Pagan imagery in Christian Churches
I was working through some information today that talked about the use of pagan imagery within Christian churches in the late Middles Ages through to the Reformation and beyond. The information seemed to imply that they use of such symbolism was designed by the craftsman as a mean of undermining the forced worship of a god not their own. There is certainly research to support the use of pagan symbols within churches at the time, but I have to say that I wonder at the depth of meaning often attributed to it. I do not claim to have done research on this, although the idea is fascinating and I may take some research up, this is just me thinking things through.
To what extent was the use of pagan symbolism a defiant gesture or even a hidden way of continuing ones own practice under the guise of a new one? Is it possible that the craftsmen involved were being less cunning and more practical? Were they perhaps simply creating imagery that they knew, that had been passed down through generations? What about common symbols? For thousands of years certain items had been held sacred across many belief systems, why is it not possible that these symbols meant something to the Christian church goers without them having be 'purloined' from their pagan ancestors? Yes, I know, pagan symbols, practices, etc were incorporated into Christian beliefs, I'm not disputing this, it is a highly effective means of integration and assimilation that has been used long before Christianity (look at the pre-Christian Roman Empire people).