Skip to content
Virtual Museum of Canada
Anno Domini: Jesus Through the Centuries

Exhibit Entrance | Additional Readings | Glossary

Glossary

Description

Apologist
Near the end of the second century, the name given to Christian scholars, philosophers, and writers who argued in defense of Christianity to the pagan and Jewish world.
Use browser back button for previous page
Ascetic
One who practices exceptional self denial and abstains from worldly forms of pleasure in order to follow Christ's example and attain a higher spiritual state. In this rigorous discipline to integrate body and spirit, fasting, renunciation of earthly possessions, solitary contemplation, and perpetual chastity, among other things, may be required.
Use browser back button for previous page
Babylon
This ancient city in Mesopotamia, on the Euphrates River, was noted for wealth, power, and wickedness.
Use browser back button for previous page
Balaam
The prophet who was summoned by Balak, king of Moab (an ancient kingdom by the Dead Sea), to put a curse on Israel. Instead, he prophesied great blessings for Israel.
Use browser back button for previous page
Beza
Theodore Beza (1519-1605), born to a Catholic family in France, officially renounced Catholicism in 1548 and moved to Geneva, where he became a leading proponent of Calvinist beliefs.
Use browser back button for previous page
Bucer
Martin Bucer (sometimes spelled Butzer, 1491-1551), who entered the Dominican Order in 1506, secured papal release from his vows in 1521 after corresponding with Martin Luther. In 1531 he became the leader of the Reformed Churches in Switzerland and Germany. In 1549 Bucer moved to England where he had some influence on the Anglican Church.
Use browser back button for previous page
Byzantine
This description applies to art and architecture of the Eastern Roman Empire from 330, when Constantine the Great chose the ancient Greek city Byzantium (renamed Constantinople) to be his capital, to 1453, when Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks. Intricate and expressive Byzantine art drew from the culturally diverse empire and took many forms, but most notably Byzantine mosaics.
Use browser back button for previous page
Canadian
Martyrs
In 1634 Jesuit priests arrived in Canada to work among the Huron. In 1639 they began to build a fortified missionary centre in Huronia (near Midland, Ontario) which they named Sainte Marie among the Hurons. In 1648-1649, as part of the devastating Iroquois attacks on the Huron, five Jesuit fathers were martyred: Antoine Daniel, Jean de Brébeuf, Gabriel Lalemant, Charles Garnier, and Noël Chabanel. All were canonized on 29 June 1930.
Use browser back button for previous page
Civil Rights
Movement
Efforts to achieve political and social freedom and equality for African Americans in the United States were strengthened in 1957 when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., helped to found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to co-ordinate the work of civil rights groups. King urged peaceful means of protest - inspired by Gandhi - including sit-ins, boycotts, marches, and freedom rides. Not all these civil rights efforts were peaceful, but desegregation did gradually occur, with some assistance from federal legislation. "Let freedom ring," from a hymn written by Rev. Samuel F. Smith in 1832, became Martin Luther King's call to battle.
Use browser back button for previous page
Cosmos
From a Greek word, cosmos is the universe as a well-ordered and harmonious whole or an ordered system of ideas. That is, it is the opposite of chaos.
Use browser back button for previous page
Counter-
Reformation
This revival and reform of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe took place during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. While inspired partly by the Lutheran and Calvinist movements, the major impetus came from within the Catholic Church itself. The idea was to correct abuses within the Catholic Church, reformulate doctrines, and organize opposition to the rise of Protestantism. It is also known as the Catholic Reformation.
Use browser back button for previous page
Cristo
When capitalized, Cristo is the Spanish word for Christ. In lower case, cristo is the Spanish word for crucifix.
Use browser back button for previous page
Crown of
Thorns
In one of the last of the scenes which were part of the trial of Jesus, a crown of thorns was plaited and placed on Jesus' head as a parody of the Roman emperor's festal crown of roses or the wreath victors received. The Crown of Thorns, one of the Instruments of the Passion, has become one of the symbols of martyrdom.
Use browser back button for previous page
Cruciform
Literally, cruciform means cross-shaped. It is often applied in church architecture to describe the layout of a church building with transepts.
Use browser back button for previous page
Crusades
Eight major West-European Christian military expeditions sought to liberate the Holy Land (1096-1099, 1147-1149, 1189-1192, 1202-1204, 1218-1221, 1228-1229, 1248-1254, 1270), particularly Jerusalem, from Muslim control. However, the motives of the Crusaders themselves were not always clearly focussed on religion. The name comes from the cross the participants wore on their clothing.
