Samson: The Iconography
Judges 13-16 tells the story of Samson, the Israelite hero who leads his people against the Philistines and is successful until he falls in love with Delilah, who betrays him to the enemy by cutting his hair (image).

Many images portray Samson's defeat of the lion. In Judges 14:1-7 he is on his way to Timnah when a young lion comes roaring at him, but he tears it apart. For St. Augustine this victory is a type of Christ's overcoming the savagery of the Gentiles, and perhaps for this reason it is a favorite subject in the art.1

Another subject is Samson's death (Judges 16:23-30). Captured and blinded by the Philistines, he is brought from his prison to the temple of Dagon for their amusement. But he destroys the temple by pushing down two of the supporting columns, killing everyone including himself. I have personally seen only one image of this episode, but a good number are available on this page at Wikimedia Commons. They all picture the hero pushing down the two columns.

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.)

Scenes from Samson's life in a medieval miniature. (See the description page.)

In a fresco in a German church, Samson pulls down the columns of the Temple of Dagon. (See the description page.)

1 Glossa Ordinaria, II, 246.