Part of the series on
Eastern Christianity
00058 christ pantocrator mosaic hagia sophia 656x800.jpg

History
Byzantine Empire
Crusades
Ecumenical council
Great Schism

Traditions
Assyrian Church of the East
Oriental Orthodoxy
Syriac Christianity
Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Rite Catholics

Liturgy and Worship
Divine Liturgy - Eastern Rite
Iconography

Theology
Apophaticism - Filioque clause
Miaphysitism - Monophysitism
Nestorianism - Panentheism
Theosis

This box: view  talk  edit

Iconography (from Greek εικονογραφία) refers to the making and liturgical use of icons, pictorial representations of Biblical scenes from the life of Jesus Christ, historical events in the life of the Church, and portraits of the saints. Icons are usually two-dimensional images and may be made of paint, mosaic, embroidery, weaving, carving, engraving, or other methods.

Images have always been a vital part of the Church, but their place was the subject of the Iconoclast Controversy in the 8th and 9th centuries, especially in the East. The Sunday of Orthodoxy, the first Sunday of the Great Fast (Lent) every year celebrates the reestablishment of the Orthodox veneration of icons. The use of iconography is considered one of the most distinctive elements of the Byzantine rite.

Theology

History

Restoration of the Icons

Luke the Evangelist painting Vladimirskaya icon of Our Lady

"Written" or "painted"?

The most literal translation of the word εικονογραφία (eikonographia) is "image writing," leading many English-speaking Orthodox Christians to insist that icons are not "painted" but rather "written." From there, further explanations are given that icons are to be understood in a manner similar to Holy Scripture—that is, they are not simply artistic compositions but rather are witnesses to the truth the way Scripture is. Far from being imaginitive creations of the iconographer, they are more like scribal copies of the Bible.

While the explanation of the purpose and nature of icons is certainly true and consistent with the Church's Holy Tradition, there is a linguistic problem with the insistence on the word written rather than painted. In Greek, a painted portrait of anyone is also a 'γραφή' (graphi), and the art of painting itself is called ζωγραφιά (zographia). Ancient Greek literally uses the same root word to refer to the making of portraits and the making of icons, but distinguishes whether it is "painting from life" 'ζωγραφιά' or "painting icons" 'εικονογραφία'. Thus, from a linguistic point of view, either all paintings—whether icons or simple portraits—are "written" or (more likely) "painted" is a perfectly usable English translation, simply making a distinction between the painting appropriate for icons and that appropriate for other kinds of painting, just as Greek does.

See also

Published works

General information

This article is a stub. You can help Christian Knowledgebase Wiki by expanding it.
Orthodox-wiki.png This page uses content from OrthodoxWiki. The original article was at Iconography. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with the Christianity Knowledge Base, the text of OrthodoxWiki is available under the CC-BY-SA.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.