The Orthodox Art/Ministry of Icons

icon from St. Petersburg

CC BY 2.5, Link

STYLIZED RELIGIOUS PAINTINGS, such as this one of Christ, are still a significant part of the Eastern Orthodox faith that Prince Vladimir adopted as his kingdom’s official religion c. 988. They are numerous in modern Orthodox Churches. But to the Orthodox they are far more than mere paintings.

In their eyes, icons are a ministry, to the heart as much as to the eyes. They not only see them as works of beauty, and thus carefully preserve and venerate them; they also see the beauty of the icons as turning the believer’s thoughts to the beauty of God. Additionally, they view them as teaching tools and reminders, providing believers with visual aids to help them learn and remember biblical and church history events, as well as the characters and their virtues.

Iconography is definitely not a free-form genre that allows the artists to paint their subjects any way they will. Rather, icons are produced according to strict, widely held standards, by artists who must train for years, learning meticulously the established parameters of what icons can look like. And the painting must be preceded by times of fasting and prayer in preparation for this spiritual work. For more on icons, see the article in this issue, “What is Orthodoxy Anyway?”

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #18 in 1988]

Next articles

The Primary Source of the Millennium Legends/Historical Events

Read for yourself the chief accounts upon which the millennium celebration is based; while these much—loved chronicles admittedly contain a good bit of legend, they are still the best history we have.

Nestor the Monk and the Editors

The Soviet Union Celebrates 1000 Years of Christianity

Why, all of a sudden, would an officially atheistic confederation of republics like the USSR choose to celebrate, in full pomp and grandeur, a thousand years of Christianity on its soil?

Ihor G. Kutash

What is Eastern Orthodoxy Anyway?

It’s being much-mentioned and much-lauded during all the millennial celebrations, but what, really, is this “Christian” faith that’s so unfamiliar to most Western Protestants? Here’s an introduction.

Alexander Melnyk

The History of Russian Christianity: Christian History Timeline

Chronology of Russian church history.

the Editors
Show more

Subscribe to magazine

Subscription to Christian History magazine is on a donation basis

Subscribe

Support us

Christian History Institute (CHI) is a non-profit Pennsylvania corporation founded in 1982. Your donations support the continuation of this ministry

Donate

Subscribe to daily emails

Containing today’s events, devotional, quote and stories