Recently I visited Florence for my work. I had some time to enjoy this beautiful city. So I went for a long walk, a bit outside the city.
I visited the San Miniato al Monte. As the name points out, this church is situated on a hill, not far from the city centre.
The building of this church began in 1018, and it was completed about 1207. The church is for sure one of the Tuscan Romanesque masterpieces. It is built on the grave of the martyr St. Miniatus.
I was impressed by the symbol of the Eagle that you can find in this church and wanted to find out more about that. I found out that the eagles are the emblem of Calimala, the Merchants’ Guild that was responsible for the church’s maintenance from the 13th century onwards.
But, the Eagle must mean more than this. In general, Christian churches house more pagan symbols and astrological symbols.
What about the Eagle?
Soaring to the heavens
The Eagle has the ability to soar towards the heavens, to 10 000 feet. The wingspan of an eagle can range from 6 to nearly 8 feet wide. When an eagle dives, they are streamlined for speed. They can achieve speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. When they soar, their wings spread wide as they allow the air currents to elevate them.
Symbol of Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension
Because it soars upward, the Eagle is often used as a symbol of Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven.
Symbol of St. John
The Eagle is also the symbol used to depict St John. John was one of Jesus’ disciples and wrote one of the four Gospels about the life of Jesus. John’s writing about Jesus is often said to ‘soar’ with inspiration – just like an eagle in flight.
Because of its ability to soar incredibly high, some traditions say that the Eagle is an intermediary between humans and the Divine or the Great Spirit.
Like swans, geese, ducks, cranes, storks and a few other big and prey birds, Eagles are monogamous animals who mate for life. Male eagles stay with their female partners to help raise their eaglets. And many eagle pairs return to the same nest year after year.
So the Eagle can teach us about loyalty and devotion. I am sure the Christian religion likes the Eagle because of this.
Other symbolic meanings of the Eagle.
Hope and salvation
In other cultures, this ability to soar so high in the sky is associated with hope and salvation. In ancient Rome, the Eagle stood for victory. In ancient Greece, it stood for the triumph of good over evil.
Freedom and Independence
Because of their flight abilities – speedy diving and high soaring, the Eagle is also associated with freedom and independence – the embodiment of life without restrictions, borders, or limitations.
Truth and Honor – “The truth will set you free.”
The Eagle teaches us that when we live in the truth, we will have the power to soar higher than ever imagined. In this context, the truth means being truthful to ourself and others. Being truthful to ourself means living our life’s purpose on Earth and not the life others want to implement on us.
Like owls, hawks, and other birds of prey, eagles have incredibly powerful eyesight. However, unlike owls that hunt at night, eagles hunt during the daylight hours. Their eyes are like a telescope: they can see eight times as far as we can and broaden their view/make a landscape view, but they can also zoom in on prey – they can read a newspaper (if they could read 😊) from two miles away. Furthermore, they can see more colours than we do.
In this aspect, the Eagle is a symbol of foresight and psychic awareness.
Metaphorically the Eagle can also help us to see things from a viewpoint we usually don’t see.