Greek Orthodox iconography

A Short Guide to Greek Orthodox Iconography

Orthodox icons have been recognized all over the world. They are highly revered by believers, as they both reveal the sacred meaning of Christian dogma and open the door to the spiritual world. Greek Orthodox iconography is one of the oldest in the world, so it is worth knowing some facts about its history and main features.

Greek Orthodox iconography: brief history

The heyday of Greek iconography came in the 2nd century B.C. This period was marked by great Byzantine influence. Numerous valuable religious monuments were created at the time. Unfortunately, most of them were destroyed, as Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire. Islam used to forbid any religious images, so a large number of Greek iconographers fled the country.

Many ancient Greek icons were created on the Crete. As the legend says, about 240 iconographers moved there. They revived the lost Greek icon painting tradition, copying ancient icons and creating new ones.

The largest center of the Greek Orthodox iconography continues to be Mount Athos. The relics created here are characterized by the strong influence of the Byzantine canons and features.

Greek icons and their features

As noted earlier, Greek Orthodox iconography has adopted Byzantine traditions. One of its most important features is the absence of naturalism in depicting the saints’ images. Like Russian antique icons, the main purpose of Greek icons is to show the spiritual world rather than the material one. Each part in the composition has its meaning and is subject to strict religious canons.

As for the color palette in Greek iconography, there are some similarities with the Russian icon style as well. The background is gold, and the figures are painted using dark and saturated colors. However, unlike Russian iconographers, Greeks prefer to mix colors and apply different shades when painting the saints’ clothing and facial features. Attributes of the saints and other elements are presented following the rules of Orthodox iconography.

Many Greek icons are considered wonderworking. They are often displayed in Orthodox churches and prayed with for health, prosperity, and the strengthening of faith. Greek Orthodox iconography of the Theotokos is of great value, for example, the Iveron icon of the Mother of God and the Three-Handed Mother of God.

Hopefully, this short guide will help you learn more about Greek religious iconography and its history. Do not miss our new blog posts to explore the world of Orthodox icons!