Use browser back button for previous page
Enlightenment
The eighteenth-century philosophical movement in Europe and America which emphasized intellectual freedom and reason over tradition, questioning of authority, and an empirical approach to science. While it was the birth of secularism and its representatives were hostile to Catholic and Protestant orthodoxy, most thought belief in God, freedom, and immortality was consistent with reason.
Use browser back button for previous page
Epiphany
The part of systematic theology and body of doctrines concerned with the four last things - death, judgement, heaven, and hell - and thus the final destiny of the individual soul and mankind.
Use browser back button for previous page
Eschatology
The part of systematic theology and body of doctrines concerned with the four last things - death, judgement, heaven, and hell - and thus the final destiny of the individual soul and mankind.
Use browser back button for previous page
Fall (of Man)
The story of the first act of disobedience in the Garden of Eden, the fall from grace, and its consequences is told in Genesis. Among the consequences for eating of the forbidden fruit was estrangement. In the Latin Church this gave rise to the doctrine of original sin.
Use browser back button for previous page
First Nations
In Canadian usage, this is applied to Indian bands or Indian communities functioning as a band. This term does not include the Inuit or Metis. First Nations is also sometimes used simply to replace the word "Indian."
Use browser back button for previous page
Fresco
"True" or "buon fresco" is a method of mural painting in which pigments are applied to freshly laid wet plaster. A chemical reaction between the pigment and the wet plaster makes the picture an integral part of the wall. Fresco combined permanence (in dry climates) with speed of execution and cheapness (compared to mosaics).
Use browser back button for previous page
Fructification
In the botanical sense, it is the action of forming or producing fruit or being fertile. Here it is used in a metaphorical sense.
Use browser back button for previous page
Fullness of Life
Orthodox Christianity teaches that each person has the capacity to live a sanctified life, a life in union with the divine, in this world. Arguing that this is the created nature of each person, the Spiritual Fathers and Mothers of this tradition see its central characteristic as compassionate presence to the suffering and joy of the world.
Use browser back button for previous page
Gentile
This biblical term is usually applied to non-Jews.
Use browser back button for previous page
Holy Family
When the young Jesus, his mother Mary, and his foster-father Joseph are represented in a relatively domestic setting, that is the Holy Family. In the Middle Ages the family group was sometimes extended to include the young John the Baptist and Saints Elizabeth or Anne.
Use browser back button for previous page
Hosea
A Hebrew minor prophet in the eighth century B.C., Hosea was the first biblical writer to use the family as an illustration of the relation between God and humans.
Use browser back button for previous page
Huss
John Huss (sometimes spelled Hus, c.1369-1415), Bohemian-born reformer, became an advocate of John Wycliffe and attacked ecclesiastical abuses. In 1411 Huss was excommunicated and in 1414 he was imprisoned. His death at the stake made him a Czech national hero and martyr. His followers took up arms for church reform in the Hussite wars.
Use browser back button for previous page
Icon
In the Orthodox Churches of Greece, Russia, the rest of the Slavic world, the Near East, and India, this is a small work of art - usually oil on wood, but may also be mosaic, ivory, or other materials - of Christ, the Theotokos, or saints. Unlike a Western devotional image, the icon is regarded as sacred in itself and veneration is paid to it as a prototype of the saint represented. Icons have played an essential part in public and private worship in the Orthodox Church since at least the fourth century.
Use browser back button for previous page
Iconoclast /
Iconoclasm
Iconoclasts believed that veneration of icons was idol worship, so icons should be destroyed. Iconoclasm was the destruction of images, or at least covering with whitewash, in the case of frescoes and mosaics. The Iconoclastic controversy was a dominant force in the Greek Church from the end of the seventh century until 842.
Use browser back button for previous page
Iconography
Generally, iconography is a branch of art history dealing with identification, description, classification, and interpretation of artistic movements. In the specific Christian context, iconography deals with pictorial or symbolic representation of Christian ideas, persons, and history, and the way those symbols are transmitted. In earlier centuries, religious meaning was expressed largely through visual symbols.
