Symbols of the Early Church Baptistry


Grateful acknowledgement is hereby made to former pastor Richard W. Wiches who with the artist, Mr. Gettier, planned the symbols and to Mrs. B.T. Dean who load a summary of their historic background and meaning.

Starting at the lower left hand corner:


The images shown just represent the symbols of the Baptistry. Hopefully we will be able to get picture of the actual symbols in the future. 

  • 1. Pillar with Scourges

    A reminder of the trial; and scourging of our Lord.

    Mark 15:15

    "Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified."

  • 2. Lantern of the Roman Guard

    The betrayal

    John 18:3

    "So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons."

  • 3. I.H.C.

    A "monogram" of Jesus in Greek capitals, change at some point in the Middle Ages to the more familiar Latin for I.H.S. which you may see on the roof of the Roman Catholic church in Towson. Two explanations ere later given of the meaning:

    1. Jesu Hominum Salvator (Jesus Savior of man)
    2. In Hoc Signo (in this sign you shall conquer)
  • 4. Chalice and Cross

    Gethsemane and the prayer

    Luke 22:42

    "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

  • 5. Agnus Dei

    The Lamb of God

    John 1:29

    "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

    Isaiah 53:7

    "He was oppressed and afflicted,  yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth."

    Revelation 5:12

    "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin,and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—"

  • 6. The Keys of the Kingdom

    Symbol of Peter

    Crossed (saltire) 

    Matthew 16:13-19

     Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, [a]Elijah; but still others, [b]Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are [c]the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon [d]Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are [e]Peter, and upon this [f]rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth [g]shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth [h]shall have been loosed in heaven.”

    Matthere 26:74-75

    "Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

  • 7. Three Scallop Shells

    Sign of pilgrimage

    Represents James (the Grater), brother of John, both son of Zebedee.

  • 8. Chalice and Serpent

    Refers to the tradition that an attempt was made to poison John by giving him a poisoned cup, rendered harmless by the Lord. Tradition also has it that he only of the disciples died a natural death, exiled on the Island of Patmos. 

  • 9. A Cross Saltire

    (crossed like an X)

    Is the symbol of St. Andrew, martyred in Greece, according to traditon, on a cross of this shape.

  • 10.  A Slender Cross, flanked by two loaves of bread. 

    Is the symbol of St. Philip, reminding us of the feeding of the five thousand.

    John 6:7

    Jesus said, “Have the people [a]sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men [b]sat down, in number about five thousand.

  • 11. Three Knives

    This symbol represents St. Bartholomew, thought to be the same as Nathaniel, He was flayed alive, according to tradition, for his preaching. 

  • 12. "The Tables of the Law" 

    the Ten Commandments


  • 13. Shield of the Holy Trinity

    This is a figure with the three curving side, each equal in length. At each angle thre is a small circle, and in the cent a slightly larger circle. Bands connect the centerwith the outer ones, and the outer circles with each other. On the outer curving bands are the Latin word "non est" The shield may be read in any direction.

    "The Father is not the Son", "the Son is not The Father", etc. while reading diagonally from outside in we get, "The is God", "The Son is God", T"he Holy spirit is God." This, the doctrine of the Trinity, dates from 325 A.D.

  • 14. An Open Bible

    the Word of God


  • 15. Carpenter Square & Spear and 4 Arrows

    Symbolize St. Thomas, said to have gone to India, build a church at Malbar (hence the carpenter's square) and been killed with arrows and a spear.

  • 16. The Fuller's Bat

    Flanked by two stones, is the symbol of St. James the Less (the Lord's brother, and the first Christian bishop of Jerusalem). The stones and bat were the media of his Martyrdom.

  • 17. Three Purses

    The sign of St. Matthew the publican.

    Matthew 9:9

    "As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He *said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him."

  • 18. Carpenter's Square & a boat-hook

    Symbolize the carpenter missionary, St. Jude, who used a sail boat on his missionary journeys to Syria, Mesopotamia, and Arabia.

  • 19. A Fish and boat-hook

    A fish and boathook are signs of St. Simon, companion of St. Jude.

  • 20. The Open Bible

    The open bible and double edged battle axe represent St. Matthias, beheaded for preaching the gospel.

  • 21. An Open Bible

    Inscribed with the words "Spiritus Gladious" (Sword of the Spirit) is the symbol of St. Paul

  • 22. "The Chi Rho"

    A monogram of Jesus are the first two letter of the Greek word for Christ, "christos". They look like X P in the English alphabet, but the pronunciation is as above. 

  • 23. Three Trumpets

    Might represent one or all of three things the:

    • Call to Worship
    • Resurrection
    • Day of Judgement
  • 24. The Coat and Dice

    Reminders of the Roman soldiers at the foot of the Crosse, casing lostf for the seamless tunic.

  • 25. The Crown of Thorns with initials "INRI"

    The initials within the crown stand for the Latin words, Jesu Nazarenes Rex Judaeorum  Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews. The words that  Pilate had written above the cross. The half circles at the bottom of each side are evidently for decoration. 

    John 11:19-21

    "and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. 20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary [a]stayed at the house. 21 Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died"

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