Badge Of Office

The ring is one of the pope's badges of office. This one belonged to Eugenius IV (pope from 1431 to 1437). In those days, popes were famed for their fine robes and jewellery. Modern popes are more often known for their moral guidance and wide contacts with the world's churches. SOLEMN RITES Water that has been blessed may be sprinkled during solemn rites such as blessings, exorcisms (the banishing of evil spirits), and burials. People may also be sprinkled with holy water during Mass. The...

The Great Flood

Another story in Genesis tells how God became disenchanted with all the evil in the world, and sent a great flood to destroy much of the wickedness. Only one good man, Noah, was allowed to escape with his family. He built a great boat, the ark, in which he, his sons and their wives, and all the birds and animals took refuge. Christians think of Noah as the second father of the human race, after Adam. Don't hurt the boy or do anything to him. Now I know that you honour and obey God. Mosaic of...

The Blessed Virgin Mary

Catholics regard the Virgin Mary with special devotion, and scenes from her life appear on many works of religious art, as well as on vestments and everyday objects. The Catholic church teaches that Mary was free from original sin and that at the end of her life on Earth she was taken up, body and soul, into Heaven - an event referred to as the Assumption. Because Mary is so revered, several festivals associated with her are held throughout the church year.

Praying The Rosary

Catholics use rosaries as an aid to prayer. Three different prayers - the Hail Mary, the Our Father or Lord's Prayer, and the Glory to the Father -are repeated as the person meditates on the key stages of the Christian story. The rosary beads are used to count the prayers. 14th-century French mitre showing the coronation of the Virgin 14th-century French mitre showing the coronation of the Virgin

Winged Messengers

The Bible refers to angels as spiritual beings who live with God in Heaven. They act as messengers, bringing God's words and judgements to people on Earth and providing spiritual guidance. The Bible gives few clues about what angels look like, but they are traditionally portrayed as winged beings with human bodies. Relief of Jacob's ladder, west front of Bath Abbey, England The life of Jacob, one of the ancestors of the people of Israel, is described in the Book of Genesis. Jacob had a dream in...

Feeding The Multitude

This is the only miracle described in all four of the Gospels. After a long day's preaching, Jesus and the disciples wished to rest, but they were followed by a vast crowd who wanted to hear Jesus speak. Jesus felt sorry that the crowd had no food, and produced enough for all of them from the only available foodstuffs - five small loaves and two fishes. The Gospels describe more than 30 of Jesus' miracles. Some of these involved feeding the needy, others were nature miracles, such as calming...

Planting Words

Jesus compared his words to seeds scattered by a farmer. Some of the seed fell on the path and was stepped on. Some fell on rocky ground or among thorn bushes, where seedlings could not grow. Finally, some fell on good soil and grew into corn. Jesus said that people who heard and understood his words were like the good soil. The disciples have haloes, to indicate their holiness

Wedding Ceremonies

Churches all over the world hold wedding ceremonies. These are joyful occasions often attended by many guests. The priest establishes that the couple are free to marry, vows and rings are exchanged, and the union is blessed. The dove reminds couples of the presence of the Holy Spirit Mourning brooches from the mid-1800s Mourning brooches from the mid-1800s

Glassy Glory

Popular since the early Middle Ages, stained glass windows flood the interiors of many churches with beautiful coloured light. This spectacular spiral window, leading the eye up towards the heavens, is a modern take on this old tradition. ag Installed in 1996 at Thanksgiving Chapel in Dallas in the USA, the Glory Window was designed by French artist Gabriel Loire.

Passionate Saint Peter

Peter, as pictured on this 1430s Italian prayer book, was one of the leaders of the disciples. At Pentecost, he spoke passionately to the others, telling them that they had been visited by the Holy Spirit and saying that Jesus had risen from the dead and was the Messiah promised by God. Catacombs of Priscalla, Rome, Italy PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS After Pentecost the Christian community started to grow, and Peter began to allow non-Jews to join the church. The Roman authorities did not approve of...

Looking For Jesus

John's Gospel contains a moving account of Mary Magdalene's search for Jesus' body. As she wept at his disappearance, a man appeared whom Mary believed to be a gardener. But when he spoke her name, she realized immediately that it was Jesus. He said, Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet gone back up to the Father. In the decades following Jesus' crucifixion, his disciples continued his work of teaching and preaching. Saint Paul was the most important of these early preachers. He founded...

Glad Tidings

Luke's account of the nativity describes how angels appeared to shepherds in the fields just outside Bethlehem. The angels told them the good news of Jesus' birth and the shepherds came down from the fields into the town to worship the newborn king. This story shows that Jesus is important to everyone, even outsiders like the shepherds. Mary, her husband Joseph, and the baby Jesus I Glazed earthenware altarpiece made by Giovanni della Robbia, 1521

Time To Burn

Incense, which may be kept in an incense boat, is burned by being put into a censer along with hot charcoal. Incense is often used in the procession during which the priest enters the church. It may also be used at other times, such as the elevation of the host during Mass. The Catholic church is led by the pope, whom Catholics believe to be the direct successor of the disciple Peter -the first pope. Because Peter's authority came direct from Jesus, Catholics believe the pope's decisions on...

Priestly Jewels

This chain was worn by a priest in 15th-century Italy. Modern priests rarely wear elaborate regalia like this, but they share the roles and values of their predecessors. Catholic priests must be male and are usually unmarried. They celebrate the sacraments, preach, provide instruction in the faith, and care spiritually for the people in their parish, or district.

Devilish Depictions

Since medieval times, artists have portrayed Satan and his demons as grotesque creatures, human in form but with horns, tails, and cloven hoofs. Most Christians today are less concerned with the appearance of Satan and Hell, and are more likely to think of the torture of Hell as the agony of an existence without the love of God. Modern Mexican stamp depicting a devil Modern Mexican stamp depicting a devil

Death Ceremonies

Funerals vary widely in style, from solemn and contemplative to noisy and expressive. Protestant funerals include prayers, Bible-readings, hymns, and a eulogy, or speech, commemorating the deceased before the burial or cremation. Catholics pray for the soul of the dead person and may hold a special Requiem Mass in their honour. White wedding dresses have been popular since the 19th century Many Christians pray at home, but people will also pray in public at times of trouble or prior to...

The Annunciation

Luke's Gospel describes how the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her that, even though she was a virgin, she was about to become pregnant. Gabriel announced that Mary would be visited by the Holy Spirit (p. 26) and would give birth to God's son, who would be a king whose rule would last for ever. Mary was told to call her son Jesus. > John carries a banner bearing Latin words meaning Behold the Lamb of God . John wears camel-hair clothes, the typical garments of a prophet

Humble Beginnings

Lamb God Banner

Mary and Joseph were staying in Bethlehem at the time of the nativity, or birth, of Jesus. All the inns in the town were full, so Jesus had to be born in the humblest of surroundings - a stable. The Gospels (p. 21) tell how a virgin called Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. Followers of Christ (Christians) believe that Jesus was God's son, and that the prophets of the old Testament had predicted he would come and save humankind from sin. The idea that God became human in this way is...

Tongues Like Fire

The Book of Acts describes how the disciples were gathered together for an ancient Jewish festival called Pentecost. There was a sound like a wind blowing through the room, and tongues like fire spread out and touched each disciple, filling them with the Holy Spirit. Pentecost took on a new significance to Christians after this day. of Pentecost on the Verdun Altar in Austria of Pentecost on the Verdun Altar in Austria The seated disciples are surrounded by tongues like flame The seated...

Christian Crockery

The pottery founded by the Benedictine monks of Prinknash Abbey in England produces simple wares for everyday use, and more decorative ceramics that are especially attractive to visitors. Their millennium plate bears a picture of an angel, a reminder that the year 2000 was, above all, a Christian event - the 2,000th anniversary of Jesus' birth. Priests, and ministers - their equal in many Protestant churches, provide spiritual teaching, celebrate the sacraments, and play the leading role in...

Water Into Wine

Jesus' first miracle, which is described in John's Gospel, took place at a wedding that he attended at Cana in Galilee. When the wine ran out, Jesus told the servants to fill six large pots with water, and when they poured the liquid out of the pots it had turned into wine. The wine was so good that the guests thought the bridegroom had kept the best until last. Jesus' favourite way of teaching was to use parables -short stories that make their point by means of a simple comparison. Jesus used...


Monk Priest Sprinkling Holy Water

Catholics are expected to confess their sins regularly to a priest, who sits in a box-like structure called a confessional. The priest acts as an intermediary between God and the sinner, and pronounces God's willingness to forgive. The sinner may be asked to perform a penance - an action to show that they are truly sorry for their sin. confessional box from Vienna in Austria The lid lifts up so that the censer can be filled Benedictine monk sprinkling holy water Benedictine monk sprinkling holy...

Papal Symbol

Papal Symbol Christianity

The papal symbol of the keys can be seen on Catholic buildings in many places around the world. This example is on the Hospital de los Venerables in Seville, Spain. The Roman Catholic church is the largest of the Christian churches. Catholics place special stress on the Eucharist, or Mass pp. 52-53 , and are expected to go to Mass every Sunday. One distinctive feature of Catholic worship is commemoration of the saints. There is also a stress on devotional practices such as praying the rosary p....