Winged Messengers: Angels in Art

Before Emperor Constantine (272-337) angels, the heavenly messengers were shown in art without wings. There was an effort in Christian art to separate them from classical images such as Hermes, the messenger of the Greek gods who wore a winged cap and winged sandals. The first example of an angel in human form with wings was found in Istanbul dating from the 4th century. Later small winged putti were added to Christian art and became popular as a design motif. Wealthy patrons enjoyed their reference to antiquity. The wings became symbolic of the elevated nature of angels over human beings. Angels of light were couriers of truth to mankind whereas angels of darkness brought falsehoods. Angels, Archangels, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Dominations, Throne, Cherubim and Seraphim are the nine orders given to angels; even heaven has a hierarchy.