Westwood First Presbyterian Church

Growing in Christ   

Symbols of the Church

Presbyterian USA SymbolWestwood First Presbyterian Church was erected as a meeting place for the people of God and dedicated November 7, 1926 to the “Glory of God”. The Congregation has placed many symbols of the Christian Faith in this building as an expression of their Christian Faith.


A symbol is a visible sign of a spiritual experience that has great meaning in the religious life of the community and depicts man’s deepest feelings about his faith. A symbol usually has two great values, devotional and educational. The greatest value is probably educational. It is most helpful to approach the basic beliefs of the Christian Church through symbols, such as the cross, the bread and wine, and architecture of the building itself. The symbols of the Church have been a great source of inspiration in the worship of God.


The following presentation is made in picture and word of the religious art and symbolism found in the Sanctuary of the Westwood First Presbyterian Church. As an inspiration to worship, the windows convey the beauty of art and the wonder of faith in the life of Jesus. The chancel picture window was created by G. C. Riordan and Company of Cincinnati. The Tyrolese Art Glass Company of Innsbruck, Austria produced the stained glass artwork along the sides and back of the Nave. All of the pictures portrayed are reproductions of the works by the great masters of the world. Our windows were given in memory of loved ones.


It is hoped that this presentation will increase the reader’s knowledge and appreciation of the symbols of the Christian Faith as he worships his God

Background of Symbolism

Symbols have been used in all ages for their recognized value in education. Religious symbolism dates back to early Christian days as evidenced by the endless variety found in the ancient catacombs. The golden age of symbolism, however, was reached during the middle Ages. Prior to this time people lived in a cloud of superstition and were grossly ignorant. The ability to read or write was not even evident among the feudal princes or even the majority of monks of that day. Truly the Renaissance brought about the era of learning.


The Medieval artist and craftsman turned every church into a richly colored textbook on Bible History. There was no striving for theatrical effects, no decoration for decorations’ sake. Every detail had its meaning and no area of endeavor was left untouched. Examples can be seen in painted glass, hammered metal, mural paintings, and rich tapestries and in detailed needlework. The purpose of all these works was again as in early years, educational.


The Medieval craftsman was striving to make known his current religious beliefs in a manner that all might see and understand. These men were not moved by a sense of artistic pride but by a newfound religious belief, a newfound way of life, which was bursting from them. The use of symbolism gave them the means by which they could communicate with the uneducated masses of that day.


It was believed a man could be taught to interpret symbols, and upon seeing an emblem of the Fall of Man, would be reminded of his own sinful nature. A symbol of the Cross might recall to his mind the way to his own salvation. Through these artists and craftsmen much of the religious fervor was developed. During that period prince and peasant worked side by side in constructing some of the largest and most beautiful churches in the world.


Following in this symbolic beauty, the Sanctuary of Westwood First Presbyterian Church has been elegantly designed to reveal a Faith, rich in inspiration and filled with meaning.


During the Reformation the simple table replaced the altar in churches of the Reformed Tradition. The table was called the “Table of the Lord” and served as a sacrificial altar. Gradually the “Table of the Lord” or the Communion Table” resumed its former shape and dignity as seen in our Church. In the Presbyterian Church it is called the “Communion Table.”


The cross which stands on the Communion Table originated among the Celtic Christians in Great Britain and Ireland. It has been known as the Irish Cross or the Cross of Iona. This cross symbolizes the hope of salvation of the Christian found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Circle represents the eternal redemption secured on the cross through the death and resurrection of Jesus, whose name is inscribed in the very center of the cross by the letters IHS.


Lighted candles on each side of the cross symbolize Christ as the Light of the World.


The CHI RHO is probably the oldest and most commonly used symbolic monogram of Christendom. In the ancient Greek the word “Christ” in capital letters took the form of XRICTOC. The entire word is represented by the first two letters XR. One is superimposed on the other. The letters on the side of the Chi Rho are the Alpha and Omega, symbolizing the beginning and the end. The entire monogram is surrounded by a circle signifying the eternity of Christ. In total we have the eternal Christ, who is the beginning and the end.

The Pelican in her PietyTHE PELICAN

The Pelican in her Piety is one of the most striking symbols of our Lord’s atonement. It was widely used in Medieval Churches and still appears in many Christian Churches today. In times of famine the female pelican is supposed to tear open her breast and feed her young with her own life’s blood. She dies in that her young may live. In the same manner our Lord shed his blood and died upon the Cross that we may live.

IHC MonogramThe IHC

The IHC monogram is another use of the first three letters of the word for Jesus from the Greek Spelling. It takes the form of Gothic letters and came into use in the middle Ages. It is commonly used today and can be found on Altar Cloths and carved into the wood Altars and Communion Tables.


The pulpit is used in the worship service for the exposition and application of the Spoken Word. The pulpit symbolizes the regenerating power of God’s Word.


The Center Panel is a well known symbol depicting the four Evangelists: Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. A Cross Patee is shown in each of its corners in an open book surrounded by a nimbus or halo. Around the entire monogram is the circle of Eternity, symbolizing the teachings of the four inspired Evangelists, which shall last forever. The Left Panel


The Left Panel The Crossed Swords and Shield, are the symbol of St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. The monogram G sometimes contains the words “SpiritusThe Right Panel Gladius” or, Sword of the Spirit.


The Right Panel, the Crossed Keys and Shield, are the symbol of St. Peter. They recall St. Peter’s Confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” The Keys symbolize the power to bind and absolve. They are symbolic of the spiritual authority of the Church.


The Lectern is used for Reading the Word of God and symbolizes the Written Word of God, the Bible, Old and New Testaments, the Law, the Gospels, and the Epistles. The symbol on the front of the Lectern is inscribed with

the letters IC and XC. They are the first and last letters in the words Jesus Christ. Below these are carved the letters N I KA. These words in Greek mean “Jesus the Conqueror”, or Jesus Conquers.


The colored hangings on the Communion Table, Pulpit and Lectern point to the significance of the season of the Church year. They have been used through the history of the church. 


 WHITE: White signifies purity, joy, light and glory. It is used

on the great festival occasions such as Christmas and Easter.


RED: Red signifies fire; Christian zeal and the work and ministry of the Church. It also symbolizes the blood of the martyrs. It is used during the season of Pentecost and at Church Dedications.


VIOLET or PURPLE: These colors signify penitence, humility, suffering and preparation. They are used during the seasons Advent and Lent.


GREEN: Green is the predominant color in nature. It directs

our attention to God the Father, the Creator. Green signifies the hope and growth in the Christian life. Green is used during the seven-week period of God the Father, from the first Sunday of October until the First Sunday of Advent.


BLACK: Black is the color of grief and sorrow and is used on Good Friday or during Holy Week.


GOLD:Gold refers to worth, virtue, the glory of God, and Christian might and may be used for festive occasions for the Church.


A trefoil is a three lobed figure found on the pew ends, carved on the pulpit and in the upper part of the picture panel of the side windows. The Trefoil is symbolic of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


This four lobed figure is found in the up- per parts of the side and front windows, on the wood carvings found covering the organ chambers and in the hammered metal work of the overhead lights. The Quatrefoil is symbolic of the four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

 Traditional Sunday Worship Services 10:30 A.M.

Rejoice Service 10:30 A.M.


3011 Harrison Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio 45211-5786
(513) 661-6846 * Fax (513)