Christianity has always used symbols, both as decoration and for their educational value, in much the same manner as we use pictures in modern education. The writings of the evangelists and the parables of Our Blessed Lord are rich in symbolism.
A symbol, however, must be a representative of something, not a representation. Thus a picture of St. Peter with keys in his hand is not a symbol of St. Peter, but the keys are. This point is demostrated in our church, where a picture of St. Peter occurs in the apse and his symbol (two keys saltire) on a disc on the baldachino pediment. The early Chritioans employed symbolism freely in the catacombs, but the Golden Age was reached in the Middle Ages when the Cathedral at Chartres in France was built. This church alone contains 1500 symbolic Bible figures.
There are certain ideas too in our faith which cannot be pictured, which can only be represented by symbols. the Holy Trinity, God the Father, and God the Holy Ghost. Whoever saw a picture of the Holy Trinity of the Holy Ghost? Who would know how to picture them? And to picture God the Father as an aged man with a long white beard, a mistake quite often made , is puerile. God who is and was and always will be, who has no age, cannot be picture since He Himself has said that no man might look upon His face and live. Hence, His symbol is usually the six-pointed star, called the Creator's star or a hand recalling Divine Providence in the Hand of God. For the Holy Ghost a dove, familiar to all, is used as a sumbol. or seven flames representing the tongues of fire which alighted upon the heads of the Apostles. The Holy Trinity is best represented by and equilateral triangle, the three equal sides for the three equal Persons, the whole figue representing Their unity. So it is with other mysteries and so the universal use of symbols by the Catholic church from its beginning.
Whe drawings for Holy Name Church were in their earliest stages, it was decided to use a style of architecture adaptable to symbolism and have the building itself stand a reminder of the teachings of our faith and a moument to the Most Holy Name.
Consequently, the Byzantine-Romanesque, and early Christian style which flourished in Northern Italy and the Near East from the sixth to the twelfth centuries, was chosen. Details of the exterior were suggested by a number of these ancient churches, of which the red tile roof, brick walls and small arched windows are typical. The circular apse, ending in a semi-dome was likewise a customary way of treating the sanctuary in those ancient time, the early Christians adopting the idea from the Roman basilicas which they first used for worship, when in the year A. D. 313 the Emperor Constantine promulgated the Edict of Toleration, which put and end to the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire.
The Church, for the first time liberated from the catacombs and secret worship, found itself before the world with a complete liturgy, and without a proper place to conduct its ceremonies. Added to this difficulty was the general adoption by the Roman people, of Christianity. As a consequence, the early Fathers obtained various basilicas, which the Romans used for large gatherings of the people and as courts, and set up their altars in the ases, which were elevated above the general floor, just as our sanctuary is today, and in chich the seats of the judges were originally placed. this arrangement of space froved so satisfactory from Christian worship that new churches were built along the same lines, and except for the addition of transepts and chapel, it is to this day the customary plan.