• Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones;
  • Dominations, Virtues, and Powers;
  • Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.


Dominions are Angels of Leadership. They regulate the duties of the angels, making known the commands of God.

The most influential Christian angelic hierarchy was that put forward by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in the 4th or 5th century in his book De Coelesti Hierarchia (On the Celestial Hierarchy). During the Middle Ages, many schemes were proposed, some drawing on and expanding on Pseudo-Dionysius, others suggesting completely different classifications. According to medieval Christian theologians, the angels are organized into several orders, or “Angelic Choirs”.[1][2]

Pseudo-Dionysius (On the Celestial Hierarchy) and Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica) drew on passages from the New Testament, specifically Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16, to develop a schema of three Hierarchies, Spheres or Triads of angels, with each Hierarchy containing three Orders or Choirs. Although both authors drew on the New Testament, the Biblical canon is relatively silent on the subject, and these hierarchies are considered less definitive than biblical material.


First Sphere Angels

The first sphere angels serve as the heavenly servants of God the Son incarnated.


 Seraphim (singular “Seraph”) literally translated “burning ones”, the word seraph is normally a synonym for serpents when used in the Hebrew Bible.[3] Mentioned in Isaiah 6:1-7, Seraphim are the highest angelic class and they serve as the caretakers of God’s throne and continuously shout praises: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” According to Isaiah 6:1-8, the Seraphim are described as fiery six-winged beings; with two wings they cover their faces, with another two they cover their feet, and the last two they use to fly.


 Cherubim have four faces: one of a man, an ox, a lion, and an eagle (later adopted as the symbols of the four evangelists). They have four conjoined wings covered with eyes, a lion’s body, and the feet of oxen. Cherubim guard the way to the tree of life in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:24)[4] and the throne of God (Ezekiel 28:14–16).[5]

The cherubim are mentioned in Genesis 3:24;[4] Exodus 25:17–22; 2 Chronicles 3:7–14; Ezekiel 10:12–14,[6] 28:14–16;[5] 1 Kings 6:23–28;[7] and Revelation 4:6–8.

Modern English usage has blurred the distinction between cherubim and putti. Putti are the often wingless human baby/toddler-like beings traditionally used in figurative art.

St. Thomas Aquinas imagined Satan as the fallen Cherub.[8]


The “Thrones” (Greek: thronoi, pl. of thronos), or Elders, are a class of celestial beings mentioned by Paul of Tarsus in Colossians 1:16 (New Testament). They are living symbols of God’s justice and authority, and have as one of their symbols the throne.

It is not unusual to find that the Thrones are associated, by some, with the Ophanim or Erelim from the Jewish angelic hierarchy, however there is very little evidence, if any, to sustain this idea. The Ophanim (Heb. ofanim: Wheels, from the vision of Daniel 7:9) are unusual looking even compared to the other celestial beings plus they are said to be moved by the spirit of other beings, which raises the question if the Ophanim are spiritual beings at all or if they are purely material beings. They appear as a beryl-coloured wheel-within-a-wheel, their rims covered with hundreds of eyes. They are closely connected with the Cherubim instead: “When they moved, the others moved; when they stopped, the others stopped; and when they rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them; for the spirit of the living creatures [Cherubim] was in the wheels.” Ezekiel 10:17 NRSV.

Christian theologians that include the Thrones as one of the choirs don’t describe them as wheels, describing them as adoring elder men who listen to the will of God and present the prayers of men. The Twenty Four Elders in the Book of Revelation are usually thought to be part of this group of angels.

Second Sphere

Angels of the Second Sphere work as heavenly governors of the creation by subjecting matter and guiding and ruling the spirits. 


Dominions are Angels of Leadership. They regulate the duties of the angels, making known the commands of God.

Dominions or Lordships

The “Dominions” (Eph. 1:21; Col. 1:16) (lat. dominatio, plural dominationes, also translated from the Greek term kyriotētes, pl. of kyriotēs, as “Lordships”) or “Dominations” are presented as the hierarchy of celestial beings “Lordships” in some English translations of the De Coelesti Hierarchia. The Dominions regulate the duties of lower angels. It is only with extreme rarity that the angelic lords make themselves physically known to humans.

The Dominions are believed to look like divinely beautiful humans with a pair of feathered wings, much like the common representation of angels, but they may be distinguished from other groups by wielding orbs of light fastened to the heads of their sceptres or on the pommel of their swords.   

