In the religion of Ancient Egypt, the soul is an entity which can never cease to exist. In hieroglyphics, the idea of the soul is depicted as a bird with a human head. It is thought to fly in the sky, near the sun. The Turks of Altay believed that the soul of a dying person flew away in the form of a bird.
The dove, one of the Christian symbols, represents peace, purity, love, innocence and the Holy Ghost. At Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan, a dove, representing the Holy Ghost descended from heaven, reminiscent of the dove returning to Noah’s Ark after the Flood, bearing an olive branch as a sign of peace between God and Mankind.
In Iran, in order to symbolise the belief that martyrs go straight to heaven, their gravestones bear the image of a dove.
THE CROSS is one of the most ancient insignias of antiquity. It is a symbolic sign in every ancient civilisation. As a symbol it may stand for a tree, a bridge, a stairway. In ancient Egypt it represented “millions of years of the future”. In China it is the device that separates the earth from the sky; in African art it is “the entire universe”; in Mexican mythology it is the “central link binding the years” or the symbol of the “Tree of Life”. For Christians, the cross is their traditional symbol of faith, also of Christ the Redeemer, the Apostolic See, and in time, the symbol of heaven itself.
The paramount symbol of Christianity is the cross, a symbol of Christ’s crucifixion. The cross represents Christ’s love of humanity for whose sins He gave His life. There are four main types of cross as an iconographic symbol: the Greek cross (crux quadrata) with four arms of equal length, the Latin cross (crux immissa) with the lower arm longer than the others, the letter T of the Greek alphabet, the Tau, forming the shape of Saint Anthony’s cross (crux commissa) and the cross of Saint Andrew, which is the Roman numeral 10 (x), (crux decussate). These four types of cross also have differing styles. In polytheism, T-shaped crosses are sometimes carried as symbols of happiness. In ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, the handle-shaped cross surmounted by a circle (ankh, crux ansata) symbolises life and it is widely used on Coptic Christian monuments. The crux gammata, known as the gammadion (or swastica) made up of four letters gamma of the Greek alphabet laid alongside each other, is encountered on most early Christian tombs. In both Hindu and Jain places of worship, an oft-repeated device is the swastika. The Celtic cross where a circle is placed round the centre of the Latin cross is said to unite the carnal with the spiritual world. As for the structure of the Andean or Step cross, representing the underworld, the earth and the sky, it features gradations and strata.
Large churches were usually built in a cross-shape.
The legend that the cross on which Christ was crucified, the true cross, was found by Saint Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine I on her visit to the Holy Land, has been a widespread subject of belief in the Christian world from the fourth century onwards, and at a later date this cross started to be used for the purpose of worship. The empty cross represents the liberated soul of Christ and is the manifestation of Christ’s resurrection.