Catholic tradition assigns each saint visual symbols that
invoke imagery of the saint's virtues and circumstances
in their lives, miracles and death. These symbols serve
as remembrances of the saint's life and devotions and as
symbols of spiritual ideals.
The lily represents
St. Anthony's purity and his battle against the demon
The lily symbolizes
purity. It symbilizes the Virgin Mary. Thie lily,
if portrayed among thorns, sybolizes the immaculate
conception of Mary. The imacualte conception is a
Roman Catholic belief that Mary was born without original
sin so as to be a perfect vessel to give birth to
a perfect son, Jesus. THe lily represents purity and
the thorns represent sin. The lily represents the
annunciation, the time when the angel is portrayed
with a lily in his hand. Occasionally in early art
the lily was used to symbolize various virgin saints.
Lilies of different colors have different meanings.
A red lily symbolizes divine love, yellow symbolizes
divine light and purple symbolizes humility and chastity.
The Franciscan Habit
is a reminder of the Franciscan order. St Anthony
was moved by their simple lifestyle, asked to join
them and in the summer of 1220 he received his habit.
The Baby Jesus
is reminiscent of the vision that Anthony had in Camposampiero.
It also expresses his attachment to the humanity of
Christ and his closeness to God.
His Vision of the Baby
Jesus is an event which, more than any other, characterizes
the contemplative spirituality of St Anthony. The
Book of Miracles says:
Blessed Anthony found
himself in a city to preach and was put up by a local
resident. He gave him a room set apart, so that he
could study and contemplate undisturbed. While he
was devotedly observing the room on which St Anthony
has immersed himself in prayer, peeping through the
window, he saw a beautiful baby appear in blessed
Anthony's arms. The baby was Lord Jesus.
represents Anthony's love for God and his neighbor.
The flame is a symbol
of zeal and passion and inspiration, sacrifice.
It symbolizes the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
In this case, the flames are depicted on people's
shoulders or floating above their heads.
Youth is connected
to the image of St Anthony as pure, good and receptive
Bread is a
remembrance of St. Anthony's charity to the poor.
Catholic charity groups have been named in reemergence
of Saint Anthony. "St Anthony's Bread to the
Poor" is still operating, and Saint Anthony's
Charities, which spreads solidarity of St. Anthony
all over the world. The practice of distributing
St. Anthony's Bread recalls his concern for the
Bread is the sustenance
of life. Jesus said, "I am the bread of life"
(John 6:35). Therefore bread is a symbol of life.
Bread was used at the last supper when Jesus said,
"This is my Body broken for you..." (Luke
22:19). In this context the bread usually shown
with a chalice of bunch of grapes, represents the
Lord's supper (Eucharist) The bread can also represent
St Anthony's spreading the Word of God to the world.
The book is
a symbol of Anthony's science, of his doctrine,
his preaching and of his teaching, always inspired
by the Bible.
A single book represents
the Holy Word of God. If the book in held by any
of the four evangelists, it symbolizes the books
he wrote. If the book is in the hands of an apostle,
it can represent his learning and/or being a teacher
of the Christian faith. If both evangelists and
apostles/disciples are shown, the evangelists will
carry books and the disciples will carry scrolls.
Books in the hands of saints show they were well
educated in the scriptures.