I will never find a depiction of the sceptre held by the Angel that appeared to me: as it is “only with extreme rarity that the Angelic Lords make themselves physically known to humans.” An Arm, white and pale with strong bones held the glittering and lightning sphere sceptre. A heavy satin, purple robe hung down to the floor from his arms. The sceptre was made with every jewel known to man but had an orb that swirled from the centre – of pure white light and it reflected upon each jewel rendering its color… A golden handle but it was light itself.. made from light but with the earthly matter of jewels and fine gold and silver – green and blue lights also flashed from its center – but the light did not emanate into the room or light the room; sparks as if electric of every color red, yellow, shone upon the jewels or formed the jewels really – they were not embedded within, rather its constitution/matter was created by the lights – as it was daylight as I stood in my kitchen that reeked with the smell of roses from the previous days gone by.

The rose smell smoke which entered into my home from no apparent source from the outside of my windows filtered in through the screens of my windows and floated across the rooms and filled each room from top to bottom with the/its incense and sweet smell – as if a cloud but each particle was visible – at its motion was of its own power – not blown by the wind or anything else… each particle has its own strength… and glory. Someone screamed when the incense entered into their room. This event was seen and beheld by many of my family members. My mother, Mary, in particular, was present. She seemed unaffected by it… The angel wanted to hand me the sceptre… and held it out – standing to my left it was pointed across and in front of me as if I should accept it into my own hands – me, Chiara, which means “The Light” – yet – in fear – I ran away and up the stairs… knowing and feeling His presence still in my kitchen. “How and where can I run from your love, God?” Is this not the incense that carries our prayers straight to God through the spheres and the ranks of the angels? So why did God allow me to see the hand of an angel from the second sphere – the rare occurrence – and the sceptre?

Years later: How does God give me the power to rule over the demons? They are subject to my presence and I don’t even need to say a word to conjure them up and out. My mother… who sleeps across from me, wakens me as Lucifer rises within and overtakes her eyes rendering them totally black, and her body’s senses, and thought  – her mind and soul’s body – emanating his hatred into my heart and soul. People look at me and feel that I am an angel – that word spills out of their mouths in my presence… “You are an angel – from God” – and I don’t even know them who speak. They sense the presence of an angel – sometimes the odor of roses oozes toward them and they smell its beautiful scent – as if I am a thurible… 240_f_74593862_qnggrlplkzc9wjhiyvitudkiznsvnqat whose incense rises to God – whose sceptre I hold – whose angel carries it into the presence of God – who is in me – who is above as is below in this realm.

I had received the Black lion onto my heart while with Romeo as we visited the Divine Mercy Chapel in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The smell of frankincense, rose, and myrrh filled my senses. The lion jumped into my heart head first – The Lion from the Tribe of Judah, the Root Jesse –  and then it turned itself around, sat upright with its two paws firmly in the front and peered outward from my heart with its green eyes – as it watches the world. He is still there and I see him every day. A sleek black lion – perhaps female – or a young male with a small mane… muscular and strong – unmovable. Yet we are priests in the order of Melchizedek… Enoch from Old – the priest who is eternal and present at the Fall and Creation of this world. God exhorts us in Heb 7:1-3, 15-17:

Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High, met Abraham as he returned from his defeat of the kings and blessed him. And Abraham apportioned to him a tenth of everything. His name first means righteous king, and he was also “king of Salem,” that is, king of peace. Without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life, thus made to resemble the Son of God, he remains a priest forever. It is even more obvious if another priest is raised up after the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become so, not by a law expressed in a commandment concerning physical descent but by the power of a life that cannot be destroyed. For it is testified: You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 110:1, 2, 3, 4

R. (4b) You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.

The LORD said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand

till I make your enemies your footstool.”

R. You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.

The scepter of your power the LORD will stretch forth from Zion:

“Rule in the midst of your enemies.”

R. You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.

“Yours is princely power in the day of your birth, in holy splendor;

before the daystar, like the dew, I have begotten you.”

R. You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.

The LORD has sworn, and he will not repent:

“You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”

R. You are a priest for ever, in the line of Melchizedek.

God is clear. God does not speak in metaphors.

Virtues or Strongholds

These angels are those through which signs and miracles are made in the world.[9]

The term appears to be linked to the attribute “might”, from the Greek root dynamis (pl. dynameis) in Ephesians 1:21, which is also translated as “Virtue” or “Power”. They are presented as the celestial Choir “Virtues”, in the Summa Theologica.

From Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite‘s De Coelesti Hierarchia:

“The name of the holy Virtues signifies a certain powerful and unshakable virility welling forth into all their Godlike energies; not being weak and feeble for any reception of the divine Illuminations granted to it; mounting upwards in fullness of power to an assimilation with God; never falling away from the Divine Life through its own weakness, but ascending unwaveringly to the superessential Virtue which is the Source of virtue: fashioning itself, as far as it may, in virtue; perfectly turned towards the Source of virtue, and flowing forth providentially to those below it, abundantly filling them with virtue.”[10]

Powers or Authorities

The “Powers” (lat. potestas (f), pl. potestates), or “Authorities”, from the Greek exousiai, pl. of exousia (see Greek root in Eph 3:10).[9] The primary duty of the “Powers” is to supervise the movements of the heavenly bodies in order to ensure that the cosmos remains in order.[ciBeing warrior angels, they also oppose evil spirits, especially those that make use of the matter in the universe, and often cast evil spirits to detention places. These angels are usually represented as soldiers wearing full armor and helmet, and also having defensive and offensive weapons such as shields and spears or chains respectively.

The Powers are the bearers of conscience and the keepers of history. They are also the warrior angels created to be completely loyal to God. Some believe that no Power has ever fallen from grace, but another theory states that Satan was the Chief of the Powers before he Fell (see also Ephesians 6:12). Their duty is to oversee the distribution of power among humankind, hence their name.

Paul used the term rule and authority in Ephesians 1:21,[11] and rulers and authorities in Ephesians 3:10.[12] He may have been referring to the rulers and authorities of humanity, instead of referring to angels.

Third Sphere

Angels who function as heavenly guides, protectors, and messengers to human beings.

Principalities or Rulers

The “Principalities” (Latin: principati) also translated as “Princedoms” and “Rulers”, from the Greek archai, pl. of archē (see Greek root in Eph 3:10), are the angels that guide and protect nations, or groups of peoples, and institutions such as the Church. The Principalities preside over the bands of angels and charge them with fulfilling the divine ministry. There are some who administer and some who assist.[9]

The Principalities are shown wearing a crown and carrying a sceptre. Their duty also is said to be to carry out the orders given to them by the upper sphere angels and bequeath blessings to the material world. Their task is to oversee groups of people. They are the educators and guardians of the realm of earth. Like beings related to the world of the germinal ideas, they are said to inspire living things to many things such as art or science.[13]

Paul used the term rule and authority in Ephesians 1:21,[11] and rulers and authorities in Ephesians 3:10.[12]


 The word “archangel” comes from the Greek ἀρχάγγελος (archangelos), meaning chief angel, a translation of the Hebrew רב־מלאך (rav-mal’ákh)[14] It derives from the Greek archein, meaning to be first in rank or power; and angelos which means messenger or envoy. The word is only used twice in the New Testament: 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Jude 1:9. Only the Archangel Michael is mentioned by name in the New Testament.

In most Christian traditions Gabriel is also considered an archangel, but there is no direct literal support for this assumption. It is also worth noting that the term ‘archangel’ appears only in the singular, never plural, and only in specific reference to Michael.

The name of the archangel Raphael appears only in the Book of Tobit (Tobias). Tobit is considered Deuterocanonical by Roman Catholics (both Eastern and Western Rites), Eastern Orthodox Christians, and Anglicans. The Book of Tobit is not, however, acknowledged by most Protestant denominations, such as Reformed Christians or Baptists. Raphael said to Tobias that he was “one of the seven who stand before the Lord”, and it is generally believed that Michael and Gabriel are two of the other six.

A fourth Archangel is Uriel whose name literally means “Light of God.” Uriel’s name is the only one not mentioned in the New King James Version Bible, but plays; however, a prominent role in an apocryphon read by Anglican and Russian Orthodox Christians: The second Book of Esdras (fourth Books of Esdras in the Latin Vulgate). In the book he unveils seven prophecies to the prophet Ezra, after whom the book is named. He also plays a role in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, which is considered canonical by both the Ethiopian Orthodox and Eritrean Orthodox Church.

Another possible interpretation of the seven archangels is that these seven are the seven spirits of God that stand before the throne described in the Book of Enoch, and in the Book of Revelation.[15]

The Seven Archangels are said to be the guardian angels of nations and countries, and are concerned with the issues and events surrounding these, including politics, military matters, commerce and trade: e.g. Archangel Michael is traditionally seen as the protector of Israel and of the ecclesia (Gr. root ekklesia from the New Testament passages), theologically equated as the Church, the forerunner of the spiritual New Israel.

