Why Are Angels Portrayed with Harps?

Why Are Angels Portrayed with Harps?

Discover how the harp has come to be closely associated with angels in this heavenly slideshow.

  • Angel with a harp

    "Music is well said to be the speech of the angels," Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said. We've all seen the image: an angel, sometimes an adorable chubby cherub, sitting on a cloud, playing his harp. But where did that harp come from?  The Bible contains no references to angels playing harps, so why has this instrument come to be so associated with angels? There is no clear reason for the harp to be the angels' instrument of choice.

  • Painting of Apollo playing the lyre.

    It's quite possible harps are a holdover from ancient Greek times, when the gods were often said to play lyres, as seen in the above painting of Apollo. A lyre is a stringed instrument usually made from a turtle shell with two curved arms connected by a yoke. The lyre thus became associated with divine music.

  • Stained glass detail of angels playing instruments.

    Heavenly music can also be another name for something called the Music of the Spheres. Back before telescopes were invented, the Earth was thought to be the center of the universe. The sun, moon, stars and planets revolved around it in their own transparent spheres, with the help of the heavenly angels. It was believed that as the spheres moved, they resonated with each other—just like strings on a harp—and produced a sublime music all their own.


  • angel playing an instrument

    Is there truly music in heaven? There's no way to know for sure, but there are those who claim to have heard it. Many people who have had near-death experiences reported hearing celestial music, and music has also often been reported during the intense spiritual experiences of mystics. Perhaps they have truly heard the speech of the angels.


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