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Carl Van Treeck and Aloysius Croft, M.A.

Reprinted from the 1936 edition


While this book is primarily intended for liturgical artisans, it also has great value for the typical Catholic in learning about and better appreciating Church symbols.


As aptly described in the Preface:

"The single symbols shown herein have been collected from books and from original sources over a long period of years in the pursuit of liturgical art, especially stained-glass work, by the senior author. Many of them can be used for a number of purposes and while some few, particularly the early ones referring to our Saviour, may have little practical value now, they are included here because they may bring to the reader a sense of the depth and beauty of the older symbols. They have the further value of showing the tradition of the first centuries after Christ, during which the foundation of all Christian art was laid.

The symbols likewise have come from many sources from all the ages of Christianity--from small gems of the fourth and fifth centuries, from very large mosaics and frescoes, from medieval stained glass and tombstones, from the catacombs, and from Baroque engravings. The better material of more recent times is added also, and only the signs devised in the ages of heraldry and as heraldic devices have, we think properly, been omitted.

The book is not a history of symbolism nor is it a treatise on symbolism in general. ...The history and philosophy of any symbol is presented only when it seemed necessary for an intelligent use of that particular symbol...

Furthermore, the book is not a complete collection of all Christian symbols; the field is too large to be covered in a volume the size of this one. ...However, the effort has been made, within proper bounds, to present only true symbols, and those which are the best and most authentic, and to deal with the subject in the correct spirit.

The explanations, like the symbols themselves, have been gathered from many sources. ...We have taken what seemed to be the best, most obvious, and the most traditional explanation.

That the book is written from the Catholic viewpoint needs no explanation and certainly no apology. The wonder is that there are so few books on the subject written in English from this point of view. The Catholic origin of all the symbols demands no proof here, and the truth is that many of them give strong evidence to the fact that the beliefs of the first Christians were exactly those of the Church today.

It remains, then, only to hope that this work will fill a long-felt need; that artists and ecclesiastical craftsman will find it useful; and that others also may find it interesting and may gain from it some inspiration to a deeper study of the beautiful picture language of the Church."


This fully-indexed book features 234 illustrations in 12 chapters:

  • Symbolism and Symbols
  • The Most Holy Trinity
  • God the Father
  • God the Son
  • God the Holy Ghost
  • The Gospels and Evangelists
  • The Apostles
  • The Church
  • The Sacraments
  • The Blessed Virgin Mary
  • The Ecclesiastical Year
  • The Four Last Things


Softcover, illustrated, 132 pages.




Catholic World Report; Brian Welter
In this invaluable reprint of a book from 1936, Van Treeck and Croft focus more on basic artistic features of typical examples of symbols. They connect the various examples to theology and Church history, which makes this a fascinating and informative work for theologians and historians. And the straightforward language, many pages of simple and easily-reproducible images, and accompanying guidance for each figure, will make Symbols of the Church a popular and useful addition to the homeschooler’s library. Middle-school to adult readers will enjoy and benefit from it. It can double as a memorable introduction to theology.
It is often said that the internet age is an image-based age. This provides a tremendous opportunity for teaching the faith. In addition, Symbols in the Church provides a memorable resource for Catholic apologists. The authors a persuasion in their demonstration of the deep connection of symbols to Catholic beliefs and practice. Given that this book was originally published nearly a hundred years ago, ...Symbols in the Church itself provides a glimpse into the Catholic past. The book is therefore not only highly informative about so many things that were central to our faith only decades ago. It also provokes a sense of longing for the rich Catholic culture that has been left behind—a culture that included an awareness and use of symbols we supposedly no longer need.  Read the full review here

Symbols in the Church

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