It is possible to make a distinction between archangel (with a lower-case a) and Archangel (with an uppercase A). The former can denote the second-lowest choir (arch-angels in the sense of being just above the lowest Choir of angels that is called only “angels”) but the latter may denote the highest of all the angels (i.e., Arch-angels in the sense of being above all angels, of any Choir. The seven highest Seraphim, Michael, being the highest of all).


The “angels” or malakhim, i.e. the “plain” angels (ἄγγελοι, pl. of ἄγγελος, angelos, i.e. messenger or envoy), are the lowest order of the angels, and the most recognized. They are the ones most concerned with the affairs of living things. Within the category of the angels, there are many different kinds, with different functions. The angels are sent as messengers to humanity. Personal guardian angels come from this class.

Personal Guardian Angels: Hephzibah is Chiara’s Guardian Angel

Personal guardian angels are not of a separate order but rather come from the order of Angels. It is a common belief that they are assigned to every human being, Christian or not.[16] It is unknown whether they guard multiple humans during their existence or just one, but the latter is a more typical opinion. [17]

“Hephzibah” is found twice in the Old Testament, 2 Kings 21:1 and Isaiah 62:4. Translated from the original Hebrew, Hephzibah literally means, “My delight is in her.” In 2 Kings 21:1, Hephzibah is the name of King Hezekiah’s wife. The name Hephzibah or Hafzbah expresses a very clear idea. Since the same root hafz means “guarding” or “taking care of,” all words from this root suggest the idea of “safeguarding,” and therefore the name Hephzibah means not only someone who evokes delight, but also “one who is guarded,” a “protected one.” The more enigmatic use of the term can be found in Isaiah 62:1-5

1 About Zion I will not be silent, about Jerusalem I shall not rest until saving justice dawns for her like a bright light and her salvation like a blazing torch.

2 The nations will then see your saving justice, and all kings your glory, and you will be called a new name which Yahweh’s mouth will reveal.

3 You will be a crown of splendour in Yahweh’s hand, a princely diadem in the hand of your God.

4 No more will you be known as ‘Forsaken’ or your country be known as ‘Desolation’; instead, you will be called “Hephzibah”, ‘My Delight is in her’ and your country ‘The Wedded’; for Yahweh will take delight in you and your country will have its wedding.

5 Like a young man marrying a virgin, your rebuilder will wed you, and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so will your God rejoice in you.

Choirs in Medieval Theology

The angelic choirs circling the abode of God, from Dante‘s Paradiso, illustrated by Gustave Doré.

During the Middle Ages, many schemes were proposed, some drawing on and expanding on Pseudo-Dionysius, others suggesting completely different classifications (some authors limited the number of Choirs to seven). Several other hierarchies were proposed, some in nearly inverted order. Some of those schemes are here presented:

  • Clement of Rome in Apostolic Constitutions (1st century):
    • 1. Seraphim, 2. Cherubim, 3. Aeons, 4. Hosts, 5. Powers (=Virtues, Greek dynameis), 6. Authorities, 7. Principalities, 8. Dominions, 9. Thrones, 10. Archangels, 11. Angels.
  • St. Ambrose in Apologia Prophet David, 5 (4th century):
    • 1. Seraphim, 2. Cherubim, 3. Dominations, 4. Thrones, 5. Principalities, 6. Potentates (or Powers), 7. Virtues, 8. Archangels, 9. Angels.
  • St. Jerome (4th century):
    • 1. Seraphim, 2. Cherubim, 3. Powers, 4. Dominions (Dominations), 5. Thrones, 6. Archangels, 7. Angels.
  • Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in De Coelesti Hierarchia (ca. 5th century):
    • First sphere: 1. Seraphim, 2. Cherubim, 3. Thrones;
    • Second sphere: 4. Dominations (also translated as Lordships), 5. Virtues (also trans. as Powers), 6. Powers (also trans. as Authorities);
    • Third sphere: 7. Principalities, 8. Archangels, 9. Angels.
  • St. Gregory the Great in Homilia (6th century)
    • 1. Seraphim, 2. Cherubim, 3. Thrones, 4. Dominations, 5. Principalities, 6. Powers, 7. Virtues, 8. Archangels, 9. Angels.
  • St. Isidore of Seville in Etymologiae (7th century):
    • 1. Seraphim, 2. Cherubim, 3. Thrones, 4. Dominations, 5. Principalities, 6. Powers, 7. Virtues, 8. Archangels, 9. Angels.
  • John of Damascus in De Fide Orthodoxa (8th century):
    • 1. Seraphim, 2. Cherubim, 3. Thrones, 4. Dominions, 5. Powers (=Virtues), 6. Authorities, 7. Rulers (=Principalities), 8. Archangels, 9. Angels.
  • St. Hildegard of Bingen in Scivias [18] (1098–1179):
    • 1. Seraphim, Cherubim;
    • 2. Thrones, Dominations, Principalities, Powers and Virtues;
    • 3. Archangels and Angels.
  • St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica (1225–1274):
    • 1. Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones;
    • 2. Dominations, Virtues, and Powers;
    • 3. Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.
  • Dante Alighieri in The Divine Comedy (1308–1321)
    • 1. Seraphim, 2. Cherubim, 3. Thrones, 4. Dominations, 5. Virtues, 6. Powers, 7. Principalities, 8. Archangels, 9. Angels.

