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Four Evangelists

gospel represented animals accompanied

The word evangelist derives from the Greek for “proclaimer of the gospel” and in widest usage refers to preachers and missionaries. Specifically, the Four Evangelists, *Matthew, *Mark, *Luke, and *John are the named authors of the four Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament canon which each recount, with somewhat different details, the life of *Christ. Matthew and John were named among the original twelve *apostles; Mark and Luke were apparently companions of Saint *Paul.


The evangelists are depicted throughout medieval art in several ways. They are often shown as *authors, holding or writing in books or on scrolls, and as such, frequently appear in *manuscripts as prefatory illustrations before their Gospels. The Four Evangelists are regularly accompanied by symbolic *animals which derive from passages in *Ezekiel (1:5-14; his vision of four beasts; and the *Apocalypse (4:6-8; the vision of the beasts around the throne of *God). Matthew is accompanied, or represented by, the man or *angel (his Gospel begins with the genealogy of Christ); the symbol of Mark is the lion (his Gospel begins with a description of the voice crying in the wilderness); Luke is represented by an ox (his Gospel begins with an account of sacrifice); the symbol for John is the eagle (which flies close to heaven; this refers to John’s visions). The evangelists may be shown as human figures accompanied by these animals or simply the animals themselves may be represented. A variant type depicts the evangelists as animal-headed human authors.

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