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Christian Symbol: The Nimbus (Halo)

​​What does this Christian symbol mean? 


The nimbus symbol would often be called a halo today. The difference is that the nimbus looks more like a flat disc behind someone's head, whereas the halo is typically a ring above the head. 


Both symbolize sanctity or holiness. You typically only see a halo or nimbus adorning the head of someone considered a saint.


Sometimes the nimbus symbol will contain the shape of a cross, with the lower arm hidden behind the head. In those cases, the character is usually one Person of the Trinity. The depiction on the left shows all three members of the Trinity, including the First person which is somewhat controversial, especially amongst the more iconoclastic traditions. 


If the Nimbus contains letters, there is additional significance. For more on that, see the omicron, omega, nu (which looks like o, w, n)


Where can I find this Christian symbol?


The nimbus is found in many depictions of various people and characters. It often identifies instances when the Dove is intended to signify the Holy Spirit. It can also be found  when the hand is used as a symbol of the First Person of the Trinity, and also alongside the symbols of the four evangelists.  

Free Bible Study on the Nimbus:

The Cruciform Nimbus is typically only present with the three persons of the Trinity. As such, every time you see a cruciform nimbus with Jesus, it is a reminder that Jesus is both fully man and fully divine. With this in mind, read the following passages.

​John 10.29-30

Colossians 1.15-20

​John 14.8-14


Who is Jesus? How do these passages influence your faith? 

Why are words like these significant?


Why do you think the affirmation that Jesus is divine has been important enough to the Church to become part of our art?


Preaching with the Christian Symbol of the Nimbus

The nimbus offers an interesting artistic commentary on the passages listed above. It could also work easily with something like Philippians 2. 

Using nimbus symbol while preaching offers you an opportunity to discuss the Trinity, the dual nature of Christ, or your own Christology.

For an unexpected change, this image could also offer an opportunity to preach about the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

You could also preach from Hebrews 12, and talk about the nimbus as a symbol of saints who have gone before us and the nature of the church.


When does the nimbus fit in the liturgical calendar?

If you choose to use this symbol to discuss Christology, it fits easily during Christmas or Easter. Discussing Pneumatology or Ecclesiology makes it appropriate on or around Pentecost.