Individual angels and demons from the choirs

  • Seraphim: In John Milton’s Paradise Lost Satan and the Archangels belong to this choir (“archangel” has here the meaning of “most powerful angel”, not the members of the second lowest choir). Beelzebuth is also addressed as prince of the seraphim in witchcraft litanies.[19]
  • Cherubim: In Paradise Lost, Beelzebub and Azazel were cherubim before their fall. St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica states that Satan belongs to this choir, not to the seraphim.
  • Thrones: Paradise Lost cites the demons Adramelec and Asmodai. Some sources mention Astaroth as well.[19][20]
  • Virtues: Witchcraft litanies mention Belial.[19]
  • Archangels: The archangels Gabriel, Raphael and Michael, and supposedly the other archangels as well, are usually assigned to this choir, for example in the hierarchies of St. Gregory and St. Isidore of Seville.

Beside these, extensive lists of angels and demons belonging to all the choirs can be found in The Lemegeton and The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses.

See also


  1. Jump up
    ^ Chase, Steven (2002). Angelic spirituality. p. 264. ISBN 978-0-8091-3948-4.
  2. Jump up
    ^ McInerny, Ralph M. (1998). Selected writings of Thomas Aquinas. p. 841. ISBN 978-0-14-043632-7.
  3. Jump up
    ^ “Strong’s H8314 – Saraph”. Blue Letter Bible. Retrieved 2015-04-01.
  4. ^ Jump up to:
    a b “Genesis 3 – NET Bible”. Bible.org. Retrieved 2007-03-13.
  5. ^ Jump up to:
    a b “Ezekiel 10 – NET Bible”. Bible.org. Retrieved 2008-11-10.
  6. Jump up
    ^ “Ezekiel 10 – NET Bible”. Bible.org. Retrieved 2007-03-13.
  7. Jump up
    ^ “1 Kings 6 – NET Bible”. Bible.org. Retrieved 2007-03-13.
  8. Jump up
    ^ “SUMMA THEOLOGICA: The malice of the angels with regard to sin (Prima Pars, Q. 63)”. Newadvent.org. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
  9. ^ Jump up to:
    a b c Isidore of Seville: Etymologies
  10. Jump up
    ^ “Dionysius the Areopagite: Celestial Hierarchy”. Esoteric.msu.edu. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
  11. ^ Jump up to:
    a b “NET BibleŽ – Ephesians 1”. Bible.org. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
  12. ^ Jump up to:
    a b “NET BibleŽ – Ephesians 3”. Bible.org. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
  13. Jump up
    ^ King James Bible “Authorized Version”, (Cambridge ed.). Cambridge Edition. pp. Ephesian 6:10.
  14. Jump up
    ^ Strong, J, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Riverside Books and Bible House, Iowa Falls (Iowa), ISBN 0-917006-01-1.
  15. Jump up
    ^ Revelation 1:5.
  16. Jump up
    ^ “CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Guardian Angels”. http://www.newadvent.org. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  17. Jump up
    ^ Online, Catholic. “Who are our Guardian Angels? – Angels – Saints & Angels – Catholic Online”. http://www.catholic.org. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
  18. Jump up
    ^ Mother Columba Hart, Bishop, Jane , Newman Barbara (1990) Hildegard of Bingen: Scivias (Classics of Western Spirituality) U.S.A.:Paulist Press. Vision Six, page 139f. Amazon.com
  19. ^ Jump up to:
    a b c Jules Garinet: Historie de la Magie en France (1818)
  20. Jump up
    ^ Sebastian Michaelis: The Admirable History of the Possession and Conversion of a Penitent Woman


Further reading

Christian angelic hierarchy

First Sphere

Second Sphere

Third Sphere


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