Use browser back button for previous page
Iconostasis
In Byzantine and Russian Churches, it was originally an open lattice, a bridge between the sanctuary and the nave. The iconostasis is now usually a screen pierced by three doors. Since at least the fourteenth century, there have been icons on the iconostasis.
Use browser back button for previous page
Incarnation
The Christian doctrine of the Incarnation affirms that God became human in the person of Jesus, and thus the historical Jesus is both fully God and fully man. This doctrine was largely formulated in the fourth and fifth centuries. Since then, the idea has been interpreted in other ways. In art it is usually symbolized in the Annunciation and the Nativity.
Use browser back button for previous page
Lady Poverty
Poverty had been considered one of the vices in the Middle Ages. However, poverty, chastity, and obedience are the three main vows of many religious orders. Poverty is always represented as a young woman. Her robe may be tattered and she may be barefoot. Saint Francis of Assisi declared himself wedded to poverty, so he is often represented placing a ring on Lady Poverty's finger. With Saint Francis voluntary poverty became a virtue.
Use browser back button for previous page
Last Judgment
Christian theologies vary in their teachings on the Last Judgment. In much of the Latin Church the accent has been on God's final judgment at the end of the world, when there will be a general resurrection of the dead, who with the living, will be finally judged and consigned to heaven or hell. In the Christian East the judgment is by one's own conscience and the experience of separation from God or union with God has hell and heaven as key metaphors.
Use browser back button for previous page
In Christian theology, this Greek word meaning "word" or "reason" is used for the "Word of God." Interpretation of what precisely this means has varied over the centuries, but generally it refers to the idea that the universe is governed by a higher form of intelligence. It also refers to Jesus as the Word of God, God Incarnate.
Use browser back button for previous page
Lourdes
This town in southwest France became a place of pilgrimage after young Marie Bernarde Soubirous (St Bernadette of Lourdes) reported her visions of the Virgin in 1858. In 1862 the pilgrimage received official ecclesiastical recognition. Millions of people have visited the shrine seeking miracles.
Use browser back button for previous page
Manuscript
A book or document written by hand, before the introduction of printing. Usually written on parchment or vellum with ink, manuscripts were sometimes illuminated with small paintings and glorified with the application of gold.
Use browser back button for previous page
Martyrdom
In Christianity, a martyr originally was one of the Apostles who witnessed Christ's life and resurrection. As persecution of Christians spread, the idea of martyrdom was applied only to those who had remained steadfast to their faith despite severe physical and moral sufferings before death.
Use browser back button for previous page
Melanchthon
Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560), a German-born professor of Greek, became a Protestant Reformer under the influence of Martin Luther. Melanchthon helped to systematize Luther's teaching and was largely responsible for the Augsburg Confession. In some ways, his influence on Protestantism may have been greater than Luther's.
Use browser back button for previous page
Monastic
The word "monastic" can be used in three ways. First, it can refer to monasteries or the religious communities living in monasteries. Second, it can refer to the way of life of those who live in monasteries, which may include solitary contemplation and celibacy. Third, it can refer to a follower of a monastic rule which sets out the code of behaviour. The first monastic may have been the hermit Anthony.
Use browser back button for previous page
Near East
This geographic region, also known as the Middle East or West Asia, includes countries such as Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran. The term may also include Turkey and Greece.
Use browser back button for previous page
New France
This was the name for France's possessions in North America from 1534 (the year of Jacques Cartier's first expedition), to 1763, when France lost all these lands to Britain and Spain by the Treaty of Paris.
Use browser back button for previous page
Non-barionic
Dark Matter
In particle physics, there is a search for dark matter in the universe. Observations indicate that a dominant contribution to the gravitational forces results from non-luminous mass distributions. On this large scale, even the total mass of barionic matter, as expected from the nucleo synthesis within big bang theories, cannot account for the observations. Barion asymmetry and dark matter, tied in with astrophysics and cosmology, address the question of the age of the universe.
Use browser back button for previous page
Oranta
A figure in the attitude of prayer is called an Orant in icon painting. In this ancient Eastern position, the figure either stands with arms outstretched sideways or bent at the elbow with palms facing forward. In early Christianity martyrs and deaconesses were represented in this attitude, which they assumed for certain prayers. The name of Oranta was then conferred on representations of the Virgin in this prayer position.
Use browser back button for previous page
Original Sin
In the Christian theology of the Latin Church, "original sin" is the innate state of evil in which all humans have been held captive since the Fall of Man. Theologians have differed over the centuries on details and on exactly how to interpret this.
