Samson: The Iconography
Judges 13-16 tells the story of Samson, the Israelite hero. He led his people against the Philistines and was successful until he fell in love with Delilah, who betrayed him to the enemy by cutting his hair (image). In Judges 14:1-7 he "went down" to the Philistine city of Timnah to take a bride. His parents objected to his taking a foreigner as wife, but they accompanied him anyway. As they approached the city a young lion came roaring at Samson, but he tore it apart.

The Glossa Ordinaria (II, 246) quotes St. Augustine's explanation that this episode is a type of Christ's "going down" from Heaven to rescue the Church from among the Gentiles, who resist him savagely but unsuccessfully.

I have personally encountered only two images of Samson, and both feature his killing a lion. This may be a coincidence, or it may be that this particular episode was a favorite because of its purported relationship to Christ and his Church.

Prepared in 2020 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University.


Relief Sculpture of Samson and the Lion, west façade of Milan's cathedral. See the description page for details.


Capital of an engaged column in Salamanca's Old Cathedral, 12th century. (See the description page.)