Glory, Aureole, or Nimbus
Glory, Aureole, Or Nimbus are names applied to rays, circles, or bodies of light placed around the heads (or the entire bodies) of Christ, angels, and saints in Christian art. The glory was first used in Egyptian art. From this it passed to the Grecian, and especially to the Roman. In both of these branches of classic art, it was used in both sculpture and painting to adorn the heads of deities, kings, and apotheosized emperors. In classic art the glory was mostly composed of gilded rays. (The disc used to protect the heads of statues from rain has been improperly considered by some to be the original, from which the glory of Christian at was copied.) In Christian art the glory was first used, as far as we know, in the glasses or paterae of the Catacombs, about the 3d century, being in them applied to the head of Christ. About the close of the 6th century it was first applied to angels, and to the apostles and saints.
The glory was used in ancient art to signify power and dominion. In this sense it was occasionally used in Christian art, as when it was placed around the head of Constantine, of the empress Theodora, around six heads of the beast of the Apocalypse, and even around that of Satan. But usually it signified holiness and purity. The oblong glory, or the "vesica piscis," envelopes the whole person only in representations of Christ, the Virgin Mary, or other saints who are represented as ascending to heaven. The glory had many forms: thus it was a simple circle of light, or it contained a cross in the neonograime Α Ω or Χ Ρ. It was sometimes applied to the head of a dove, a lamb, or other symbol of the Savior. — Mrs. Jameson, Sacred and Legendary Art; Martigny, Dictionnaire des Antiquitis Christiennes. (G.F.C.)