Iconography in Art and Architecture  ...............  Illustrated Dictionaries - Table of Contents

Four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke & John
Iconography in Art and Architecture

Iconography: Study of the symbolic, often religious, meaning of objects, persons, or events depicted in works of art
Research contributions by Gregory L. Witul

The most-developed of all foursome or fournesses in religious symbolism in Christianity is the tetramorph of the four evangelists. It originated from the Jewish prophet Ezekiel who whilst in exile in Babylonia circa 550 BCE used the symbolism of Babylonian astrology for his own prophetic purposes. Ezekiel describes his vision in which the likeness of four living creatures came out of the midst of the fire thus:

As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. Ezekiel 1 verse 10.

Ezekiel’'s vision is based upon the astrology of the ancient Babylonians in which the constellations of the Zodiac (Greek for circle of animals) signs of Aquarius ( the man/angel) Leo the Lion, Taurus the Bull and Scorpio the Eagle are represented. Known astrologically as the Fixed Cross (with the substitution of the scorpion, a creature little known outside the Mediterranean basin was early on replaced by the winged eagle).

These four animal figures are also depicted in the early Christian evangelist Saint John’s book of the Apocalypse, the last book of the New Testament , the book of Revelation in which the events of the end times are revealed. Saint John alludes to Ezekiel’s vision thus-

And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. Revelation 4 verse 7.
WordIQ (2/2011)

On this page:

Matthew

Mark

Luke

John

Matthew

Tax collector before chosen to be one of the twelve Apostles.

One of the four evangelists, i.e., gospel writers ( although Matthean authenticity has been seriously challenged).

One of the witnesses of the Resurrection and Ascension,

Uncertain whether he died a natural death or received the crown of martyrdom.

Depictions of Matthew: A young man (with wings) or angel., carrying in his hand a lance as a characteristic emblem.

Matthew, metalwork:

St. John the Evangelist RC Church

Matthew, painting:

Buffalo Religious Arts Center

St. Stanislaus RC Church

St. John Kanty RC Church

Matthew, sculpture:

St. John the Evangelist RC Church

Holy Angels RC Church

Buffalo Religious Art Center

St. Luke's Roman Catholic Church/St. Luke's Mission of Mercy

Assumption RC Church

Trinity Church, BOSTON, MA

Sforza Castle, Milan, Italy

Matthew, stained glass:

Grace Episcopal Church, Lockport

St. John's Grace Episcopal Church

St. John's Grace Episcopal Church

Trinity Episcopal Church

Trinity Episcopal Church

Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation

St. Paul Episcopal Cathedral

Baker Memorial United Methodist Church East Aurora  


Mark

Tradition identifies him with the John Mark mentioned as a companion of Saint Paul in Acts, who later is said to have become a disciple of Saint Peter.

Depictions: Lion with wings / holding bible

Mark, stained glass:

Grace Episcopal Church, Lockport

Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation

St. Paul Episcopal Cathedral

Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, East Aurora 

Church of Santa Anna, Barcelona, Spain

Mark, painting:

Blessed Trinity RC Church

St. Stanislaus RC Church

St. John Kanty RC Church

Mark, sculpture:

St. John the Evangelist RC Church Lion head

Holy Angels RC Church

Buffalo Religious Art Center

St. Luke's Roman Catholic Church/St. Luke's Mission of Mercy

Assumption RC Church

St. Stanislaus RC Church

Trinity Church, Boston, MA

Sforza Castle, Milan, Italy

Doge's Palace, Venice, Italy

Mark, metalwork:

St. John the Evangelist RC Church


Luke

Luke the Evangelist, born of Greek origin in the city of Antioch, was an early Christian leader who the Church Fathers such as Jerome and Eusebius said was the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.

The Beloved Physician

2nd century document: "Luke, a native of Antioch, by profession a physician. He had become a disciple of the apostle Paul and later followed Paul until his [Paul's] martyrdom. Having served the Lord continuously, unmarried and without children, filled with the Holy Spirit he died at the age of 84 years."

The Roman Catholic Church venerates him as Saint Luke, patron saint of physicians, surgeons, students, butchers, and artists; his feast day is 18 October.

Depictions: Ox with wings, as a reference to his gospel that begins with a sacrifice

Luke, metalwork:

Luke, sculpture:

Luke, stained glass:

Saints Peter and Paul RC Church

Buffalo Religious Art Center

Grace Episcopal Church, Lockport 

Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, East Aurora 

Luke, painting:

John

Christian tradition says that John the Evangelist was one of Christ's original twelve apostles; he was the only one to live into old age, and not martyred for his faith. John was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of James the Greater. Originally they were fishermen and fished with their father.

Traditionally the name used to refer to the author of the Gospel of John, the First, Second and Third Epistles of John, and the Book of Revelation.

Peter, James, and he were the only witnesses of the Transfiguration (
Matthew 17:1), and of the Agony in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37). Only he and Peter were sent into the city to make the preparation for the Last Supper (Luke 22:8). At the Supper itself his place was next to Christ on Whose breast he leaned (John 13:23, 25). According to the general interpretation John was also that "other disciple" who with Peter followed Christ after the arrest into the palace of the high-priest (John 18:15). John alone remained near his beloved Master at the foot of the Cross on Calvary with the Mother of Jesus and the pious women, and took the desolate Mother into his care as the last legacy of Christ (John 19:25-27). After the Resurrection John with Peter was the first of the disciples to hasten to the grave and he was the first to believe that Christ had truly risen (John 20:2-10).

When the Gospels mention St. John along with his brother St. James, they almost list James first. From this the tradition grew that he was younger than James. To indicate this youthfulness, artists usually have him without a beard.

Depictions
: An eagle. / Beardless young man with flowing hair / Book / Serpent in a chalice / Cauldron

See also: Iconography: Eagle

John, metalwork:

St. John the Evangelist RC Church

John, sculpture:

St. John the Evangelist RC Church

St. John the Evangelist RC Church

Holy Angels RC Church

Buffalo Religious Art Center

St. Luke's Roman Catholic Church/St. Luke's Mission of Mercy

Assumption RC Church

St. Stanislaus RC Church

Milan Cathedral Museum

Sforza Castle, Milan, Italy

John, painting:

Buffalo Religious Arts Center

St. Louis RC Church

St. Stanislaus RC Church

St. John Kanty RC Church

John, stained glass:

Saints Peter and Paul RC Church Hamburg

First Presbyterian Church, Lockport

First Presbyterian Church, Lockport

Grace Episcopal Church, Lockport 1855 window

Grace Episcopal Church, Lockport 1976 window

St. Joseph RC Cathedral

St. John's Grace Episcopal Church Chalice

St. John's Grace Episcopal Church

St. John's Grace Episcopal Church

Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation

St. Paul Episcopal Cathedral

Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, East Aurora    Example #1

Baker Memorial United Methodist Church, East Aurora     Example #2


Photos and their arrangement 2011 Chuck LaChiusa
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