Guardian Angels

See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 18:10

Traditional Christians have believed that each person has an angel commissioned to guard him or her from spiritual harm. The idea is based on the verse quoted above as well as a number of other scriptural texts. It is also found in commentaries by Jerome, Aquinas, and others.1

Artistic representations of this idea became popular in the 17th century and continue to this day. Typically, an angel directs a boy along a narrow and hazardous path, as in the first picture at right. In later examples a girl is added and the path becomes a bridge.
This anonymous painting of a guardian angel conducting a girl and boy across a bridge has been copied and imitated countless times since its first appearance in 1900. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
A related image type has the guardian angel conducting his charge's soul to Heaven after death, as in the second picture at right. Both types are sometimes misinterpreted as the young Tobias with St. Raphael, but that type of image will depict the angel as a traveler with a staff, and he or the boy will typically be carrying a fish.

Prepared in 2018 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University.


An early example of the guardian angel leading a child along the right path. (See the description page.)

In this monument to a Venetian noble his guardian angel conducts his soul to Heaven. (See the description page.)

A guardian angel conducts a soul to Heaven. (See the description page.)


  • First quarter, 18th century: Piazzetta's painting of SS. Anthony of Padua and Louis of Toulouse with an angel and a boy. One source identifies the angel as Raphael, but another source refers to him more plausibly as a guardian angel.


1 Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. "Guardian Angel." Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶336.