“Be the light that helps others see”

Vesica Piscis

The initial letters of five Greek words that form the word for fish:
Ichthus, and stand for the character of Christ:
“Iησοῦς Χριστὸς Θεοῦ Υἱὸς Σωτήρ “
(Iēsous Christos Theou Huios Sōtēr)
which means:
Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.

The early Christians would make themselves known to each other by scraping two lines into walls representing a stylised fish (the Ichthus). One scratched a semicircle in the wall and another came along and made another semicircle slightly overlapping, creating a Mandorla.

3rd c. AD.
Domitilla catacomb, Rome, Italy.
(Photo © unknown)

4th c. AD.
Alabaster fragment from Villa Quintiliorum, Rome, Italy.
(Photo © www.metzler-verlag.de)

3-4th c. AD.
Detail of a sarcophagus
Museum of Ancient Art, Milan, Italy.
(Photo © Giovanni Dall’Orto)

Carnelian Gem from Asia Minor.
(Photo © www.metzler-verlag.de)

If the intersection of two equal circles is made in such a way that both have a common radius and the centre of one lies on the circumference of the other, the result is an almond-shaped geometric figure.

It relates to the geometry of the triangle and the golden section and means the mediation of opposites.

The mandorla is an ancient Christian symbol and one of the most recognisable and majestic features of Christ in iconography. It depicts the glorified body of Christ outside of ‘earthly being’. Mother Mary, too, is depicted in all her glory in this way. 

The mandorla shows that Jesus is present with the faithful outside time and space at these events. The presence of the mandorla and the rays of light coming from Christ reveal his divinity. The mandorla is the iconographic way of representing heavenly glory, mystery and majesty.

The circles represent spirit and matter, or heaven and earth.
In the centre is a place of reconciliation, of transformation – the Incarnation.

In the area where the two circles overlap is the God-man, a place where we too are called to be, where both aspects of reality coincide and become one. This reminds us that we too participate in the nature of heaven and earth; if Jesus becomes man, we too can become divine.

– ‘Revisiting the Ichthys: A Suggestion Concerning the Origins of Christological Fish Symbolism’, by Tuomas Rasimus
– ‘Propaganda and Persuasion’, by Garth S. Jowett & Victoria O’Donnell
– ‘The Aureole and the Mandorla: Aspects of the Symbol of the Sacral from Ancient Cultures to Christianity’, by Rostislava Todorova
– http://orthodoxwiki.org/Mandorla
– https://somathread.ning.com/western-mysticism


5-7th c. AD.
Gold pendant with lapis lazuli, Byzantium.
(Photo © Grace Rainey Rogers Fund)

8th c. AD
Decorative page of the manuscript ‘Commentaria In Apocalypsin’, written by the Spanish monk and theologian Beatus of Liébana.
(Photo © British Library)

1170 AD.
Christ in exaltation. Hildesheim, Germany.
(Photo © J P Getty Museum)

11-12th c. AD.
Mosaic icon, depicting the ‘Transfiguration’, Byzantium.
(Photo © unknown)

12th c. AD.
The Madonna and Child in a mandorla, Notre-Dame Church, Rioux
Charente Maritime, France.
(Photo © unknown)

12th c. AD.
Vision of prophet Ezekiel, Christ in mandorla. Old and New Testament by Hieronymus.
(Photo © Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana)

13th c. AD.
Illuminated manuscript from the book of Revelation: Douce Apocalypse.
(Photo © Bodleian Library, Oxford University)

1345 c. AD.
Image of the side wound of Christ or ‘the entrance to the heart of Christ’. Psalms and prayer book by Bonne of Luxembourg.
(Photo © unknown)

14th AD.
Decorative page of the manuscript Kitab al-Bulhan “Book of Wonders”, by the calligrapher Abd al-Hasan Al-Isfahani. Baghdad, Iraq.
(Photo © unknown)

14th c. AD.
Decorative page of the manuscript Kimiya-yi Sa’ādat ‘The Alchemy of Happiness’. Written by Al-Ghazali, a Persian theologian, philosopher.
(Photo © unknown)

1410 c. AD.
Image of the side wound from Book of Hours, Devotional Manuscript, England.
(Photo © unknown)

15th AD.
7 meter high prayer scroll, Turkey
(Photo © Asian Civilizations Museum, Singapore)


“The circles symbolise interactive but complementary opposites.
The space within the overlap is the place where we are called to ‘stay still’, in the ‘liminal space’.
This is the place where you arrive after having left one room and just barely entered another.
In this place you live on the threshold and this requires faith. All transformation takes place in the liminal space.”

– Richard Rohr


If we deny one of the opposites (e.g. our shadow, death, …), the circles can only touch; they do not cross. In this situation we are polarised, out of balance. 

The Mandorla, expresses the point of view of the mystic. It symbolises for us the tensions of life, the tension of complementary opposites.

The coincidence of opposites is a certain kind of unity that is considered accidental, a unity of opposites that overcomes the opposition without destroying or mixing the constituent elements.

Heaven <> Earth
Natural <> Supernatural
Divine <> Human
Life <> Death
The Inner World <> The Outer World
Esotericism <> Exotericism
Apophatic spirituality <> Cataphatic spirituality
The Self <> the Shadow
The rational ‘calculative’ mind <> the contemplative mind


The vesica piscis is the form within Sacred Geometry that gives birth to all forms. It is the form of two coming into perfect balance, with the ‘liminal space’ connecting the heart of one to the other.

The symbol of Twin Flames within the traditions of the Pythagoreans and Sufis, who split into opposing polarities to take on two different bodies, but are always connected in the soul.
A symbol of … our relationship with the Divine / Source Creator through our own third eye or through the eyes of someone we love.

We can call this the ‘birth portal’, to describe the purpose and energy as the basis of creation in this universe. Within never-ending life, there is a cycle of destruction and creation, descent and ascension, contraction and expansion… 

We can call this a ‘Bridge Portal’, because it is a doorway that acts as a bridge between spirit and form, matter and antimatter, the infinite void and all matter…


– https://somathread.ning.com
– ‘Sacredgeometryportal.com’, by Elizabeth Diane
– ‘New religion – New symbolism: Adoption of mandorla in the christian iconography’, by Rostislava Georgieva Todorova
– ‘The Aureole and the Mandorla:  Aspects of the Symbol of the Sacral from Ancient Cultures to Christianity’, by Rostislava Georgieva Todorova

© Please respect the authors’ mention and copyright.