The Tetramorph; The Sumerian Origins of a Christian Symbol

Mesocosm

chartres Christ with Tetramorph, Chartres Cathedral, main portal (click to enlarge)

This week we’re going to look at an interesting Christian symbol known as the tetramorph, which usually refers to the iconographic convention of depicting the Four Evangelists in animal form, with Matthew depicted as a man, Mark as a lion, Luke as a bull, and John as an eagle. This symbolic bestiary has a long history that goes back to the earliest days of Sumer in the Fertile Crescent. 

The tetramorph will round out our introductory look at imagery coming from Mesopotamia during the great period of urban development. Mesopotamia was source for key symbolic forms that were disseminated outward along with the arts of civilization, which included writing, mathematics and geometry, astronomy and astrology, and monumental architecture. This cluster of technologies and ideas spread both west and east, giving rise to the Old Kingdom of Egypt, the Indus…

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