Traditional Orthodox Iconography
What is Iconography?
Following are some quotes from Fathers of the Church as well as
iconographers about iconography. Also include are several links for some
excellent sites if you would like to further your education about icons.
"The icon is a song of triumph, and a revelation, and an enduring
monument to the victory of the saints and the disgrace of the demons"
St. John of Damascus
"Byzantine Art begins where ordinary art ends. The divinely inspired art
of iconography is simple and profound, as are all things in Orthodoxy,
because they spring from the Gospels. An icon conveys theological
meanings through mystical colors and forms"
"The ecclesiastical art of the Orthodox Church does not strive to
delight our senses, but rather to sanctify our senses by offering us the
same holy nourishment which we partake of during our holy services. This
nourishment cones to us through hymnology, iconography, architecture,
and even the art of the sacred utensils, vestments and every other
man-made object in the temple. All these, with their reverent and elevating
character work together for the purpose of lifting the souls of the faithful
to praise and thanksgiving, but not in the aesthetic manner which the
secular arts serve. It is, rather, accomplished in n entirely different manner,
a manner which is spiritual in itself"
"We see that an icon must indeed depict that which we se with our eyes,
preserving the characteristics of the body's form, for in this world the soul
acts through the body; yet at the same time it must point toward the inner,
spiritual essence. The task of the Iconographer is precisely to render, as
far as possible and to as great an extent as possible, those spiritual
qualities whereby the person depicted acquired the Kingdom of Heaven,
whereby he won an imperishable crown from the Lord, for the Church's
true significance is the salvation of man's soul."
St John Maximovitch
"Orthodox iconography is an expressionistic art form that seeks to
convey a profound life-experience that possesses the soul."
"If images represent the originals, they should call forth the same
reverence. Images are ever the likenesses of their originals."
St Cyril of Alexandria "
The Tradition of the Church is expressed not only though words, not
only through the actions and gestures used in worship, but also through
art- through the line and color of the Holy Icons. An icon is not simply a
religious picture designed to arouse appropriate emotions in the
beholder; it is one of the ways whereby God is revealed to us. Through
icons the Orthodox Christian receives a vision of the spiritual world.
Because the icon is part of Tradition, icon painters are not free to adapt
their own aesthetic sentiments, but the mind of the Church. Artistic
inspiration is not excluded, but it is exercised within certain prescribed
rules. It is important that icon painters should be good artists, but it is
even more important that they should be sincere Christians, living within
the spirit of Tradition, preparing themselves for their work by means of
Confession and Holy Communion."
Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia
"We decree with full precision and care that, like the figure of the
honored and life-giving cross, the revered and holy images, whether
painted or made of mosaic or of other suitable material, are to be
exposed in the holy churches of God, on sacred instruments and
vestments, on walls and panels, in houses and by public ways; these are the
images of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, and of Our Lady
without blemish, the holy God-bearer, and of the revered angels, and of
any of the saintly holy men." -
Second Council of Nicaea (Seventh Ecumenical Council) - 787 A.D.