The Shields of the Apostles

Placed around the Sanctuary at Second Presbyterian are the shields of the Apostles. As a crowd of witnesses, they surround the worshippers in this place which is a part of the "one holy and apostolic church."

Included are the Apostles originally called by Jesus, excluding Judas Iscariot (who was replaced by Matthias). The shields of Paul, called by Christ on the road to Damascus, and Stephen, the first Christian martyr, are also included. 

Stephen's Shield


Stephen’s shield shows a palm tree which is a symbol of the resurrection. In Christian symbology, the palm tree also represents martyrdom, as well as victory, joy and prosperity. Palm leaves signify the victorious Christian’s reward when this life is over, and also represent winners in contests of strength and skill.

Peter's Shield


It is believed that Peter died a martyr in Rome by crucifixion on an inverted cross because he felt he was not worthy to die on a cross in the same position as his Lord. His shield shows an inverted cross and two keys saltire, or crossed - the “keys to the Kingdom.” The crossed keys also refer to Peter’s confession and the words of Jesus about the power to “bind” and “loose” on earth and in heaven. (Matthew 16:15-20).

Andrew's Shield


Andrew’s most common symbol is the cross Saltire, the shape of an X, on which he is believed to have been martyred. It is said that while Andrew was dying, he continued to preach to those around him. On the shield, two fish make the cross Saltire and lie atop an anchor, signifying his early livelihood and his becoming a “fisher of men.”

James's Shield


James (also called James the Greater), the son of Zebedee and brother of John, was the first to be martyred. King Herod had him beheaded around A.D. 44. In ages past, scallop shells were worn by persons on a pilgrimage - a journey to a holy place. The symbol seen on the shield for James is the scallop shell, a sign of pilgrimage by sea.

John's Shield


John, a fisherman, brother of James the Greater, was known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He was a close companion to Jesus from the beginning of His ministry. There were many attempts on John’s life, but none successful; he was the only apostle to die a natural death. His shield displays a serpent and a sword, recalling the reality of man’s sin and the power of the Sword of the Spirit over sin.

Philip's Shield


The cross on Philip’s shield may refer to the power of the cross over idols, or to Philip’s manner of death, traditionally thought to be crucifixion. His is the Budded Cross, the ends of which are in trefoil form symbolizing the Trinity. The loaves of bread signify his presence with Jesus at the feeding of the five thousand.

Bartholomew's Shield


Bartholomew is believed by some to be the same as Nathanael. According to tradition, Bartholomew won King Polymus of Armedia for Christianity, but so angered the king’s brother in doing so that he had him flayed, crucified head down, and then beheaded. His shield displays three flaying knives.

Matthew's Shield


Tradition teaches that Matthew, the tax collector who became a disciple, went to Ethiopia after preaching to the Jews in Palestine. He was martyred there, crucified on a tau cross (shaped like a T) and beheaded. His shield displays three money bags, a symbol of his job as tax collector.

Thomas's Shield


Tradition is that Thomas was selected to evangelize in India where he preached and was himself martyred by stoning, Thomas built churches by his own hands’ efforts, and often his shield will display a carpenter’s square. This shield for him shows three stones and a leather girdle, the stones symbolizing the manner of his death. The belt signifies the tying up of loose, flowing garments when a man of biblical times prepared for vigorous action.

James the Less's Shield

James the Less

Tradition says that James the Less was thrown at age 96, from a pinnacle of a temple in Jerusalem, beaten or clubbed, and then stoned. Near death, he rose to ask forgiveness for his enemies, collapsed, and was ultimately sawn asunder. Sometimes his shield will display a vertical saw, a club or bat, or stones. Here, however, it is shown with a windmill, since he is believed to have been a missionary to the low countries of Europe.

Simon's Shield


Simon, also called Simon the Zealot, was frequently the companion of Jude on missionary journeys. His shield displays a battle-axe, which indicates the manner in which he is thought to have met a martyr’s death - either by beheading or being sawn asunder.

Jude's Shield


Jude, referred to also as Thaddeus and as Judas, son of James, traveled with Simon the Zealot on missionary journeys. The manner of Jude’s death is unknown, but martyrdom is the accepted belief. His shield, suggesting his journeys, bears a sailboat.

Matthias's Shield


Matthias, chosen to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-26), was one of Jesus’ original disciples, having been with Him since the baptism by John the Baptist. He served as a missionary in Judea. He is thought to have been either stoned or beheaded for preaching the Gospel. His shield bears a battle-axe upon an open Bible.

Paul's Shield


Paul is one of the best known of the apostles. Paul’s shield has on it an open Bible, and on top of the Bible, a sword. Sometimes the sword has on it the words “Gladius Spiritus,” or, Sword of the Spirit. “Take the helmet of salvation and the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.” (Ephesians 6:10-18, especially v.17).


The Apostles' Shields, like the Covenant Symbols, were expertly crafted by J. Wippell & Co. Ltd., a 200-year-old church furnishing and supply company based in England. The design ideas for these symbols, as well as the shields, were finalized by Gerald Miller, the director of Wippell. Bryan Marshall, our U.S. representative for Wippell, has worked diligently with us for the addition of our liturgical paraments, shields and symbols.