Peacock Symbol



Symbols in Christianity

Peacock in the Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome
Peacock painting in the Catacomb of Priscilla.

Christianity has always incorporated symbols - that is, visual representations and signs - into its practice, as valuable expressions of truth. The depiction of an important element of the faith, by means of an animal or color, for instance, can be powerful and encouraging. What words cannot say, sometimes symbols can. While Christians are known for being people of faith, the religion has produced some of the most beautiful art in history. Whether they be carved on first-century tombs or tattooed on twenty-first century bodies, symbols matter in the Christian religion.

Christians believe that God created human senses - sight, touch, taste, sound, and smell. Of course faith is of utmost importance in Christianity, but the physical abilities God gave people aren't unimportant. It is helpful to understand that the Christian worldview doesn't teach that immaterial and the material are in competition with each other or opposed to each other. in fact, faith experiences can be supported by a sensory experience such as when the Apostle Paul laid hands on people when he prayed for them (Acts 19:4-6).




Peacock imagery in Christianity

The afterlife is very important to Christianity. Given its significance, it's not surprising that the Church has looked to visual symbols to represent important aspects of it. The peacock, a bird known for incredible beauty, is such a symbol.

Peacock in the Catacomb of Priscilla, Rome

The peacock was believed by the ancients to have flesh that does not decay after death, and thus it became a symbol of immortality.

Because Christians believe that those who are saved will live forever, the bird was thought to be a good depiction on that conviction.

This symbolism was adopted into Christianity, and the peacock appears in many early Christian mosaics and paintings.

Also worth noting is that because of the way a peacock struts and displays its feathers, the bird is sometimes a symbol of human vanity.

The peacock is used in church decorations in the Easter season.

 

 

 

 

 

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Sources
  1. "birds, symbolic." Peter and Linda Murray, Oxford Dictionary of Christian Art (2004).
  2. Patricia S. Klein, Worship Without Words: The Signs and Symbols of Our Faith (2000).
  3. Symbols in Christian Art and Architecture by Walter E. Gast. Top illustration of peacock by Mr. Gast.