Where did our modern image of angels come from? In the Biblical stories people fall down in fear before the presence of angels. Our idea of them today is as soft and lovely creatures of light, hardly something frightening. This sketch is of a relief from the land walls of Theodosios II built around 412 in Constantinople. The Romans frequently used the image of a winged woman to portray Victory. To them she was a goddess. When the empire became Christian her image was still used but called an “angel.”
Often people say, as in the book I am currently reading that, “It was the Church policy to absorb, rather than destroy, the sites of pagan worship, so that coming to the sire of the new religion was a natural continuation of past practices.” (p.33 “How to Read a Church” Richard Taylor) However, Christians believe that God as creator infused all creation with the ability to speak of his power. When non-Christians reverenced the sun they misunderstood what the glory of the sun was saying. St. Patrick’s sun crosses were not meant to incorporate pagan worship into Christianity they were instead meant to direct reverence of the sun to it’s true object, Christ himself.
Most likely angels are not women with wings given how people in the Bible reacted to them. The imagery of adopting the Victory figure as an angel was originally meant to proclaim Christ as the true victor over the world rather than to give us a photographic image of what God’s messengers look like.