To further the devotion to St. Jude Thaddeus, "Patron of Difficult Cases," and to support the education and formation of worthy students for the Dominican Priesthood and Brotherhood.


Statues and paintings of St. Jude and most other saints show them holding an object or an instrument whose purpose is to tell us who the saint is and what he or she did to gain their place in heaven.  These objects identify them to the faithful who are praying to the saint for an answer to their prayers or novena intentions.

Almost all of the apostles and saints can be identified in this way.  Naturally, the better known saints are more easily identified: St. Peter holding the keys to the Kingdom; St. Sebastian full of arrows; St. Lucy with her eyes on a plate; the giant St. Christopher with the Christ Child on his shoulder.  However, when it comes to our patron, St. Jude, the images are more complicated. He is usually shown with the attributes that relate to his life and death, as well as a few objects that have accrued to him during the early centuries of Christianity, such as the legend of St. Jude and the Mandylion of Edessa, and the symbol of the Holy Spirit's descent upon the apostles at Pentecost.

See the article Symbols & Iconography of St. Jude written by Fr. Allen Duston, O.P., Shrine Director.  For more information on symbolism look below:

Symbolism of St Jude:

The symbols associated with St. Jude can be categorized into five general groups:

  1. The Image of Edessa (image, medalion, Mandylion)
  2. The Tongue of Flame
  3. The Martyrdom Instrument
  4. Symbols Referencing St. Jude's Work
  5. Symbols Referring to His Gospel

1. The Image of Edessa

~St. Jude Statue - St. Dominic's of San FranciscoThe statue of St. Jude at our shrine, like most representations of St. Jude, shows him holding to his chest an image (the Holy Mandylion) of Jesus.  This is an imprint of the face of Jesus.  According to the 3rd-century writings of Eusebius (the Father of Church History), during the reign of Abgar, king of Edessa (today in modern Turkey, near Syria), news of the healings by Jesus spread northward.  The king was afflicted with a serious illness (some say leprosy), and he sent a messenger begging Jesus to come and cure him.  Our Lord afforded the king hope by sending word that He would send someone later to aid the king in his suffering.  It was St. Jude who brought a cloth bearing the face of Jesus to the king and healed him.  The king listened to the eloquent presentation of the Gospel by St. Jude, and he and many of his subjects were converted.  After establishing the Church in Edessa, St. Jude traveled through Armenia and parts of the Near East preaching the gospel.  Eventually, he was martyred for the faith. The facts of this tradition suggest that the Mandylion of St. Jude along with the Shroud of Turin hold the earliest known representations of Jesus.

 2. The Tongue of Flame

St. Jude is often depicted with a tongue of flame above his head. This flame represents his receipt of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as one of the twelve apostles present in the Upper Room. 


~Stained glass window, St. Jude Shrine, St. Dominic's Church, San Francisco,CA


3. The Martyrdom Instrument

From as early as the 5th century, in a portrait at St. Paul Outside the Walls, in Rome, St. Jude has been depicted brandishing a pole or halberd.  Tradition says he was clubbed or hacked to death in Persia, and it is believed the halberd refers to that event.


~Statue of St. Jude Thaddeus by Bertel Thorvaldsen, Vor Frue Kirke (Church of Our Lady), Copenhagen 



4. Symbols referencing St. Jude's work

St. Jude seems to have been given the special privilege of helping those who are most in need. According to Tradition, after his martyrdom, pilgrims came to his grave to pray and many of them, experienced the powerful intercessions of St. Jude; thus the title 'The Saint for the Hopeless and the Despaired'. St. Bridget of Sweden and St. Bernard had visions from God asking each to accept St. Jude as 'The Patron Saint of the Impossible'. The Order of Preachers (the Dominicans) began working in present day Armenia soon after their founding in 1216. There was a substantial devotion to St. Jude in this area at that time, by both Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians [Wikipedia].

The symbols of  an anchor, oar, boat, ship, boat-hook, and carpenter's rule seem to be references to voyages made for Christ, spreading hope, and perhaps to St. Jude's profession as a fisherman/boat repairer. It is also possible that the carpenter's rule is a referece to St. Jude's being a blood relative of the carpenters St. Joseph and Jesus Christ.   Whatever the origin of these symbols, for many, they now bring to mind St. Jude and his powerful intercession before Christ for us. The symbol of the anchor is particularly apt since the anchor is also the symbol for the theological virtue of hope. The symbol of the anchor is featured in our Shrine logo.

~St. Jude Shrine, St. Dominic's Church, San Francisco, CA

5. Symbols referring to his Gospel

In his Epistle the author styles himself "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James."  "Servant of Jesus Christ" means "apostolic minister or labourer." "Brother of James" denotes him as the brother of James  who was well known to the Hebrew Christians to whom the Epistle of St. Jude was written. This James is to be identified with the Bishop of the Church of Jerusalem (Acts 15:13; 21:18), spoken of by St. Paul as "the brother of the Lord" (Galatians 1:19), who was the author of the Catholic Epistle of St. James. and is regarded amongst Catholic interpreters as the Apostle James, the son of Alpheus (St. James the Less). This last identification, however, is not evident, nor, from a critical point of view, does it seem beyond all doubt. Most Catholic commentators identify Jude with the "Judas Jacobi" ("Jude, the brother of James" in the D.V.) of Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13 — also called Thaddeus (Matthew 10:3: Mark 3:18) — referring the expression to the fact that his brother James was better known than he was in the primitive Church. This view is strongly confirmed by the title "the brother of James" by which Jude designates himself in his Epistle. If this identification is proved, it is clear that Jude, the author of the Epistle, was reckoned among the Twelve Apostles. This opinion is most highly probable. Beyond this we find no further information concerning Jude in the New Testament, except that the "brethren of the Lord," among whom Jude was included, were known to the Galatians and the Corinthians; also that several of them were married, and that they did not fully believe in Christ till after the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 9:5; Galatians 1:10; John 7:3-5; Acts 1:14). From a fact of Hegesippus told by Eusebius (Church History III.19-22) we learn that Jude was "said to have been the brother of the Lord according to the flesh" and that two of his grandsons lived till the reign of Trajan (see, however, BRETHREN OF THE LORD).

Source: Catholic Encyclopedia

P.O. Box 15368, 2390 Bush Street, San Francisco, CA 94115-0368
tel 415.931.5919 fax 415.593.0350