Feast of the Archangels

James C. Hamilton

Archangel Raphael and Young Tobias
Scott C16-C17 (1948)

The three archangels are jointly commemorated on 29 September, a feast also known as Michaelmas. Originally, this date was reserved for the Feast of Saint Michael, but was later changed to include the three major archangels.

The names assigned to the three reflect the tasks assigned by God:

Raphael means 'God has healed', as in the healing of Tobit and freeing his future daughter in law from a demon (Tob 5:4 to 12:22, esp. 12:14). The stamps at the top of the article, issued in 1948, depict Raphael and Tobias (as well as Tobias' dog).

Archangel Gabriel: Airmail Stamps
Left: Annunciation, Scott C24 (1956)
Right: Scott C53 (1968)

Gabriel means “God is my strength.” He is God’s messenger to the Virgin Mary that she would become the Mother of God (Lk 1: 26-35). He also told Zechariah of John the Baptist’s birth (LK 1:18-23). Gabriel is depicted on many Vatican City stamps, two of which are illustrated above. He is often commemorated as the patron of messengers (such as his messages to the Virgin Mary or Zechariah). He is also the patron of stamp collectors and postal, radio and telecommunications workers.

Archangel Michael (lower left figure)
From Michelangelo's 'Last Judgment', Scott C62 (1976)

Michael means 'Who is like God?' and leads angels against Satan and other demons by thrusting them out of Heaven (Rev 12:7-9). In the Book of Daniel, Michael is the special protector of Israel (Dan 10:13ff and 12:1). He is often depicted slaying a dragon. Although not specifically identified on any Vatican City stamps, in the stamp above Saint Michael is the figure on the stamp below the angel with a trumpet, reading from a book of souls to be saved.

A prayer to St. Michael, which is often recited at the conclusion of Mass, was composed by Pope Leo XIII:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our strength against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into Hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

The great shrine, Mont San Michel in Normandy, was founded in the 9th and 10th centuries to commemorate a vision of the saint at that location. At the top of the Mount is a Norman/Romanesque/Gothic Benedictine Abbey. Although crowded by visitors during the day, the site continues to function as a monastery, with its tidal flat daily flooded by alluvial waters cutting the location off from the mainland.


Farmer, David, Oxford Dictionary of Saints

Beutner, Dawn Marie, Saints: Becoming an Image of Christ Every Day of the Year

Vatican Philatelic Society website, www.vaticanstamps.org, Stamp Database Search