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A circle of light, emblematical of glory, placed by the old painters round the heads of martyrs and saints. The notion was derived from Exod. xxv. 25. Facies coroʹnam aureʹolam (“Thou shalt by thine own merits make for thyself a crown, besides that of gold which God has promised to the faithful”) (Donne: Sermons). Strictly speaking, the glory confined to the head alone is a nimbus, and only when it envelops the entire body is it called an aureola.

Du Cange informs us that the aureola of nuns is white, of martyrs red, and of doctors green.

⁂ The nimbus of a Christ should contain a cross; of the Virgin Mary, a circlet of stars; of God the Father, a triangle with rays; of a living saint, a square without rays.

“They say, who know the life divine,

And upward gaze with eagle eyne,

That by each golden crown on high,

Rich with celestial jewelry,

Which for our Lord’s redeemed is set,

There hangs a radiant coronet,

All gemmed with pure and living light

Too dazzling for a sinner’s sight,

Prepared for virgin souls, and them

Who seek the martyr’s diadem.”

Keble: Christian Year.

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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Augustan History
Augustine (The Second)
Auld Brig and New Brig
Auld Hornie
Auld Reekie
Aulic Council
Aunt Sally
Aurora Australis
Aurora Borealis (Latin)
Aurora Raby
Aurora Septentrionalis
Austin Friars

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