Early Christian Symbols

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12181

Symbols are a type of shorthand with a deeper meaning. From stick figures on signs to elaborate images, they express powerful messages. Learn to "decode" symbols that early Christians used!


Visual Arts, World

learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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What do these symbols represent? What information do they give you? How do you know what they mean?

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Human beings are symbol-makers.

Symbols make up a huge part of our lives. There are symbols that tell us what to do and what not to do. There are symbols that give us warnings and make suggestions. Then there are symbols that make us feel like we are part of a group and make us feel proud of who we are.

  1. Think about the symbols you find in your daily life and make a list of at least ten.
  2. Write them down, and next to them write down what you think they mean.
  3. Then, consider the following questions:
    • What exactly is a symbol?
    • How does a symbol communicate ideas, meanings, and feelings?
    • What do you think are the most powerful and important symbols in the world?

There are so many symbols around us that just about anywhere you set your eyes you will probably see one. At this very second you are looking at symbols — the letters on this page!

Some symbols are more important than others, though. Most people probably wouldn’t make big life sacrifices for the letter "k" for example, or for a "No Littering" sign. But plenty of people would make sacrifices for their nation’s flag, or for the symbols of their religion. These symbols are most powerful of all because they help shape our identity — the way we express the ideas, the places, and the people who are most important to us in the world.

The early Christians living in Rome faced many challenges. Amongst them was the challenge of developing the symbols that would represent their young religion and would communicate their most important ideas and values to the world.

In the Got It? section, examine some of the symbols of the early Christians of Rome.

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