Angels feature in the Islamic, Jewish and Christian religious traditions. The name of these genderless, supernatural beings is derived from the Greek word ángelos, ‘messenger’; angels are the messengers of God. According to the Bible, there are ‘tens of thousands’ of them. Theologians divided them into ranks – like a heavenly army – with the seraphim at the top and the guardian angels at the bottom. The Bible mentions four of the guardian angels, the archangels, by name: Michael, Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael. Michael and Gabriel appear frequently in art. Michael is represented battling the Devil (according to some a fallen archangel) and weighing souls at the Last Judgement. The Archangel Gabriel chased Adam and Eve out of Paradise and announced Christ’s conception to the Virgin. Angels can be recognized by their wings and long flowing draperies, and sometimes play musical instruments, including trumpets. Other winged figures, such as putti, the classical god Eros (Cupid) and the goddesses of triumph are also considered, incorrectly, to be angels.



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