Use browser back button for previous page
Pagan
The word "pagan" comes from the Latin paganus which means villager or resident of a country district. Early Christians applied it to their fellow residents of the Roman Empire who continued to believe in many gods.
Use browser back button for previous page
Pantocrator
From the Greek, meaning all-sovereign or ruler of all, Pantocrator was originally applied to God. Later it came to mean Christ, the sovereign who holds the world together, and who gives life its sustaining meaning. The image appeared as early as the sixth century, but many were destroyed by iconoclasts. Christ as Pantocrator is usually represented with a Gospel in the left hand, with the right hand raised in blessing. This image is more common in the Eastern Church.
Use browser back button for previous page
Parousia
The Greek word means "presence" or "arrival." In English, Parousia denotes the future return of Christ in glory (Second Coming). For some Christians this refers to the Last Judgment. Other Christians understand Parousia as the intimate centre of this life.
Use browser back button for previous page
Passion
This term describes the events which took place during the last days of Jesus' earthly life. Among those events are Betrayal by Judas, the Last Supper, Peter's Denial, Flagellation, Crucifixion, and Entombment.
Use browser back button for previous page
Pentecost
A feast shared by Jews and Christians, Pentecost commemorates the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses. Christians celebrate Pentecost as the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. In Early Christianity the Pentecost period was the fifty days between Pentecost and Easter. Pentecost now falls on the seventh Sunday after Easter.
Use browser back button for previous page
Pietà
A painting or sculpture of the Virgin lamenting over the dead body of Christ, whom she holds on her knees. Angels may also be present. This image originated in the thirteenth century in Spain and northern Europe.
Use browser back button for previous page
Political and
Military
Grammar of
Rome
In this context, grammar is the system of the forms and uses of words and practices which defines the culture. Early Christianity adapted and co-opted Roman symbolism to serve Christian purposes.
Use browser back button for previous page
Recollects
The Recollects (Récollet) were a reformed branch of the Franciscans which started in France in the sixteenth century. They came to New France in 1615. As missionaries and preachers, they were known for their austere life as they worked in Acadia, Newfoundland, and Quebec.
Use browser back button for previous page
Reformation
The term is simple but the changes which took place in Western Christendom between the fourteenth and the seventeenth centuries were far-reaching. Lollards, Hussites, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Jean Calvin, and many others all attacked the structure of the Catholic Church as a whole, and often the pope and his practices in particular. Grounded on religious as well as political issues, the original intent was reform of perceived corruption in the existing Roman Catholic Church, but the result was formation of new churches on doctrinal lines.
Use browser back button for previous page
Renaissance
This French term meaning "rebirth" encompasses an intellectual and artistic movement which began in Italy in the fourteenth century and culminated there in the sixteenth century. Its influence spread throughout Europe. Artists and intellectuals worked to recover classical Greek and Roman literature, politics, and art in order to support a positive view of human nature and the universe. In art this meant a greater degree of naturalism and more focus on the individual.
Use browser back button for previous page
Revelation
In the Christian context, this is the disclosure of knowledge of God's will to humankind by a divine or supernatural agency. It is also the name of the last book of the New Testament, in which visions of heaven and the Last Judgment are described.
Use browser back button for previous page
Rue du Bac
(Miraculous
Medal)
In 1830 the Virgin appeared to Catherine Labouré (1806-1876), who had recently become a Sister of Charity, while she was in her order's chapel in the Rue du Bac, in Paris. In these visions, Labouré was shown the design of a medal honouring the Immaculate Conception. Some apply the word "miraculous" to the medal because of the source of the design; others say it grants extraordinary graces when the inscription on it is invoked. Catherine Labouré was canonized in 1947.
Use browser back button for previous page
Secco
Secco, also known as "fresco secco" or "dry fresco," is a method of mural painting in which pigments are applied to dry plaster. The whole work may be secco or secco may be used for additional details or corrections to works which are "true fresco."Return to Theme
Seminal
Applied to written work, this means the ideas contained within the work are influential and central to the understanding of a subject, or provide the first principle for future development.
Use browser back button for previous page
Seraph
Early in Christianity's history, interpreters declared seraphim the highest of the nine orders of angels. (The plural is seraphim or seraphs.) Seraphim are considered to be especially gifted with love, and associated with light, ardour, and purity. A seraph usually is represented with six wings.
