Imagine the dangerous life of a First Century Christian. You’ve embraced your newfound faith in Christ but fear the risk of persecution or death at the hands of the pagans living around you. Then a trusted friend tells you about some of Jesus followers who secretly meet. He whispers into your ear, Look for a fish carved into the entranceway to the burialchambers beside the Via Tiburtina. You smile in gratitude.

Comparatively, modern society is awash in those same Christian symbols that kept early Christians safely connected: they appear on churches, bumper stickers, mugs even mints and stuffed animals. Yet, we are often ignorant of the origins of these symbols having lost the urgency of our spiritual ancestors hostile environment.

Noted author Mike Aquilina conducts an intriguing tour of symbols that guided the first four centuries of the Church s existence. He explains how Christians borrowed pagan and Jewish symbols, giving them new, distinctly Christian meanings. Recover the voice and urgency of our spiritual ancestors symbolic language and discover the impact the symbols still have.

Black and white illustrations by Lea Ravotti of artifacts uncovered throughout the Middle East beautifully complement the text, showing the variety of contexts in which they were found and the range of skills displayed in their execution.


“Mike Aquilina’s Signs and Mysteries provides a popular yet academically rigorous guide to symbols in the early church. The immediately accessible prose — which quotes thoughtfully from the church fathers, classical and Jewish sources — is complemented by generous illustrations. He has not only drawn on the obvious archaeological and epigraphic record, he has also delved into the fascinating world of Christian graffiti. An essential book to keep to hand when visiting early Christian sites.” –Adrian Murdoch Fellow, British Royal Historical Society

About the Author

Mike Aquilina is vice-president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He has written or edited more than a dozen books on Catholic history, doctrine, and devotion, including The Way of the Fathers and The Mass of the Early Christians.

Lea Marie Ravotti holds a master’s degree in fine art from the University of Hradec Kralove (Czech Republic). Her paintings, drawings, and woodcuts are inspired by the traditions of Christian iconography.

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Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols