Christianity has many symbols associated with it, including the fish, the dove, the lamb, and, of course, the cross. One ancient symbol, found atop many church steeples in Europe, is the rooster, or cock. Various churches give various explanations for incorporating the rooster as a symbol of Christianity.
Depictions of roosters are found in the Roman catacombs and on the tombs or sarcophagi of Christians in other places as well. Weathervanes featuring roosters are found on old churches in Germany, Scotland, Norway, the Netherlands, and other countries.
Roosters in Catholic art are almost always associated with Peter, based on the gospel accounts of Peter’s denial of Christ and his subsequent restoration. Prior to being arrested, Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed twice on the following morning. At the rooster’s crowing, Peter remembered Jesus’ words and “went out and wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75). The rooster represents Peter’s denial of Christ and also stands for his remorse and repentance upon hearing the rooster’s crow. The rooster, as a symbol, becomes a call to repentance.
In many cultures, the rooster’s habit of crowing at the dawning of each new morning made it a symbol of the Christian’s victory of light over darkness and the triumph of life over death. Thus, some churches use the rooster as a symbol of resurrection. Other churches see in the rooster’s heralding of a new day a symbol of the church’s responsibility to proclaim God’s new era of grace and forgiveness to a darkened world.
Some see the rooster as a symbol of Christ Himself, the One whose coming brought the true light of the world and the One in whose resurrection we have our hope. It is the rooster who announces the morning, and it is Christ who announced an end to spiritual darkness and despair.
During the Middle Ages, the rooster became a popular Christian image on weathervanes, also known as weathercocks. Its crowing made it an emblem of the Christian’s attitude of watchfulness and readiness for the sudden return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment of humankind (Mark 13:32, 35–36). Like the rooster, we wait for the dawn.