Use browser back button for previous page
Sermon on
the Mount
This is the name for Christ's discourse recorded in Matthew in the New Testament, which serves as a collection of Christian ethical teachings and a description of the sanctified life. It includes the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer.
Use browser back button for previous page
Shrine
In Christianity, this word was originally applied only to reliquaries, but now it describes either important sacred images (usually kept in a church) or a place considered holy, particularly one to which people make pilgrimages.
Use browser back button for previous page
Stations of
the Cross
In the Roman Catholic Church, this is the name for a series of devotions in sequence at each of the stations representing events in Christ's Passion. The practice was begun by the Franciscan order. The number of stations has varied from eight to more than twenty-two, but in the 1720s was set at fourteen.
Use browser back button for previous page
Symbology
In this context, symbology means the art of expression by symbols. The Christian Church is particularly rich in the use of a symbol to represent something else that may even be abstract. The cross, in various shapes, is the most common symbol of Christianity.
Use browser back button for previous page
Talisman
A talisman is an object understood to be endowed with the ability to work wonders, avert evil, or ensure safety.
Use browser back button for previous page
Tempera
Originally this referred to any paint in which pigment was tempered with a binder such as an organic gum or glue to make it workable, but now it usually refers only to egg tempera. Egg tempera painting was the most important technique for panel painting in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries, before oil paint began to grow in popularity. Egg tempera is tough, permanent, and dries very quickly. There was some revival of egg tempera use in the twentieth century.
Use browser back button for previous page
Theotokos
From the Greek meaning "God-bearer," Theotokos is a title of honour for the Virgin Mary as Christ's mother. Among the several forms this takes in art, one of the most popular is the Theotokos Hodegetria, in which the Virgin tenderly points to the Child who may be on her lap or in her arms.
Use browser back button for previous page
Torah
Hebrew term for the Books of the Law embodied in the Pentateuch which regulated the religious, moral, and social life of Israel. By a natural development, the word "torah" has come to mean a scroll containing written collections of priestly decisions as well as the Pentateuch.
Use browser back button for previous page
Trinity
The Holy Trinity is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost constituting one God. The Christian dogma on the Trinity is set out in the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and in writings by St Thomas Aquinas, among other places, but has been subject to much theological discussion in both Eastern and Western Christianity. In Christian art, sometimes the Two Trinities are represented, which means the Holy Trinity plus the Christ Child, the Virgin, and St Joseph are present.
Use browser back button for previous page
True Cross
The cross on which Christ was crucified. The Legend of the True Cross, which is part of the Golden Legend, is the long story of the wood in that cross and the uses to which it has been put by such figures as Constantine the Great. Pieces of the True Cross were frequently enclosed in special reliquaries.
Use browser back button for previous page
Type
In the Christian context, a "type" is a person, thing, or event serving as a prophetic symbol. Thus, persons, things, or events in the Hebrew Bible are understood as prophetic symbols or "types" of persons, things, or events in the New Testament. Christian typology deals with symbolic representation, which is particularly common in Early Christian art.
Use browser back button for previous page
Vision
In this context, a vision is a supernatural or prophetic apparition. This has been a popular subject in Christian art and literature.
Use browser back button for previous page
Vocation
A divine call or summons to the religious life persuades a person he or she has a vocation. The call may be to the religious life generally or to a particular expression of the religious life.
Use browser back button for previous page
Wycliffe
John Wycliffe (c.1329-1384), born and educated in England, argued that the English government had divine responsibility to correct the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church in its realm. He also strongly attacked some medieval doctrines and practices and arranged for the Bible to be translated into English, so people could read it for themselves. Outside England, his influence lived on in the teachings of John Huss.
Use browser back button for previous page
Zwingli
Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), Swiss born, became a devoted admirer of Erasmus and a firm believer that some abuses in the Roman Catholic Church needed to be reformed. He believed the sole basis of religious truth was the Gospel and he stressed the ability of the common people to interpret the Bible for themselves. His movement originated in Zurich but spread elsewhere in Switzerland. Zwingli was killed in a battle over doctrinal issues.
Use browser back button for previous page

Exhibit Entrance | Additional Readings | Glossary

© Canadian Heritage Information Network 1999. All Rights Reserved
Date Modified: 1999-12-31

Home | Site Map | Acknowledgement | Copyright | Feedback