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Catholic Dictionary




An emblem of baptism since the twelfth century. Once pouring water was the accepted mode for baptizing, the shell became a handy accesory. Also a symbol for the pilgrim, explaining probably why the shell is an emblem of St. James the Apostle, whose shrine is a famed place of pilgrimage. It is also the emblem for St. Augustine, who had a vision of a child (believed to be Christ) who told him that he could sooner empty the ocean with a shell than understand the Trinity. The shell is likewise one of the numerous symbols of the Blessed Virgin Mary.