Eastern Orthodox Art: Major Types & Characteristics
Art and religion are two concepts that have been closely linked throughout history. Eastern Orthodox art is a synthesis of various art forms that we will discuss in this blog post.
What is Orthodox art in general?
When a believer enters an Orthodox church, the first thing they see is its decoration and the religious icons hanging on the walls and composing the iconostasis. If one looks up, they observe the inner dome with frescoes or hand-painted biblical scenes. People are also mesmerized by the music that sounds in the church. These details form an essential part of the church liturgy and constitute unique Orthodox art. It has its canons, functions, and purposes, with the main one being the continuation of the liturgy.
Eastern Orthodox art: major types
Traditionally, Eastern Orthodox art is divided into the following types.
Architecture is an essential part of Orthodox art. The temple structure is strictly canonical. It has an altar, a nave, and the main part where the faithful are located. The central doors leading to the altar (there are three in total) are called the Holy Gates. In the center of the altar is the throne. The chanters are in the choirs, specially assigned areas to the left and right of the altar. The dome is also an important part of the temple architecture. They may vary from one to five or more (pictured above).
2. Icon painting
It is known that icons play a vital role in the Orthodox tradition. The Eastern Orthodox art of icon painting is a deeply spiritual process. It aims at creating religious images to connect with the heavenly world. Icons of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Trinity, and various saints are highly revered by Orthodox Christians.
Frescoes are called wall icons, which also have canons. Usually, in the inner part of the dome is a fresco of Christ Almighty, and on the walls of the temple are key scenes from the Bible: the Nativity of Christ, Baptism of Jesus, Resurrection of the Lord, and other episodes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary.
Church music and chanting are filled with spirituality and blessing. Listening to the voices of the singers, the believer can immerse themselves in prayer and reflection on the meaning of human existence on earth.
Eastern Orthodox art is a part of church liturgy and has an important function of connecting the believer to the spiritual world.