role in the Christian life. For instance, symbols incorporating colors, shapes, and numbers, can have significant importance in the right context.

While faith apart from the senses may be of primary importance in Christianity, believers recognize that God is also the creator of the human senses, including sight. Moreover, what is visible and physical can, under the right circumstances, be an aid to faith. For example, when Christians remember the cross of Jesus Christ, in accordance with biblical instruction (e.g. 1 Corinthians 11), they consume bread and wine (or similar elements) at the Lord's Supper.

Faith is thereby supported by a sensory experience.




The 'Eye of God' imagery in Christianity

The Eye of God is an equilateral triangle with a single eye inside it and almost always with rays emanating from it.

It symbolizes the omnipresence and omniscience of God, who watches over all things. It is also associated with the Trinity (which the triangle symbolizes in itself).

Historically, representations of an eye tended to be avoided because of the association with the Evil Eye (a widespread and ancient European superstition).

No medieval example of the Eye of God has yet been found. A rare Renaissance example of it appears above Christ's head in the Supper of Emmaus painted for the Carthusians in 1525 (shown above, right).

The symbol has been connected with Masonic ritual, probably because medieval masons' guilds were dedicated to the Holy Trinity.

In the 18th and 19th centuries it was used in Courts of Justice to remind judges of their responsibilities. The Eye of God appeared above the altar of the St. Aloysius church in London, which was built by French Catholics in 1808 but destroyed in World War II.

Related Bible Verses

"The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous."

~ Psalms 34:15

"The eyes of the Lord are in every place."

~ Proverbs 15:3

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Sources
  1. "Eye of God." Peter and Linda Murray, Oxford Dictionary of Christian Art (2004).
  2. Eye of God illustration by Walter E. Gast.