Eastern Orthodox icon

Eastern Orthodox Icon: 5 Quick and Interesting Facts

It is well known that religious icons are of great value to every Orthodox Christian believer. An Eastern Orthodox icon is more than just a piece of art. Primarily, it serves to connect the praying person with the spiritual world and God. The flowering of the Russian icon painting tradition dates to the early 15th century, a time marked by the religious icon art by Andrei Rublev. In this blog post, we share 5 interesting facts about Orthodox icons you should know.

Eastern Orthodox icon: 5 quick and interesting facts

1. Icons are painted on wooden panels

Real icons are painted on special boards. These are usually sturdy wooden panels of linden or pine. The iconographer should thoroughly prepare them for painting. Strong linen cloth is put on top and soaked in special glue. It is also important to prepare the gesso that is applied over the fabric in ten layers. Finally, the elements of the composition are cut out with a needle and then painted.

2. Icons are part of a church iconostasis

An Eastern Orthodox icon is an integral part of the church iconostasis. The iconostasis is a large wall that separates the altar from the central part of the Orthodox Church. Usually, it features icons of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, and the patron saints of the church. The altar, along with the iconostasis, symbolizes the division between the spiritual and the earthly worlds.

3. The Christ Pantocrator is the oldest Christ image

The Christ Pantocrator from Saint Catherine’s Monastery is the oldest image of Jesus Christ survived to this day. It was created in the 6th-7th century and currently stands as one of the major religious icons in Christianity. The Christ Pantocrator has endured the period of iconoclasm, which proceeded from 726 till 787.

4. Hand gestures in icons are important symbols

Each hand gesture in icons is unique and carries significance for the interpretation of these shrines. For example, the most frequent gesture is the gesture of blessing, where the hand of Christ or a saint is raised to give a blessing to every Orthodox Christian.

5. Orthodox icons and Catholic icons are different

The main purpose of Orthodox icons is to guide the faithful in prayer and serve as a mediator between the earthly and the heavenly worlds. Catholic icons are rather illustrations that reveal biblical events and carry an aesthetic and teaching character.

An Eastern Orthodox icon is a valuable shrine that plays an important role in the Christian tradition. Keep reading our blog to learn other interesting facts about religious icons.