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The Symbols of St. Dominic

11/3/21 | Church Articles | by Meg Picciolo

The Symbols of St. Dominic

    In artistic depictions of saints, we often find symbols that signify particular circumstances in the Saint’s lives, such as how they were martyred, miracles, or visions. These attributes help us identify the saints and recall the Saint’s life and their spiritual ideals. Our patron, St. Dominic, is often shown with one or more of the following symbols:

    Dog with a torch in his mouth: Before his mother conceived him, she saw in a vision dog with a burning torch in his mouth leaping from her womb, who seemed to set the whole earth on fire. This was to signify how St. Dominic would set the world on fire with the Gospel.

    Star on or above his forehead: At St. Dominic’s baptism, his godmother saw a star on his forehead. This is believed to signify how St. Dominic was destined to be a light to the gentiles and to illumine those who sit in darkness.

    Rosary:  St. Dominic also often carries a rosary, which a 15th century legend claimed had been given him by the Virgin Mary.

    Orb: In 1206, on the feast of St. Mary Magdalen, St. Dominic was reading outside the north gate of the city of Fanjeaux in France. Praying to the Mother of God, he asked for a sign to guide him as to what he should do, and where to place the center of his mission. He saw in a vision, a flaming ball in the sky which came down and rested over a little abandoned church in Prouille. Not believing the vision at first, he asked the Blessed Virgin for confirmation. Again, the same ball of fire appeared and stopped over the little church. The vision occurred a third time, after which he came to accept it. This miraculous vision, known as the Signadou — the sign of God — was the catalyst for the foundation of the Order of Preachers.

    Book and Staff: While praying in Rome for an increase of his order,
    St. Dominic saw in a vision, Sts. Peter and Paul coming to him. Peter gives him a staff, followed by Paul handing him a book, saying to him, go and preach, for you have been chosen by God for that mission and ministry. He then saw his brothers spread throughout the world, two and two, preaching the Word of God.

    Lilies: One of the more common symbols are lilies, which refer to a saint’s chastity.