These four winged creatures have been associated with the four Evangelists and depicted in Christian art since the 2nd century. They have also been likened to Jesus' journey on Earth where he was born as a man, was sacrificed as a calf, was reborn as a lion in his resurrection, and soared like an eagle in his Ascension.
- Matthew is represented by the man since his gospel starts with the human ancestry of Jesus.
- Mark begins his gospel with John the Baptist, "the voice of one crying in the wilderness," as would a roaring lion.
- Luke, opening with the vision of the priest, Zachary, is assigned the ox, the beast of sacrifice.
- John is associated with the eagle due to the sublimity of his soaring theological insights regarding the union of God and man in Jesus, the Word made flesh.
Pictures of wooden altar relief carvings taken at St. Remy Church in Russia, Ohio.