The Renaissance Lied to You Because Angels Don’t Have Wings

by Hrag Vartanian on December 20, 2013

Rafael is one of the BIGGEST LIARS EVER! (via Wikipedia)

Raphael is one of the BIGGEST LIARS EVER! Raphael’s “Sistine Madonna” (1512) (via Wikipedia)

Just in time for the holidays, Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper reports:

… this week, a leading Catholic Church “angeologist” tried to put an end to the angel-with-wings business – an imagery that has been reinforced, as he explained, by New Age movements where depictions of angels with wings is common.

Angels do not have wings – nor do they look like cherubs, Rev. Renzo Lavatori told Agence France-Presse at a conference in Rome.

“You do not see angels so much as feel their presence,” he said.

“They are a bit like sunlight that refracts on you through a crystal vase,” he added.

So, there you have it. Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo — all of those Renaissance phonies (and LIARS!), in fact — have been misrepresenting the “reality” of the angel to us. I sense Dan Brown sitting in a cafe somewhere, plotting a sequel to The Da Vinci Code that will be a takedown of those Renaissance propagandists, and may I suggest Clipped Wings™ as a great title.

Interesting bit about the sunlight, though, because that’s often something depicted in Renaissance-era paintings as a metaphor for the virgin birth (i.e. God’s “light” penetrating the Virgin Mary/glass vase, without “compromising” her/the vase). A good example of this symbolism comes in Fra Filippo Lippi’s “Annunciation” (1442) in Florence’s Basilica di San Lorenzo:

Fra Lippi's "The Annunciation" (1442) (via

Fra Fillippo Lippi’s “The Annunciation” (1442) with glass vase detail inset (via

By the way, why is this info about angels and wings important? Well, according to recent polls, more Americans believe in angels (77%) than evolution (47%) or global warming (70%). On that note, we can all probably use a drink of spiked eggnog about now.

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  • Carlo Grassini

    Are you telling me this person with the name HRAG VARTANIAN who authored “The Renaissance Lied to You Because Angels Don’t Have Wings” on December 20, 2013 is the SUPREME EXPERT on Angels and their spiritual anatomy? I would sooner believe Commander Spock on this subject! Plus H-RAG the douche rag has the unmitigated gall to deface RAPHAEL with a “scribbled arrow” & “LIES!!!”? hRAG you are way too simplistic in your thinking when it comes to Angels & I am certain you laugh a Jackson Pollock too while screaming “I can paint like that” but of course you never opened a tube of paint in your life. Take off your Dunces Cap and really take a closer look at Angels.

  • Guest

    You should really read YOUR “comment policy” and then decide if it is appropriate to deface the Raphael painting above & Call a dead painter names, one who is not with us and therefore cannot defend himself to your in unkind accusations, your policy should apply to authors as well, YES! even if you happen to be a co-editor.

    • Chicken_Fingers

      The Raphael painting wasn’t defaced. It’s OK. The image above is a digital representation.

      • Hrag Vartanian

        Wait, that’s not the original?

    • Hrag Vartanian

      What is it about this post that has brought out the humorless commenters.

  • Chicken_Fingers

    No lies have been told. Those pudgy kids with wings in Raphael’s painting are *cherubim* not angels. Cherubim have wings (e.g., Ezekiel 1:6, 10:12, Ezk 10:5).

    • Hrag Vartanian

      Cherubs are one rank of angel.

      • Chicken_Fingers

        There is an angelic hierarchy, but I suspect the priest is contrasting cherubim with angels (simpliciter), the kind sent as messengers or being involved with people’s affairs (e.g., “Angels saved me from that car crash, I know it.”)

        All the English reports on the story I’ve read are quite glib, but the context of the statement was about art. So I’m inclined to think Michelangelo’s saint and Leonardo’s messenger do have it wrong (these people shouldn’t have wings), but Raphael clearly seems to be painting cherubim, and thus not off the theological mark.

        I find researching things like this important when I have work to avoid.

  • Chicken_Fingers

    The only acount I can find of the composition is on wiki, and it identifies the pair as cherubs.

    How do we get to the bottom of this? I can’t sleep.

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