They adorn the top of many a Christmas tree.
In Raphael’s 16th-century Sistine Madonna painting, they are depicted as two pudgy cherubs – with wings, of course.
And in the inescapable holiday film It’s a Wonderful Life, “every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.”
But this week, a leading Catholic Church “angeologist” tried to put an end to the angel-with-wings business – an imagery that has been reinforced, as he explained, by New Age movements where depictions of angels with wings is common.
Angels do not have wings – nor do they look like cherubs, Rev. Renzo Lavatori told Agence France-Presse at a conference in Rome.
“You do not see angels so much as feel their presence,” he said.
“They are a bit like sunlight that refracts on you through a crystal vase,” he added.
A 2008 Ipsos Reid poll found that 67 per cent of Canadians believed in angels. Sixteen per cent of those surveyed believed that angels looked a lot like human beings and had wings.
In the United States, the belief in angels is even higher. A 2011 Associated Press-GfK poll showed that nearly 80 per cent of those surveyed believed in angels.