Saint Michael Iconography in Christian Art
Saint Michael the Archangel has been part of Christian teachings since the earliest times. He is considered the guardian of the Church, healer of the sick, and champion of justice. You have probably seen numerous depictions of Saint Michael suited up as a warrior, with a sword and a shield in his hands, but have you ever wondered why it is so? Let’s take a closer look at Saint Michael iconography in Christian art!
Saint Michael iconography
According to religious texts, Saint Michael is the Chief of all Angels and the Supreme Commander of the Heavenly Host. He is a spiritual warrior in the battle between good and evil, the one who defeated Lucifer and removed him from heaven forever, hence the depiction of Saint Michael fully armed.
In Orthodox icons, Saint Michael can be depicted alone or with Saint Gabriel and other angels or saints. Sometimes, he is shown with the devil under his feet, often in the form of a dragon. There are also variations of Saint Michael religious icons that depict him standing on a horizontal body, with a small image of a “baby” in his left hand, which represents the soul of the dead waiting to be escorted by the archangel to heaven. Overall, Saint Michael iconography is diverse, but most of the Christian icons show him as the leader of all angels and the guardian of the Church, serving on the first ray of protection. It is no wonder that police officers, soldiers, and other representatives from the justice sector call Saint Michael their patron saint.
As for Saint Michael iconography in art, the depictions of the archangel are almost the same as in religious icons, though presented in a more artistic manner. Here are several beautiful examples of paintings showing Saint Michael the Archangel in all his glory.
- “Saint Michael Vanquishing Satan” (1518) by Raphael (on view at the Louvre in Paris, France)
- “St. Michael and Fallen Angels” (1621-1622) by Peter Paul Rubens (on view at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, Germany)
- “Archangel Michael Hurls the Rebellious Angels into the Abyss” (c. 1666) by Luca Giordano (on view at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria)
- “Saint Michael Weighing Souls” (1480-1495) by Juan de la Abadia ‘The Elder’ (on view at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain)
- “The Three Archangels and Tobias” (1470) by Francesco Botticini (on view at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy)