St Augustine – how to identify him in art through his 5 main attributes


Get to know who was St Augustine and how to identify him in art.

In this post learn how to identify the representations of St Augustine of Hippo by his attributes.

Learn more about Iconography of the Saints in the online course by Yolanda Silva.

Who was St Augustine (Augustine of Hippo)

Philippe de Champaigne Saint Augustine

Philippe de Champaigne Saint Augustine
c. 1645-50


St. Augustine (St. Augustine of Hippo) was an important philosopher and theologian of Christianity.

13 November 354 (Tagaste) – 28 August 430 (Hippo Regius).

He was bishop of Hippo and is one of the Doctors of the Church. His ideas and works had a decisive influence on the development of Western Christian philosophy.

data base christian iconography .

Identification of characters and episodes in works of art

In the context of Art History , the careful description and interpretation of artistic objects allows us toIconography of the saints see something more than what is immediately presented.

The use of attributes (associated objects or symbols) came alongside a need to identify the religious characters before a mostly illiterate audience.

In the beginning, we can still find the names of the Saints painted on their halo or on the filacterium (a silk band that usually carries a message and can be across the chest, at the bottom of the figure).

However, the use of signs or symbols, as was tradition in pagan religions, proved much more efficient, having been more accepted over time.

The Saint was this way singled out by his/hers physical aspect, clothing, weaponry, accompanying animals or other symbols related to their life story.

We can distinguish a Saint by two aspects:

– their characteristics – referring to physical appearance and clothing;

– their attributes – the elements of various kinds that generally relate to their condition, occupation, life history or martyrdom.

Representations and attributes of St Augustine

Important episodes

Bishop of Hippo Regius (Hippone), he wrote one of the most important works of Christian doctrine: The City of God.

One day, as he walked on the beach, he crossed paths with a boy that wanted to put the ocean in a hole in the sand with a ladle.

The Saint told him that it was impossible, but the child replied that it was less complex than making the mystery of the Trinity understandable to the human mind.

Common representations

St Augustine

Saint Augustine painting by Antonio Rodríguez


As a Doctor of the Church.




Model of Church.


Flaming heart.

References and other meanings

The flaming heart is a common symbol to other Saints and refers to the intensity of their love for God.

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