Holy Apostles in Orthodox Icons. Part II
In our previous article, we wrote about the main features that can help you recognize Holy Apostles depicted in Eastern Orthodox Church icons. Here we are bringing some more useful information on this topic.
St. James, Son of Zebedee
St. James, a son of Zebedee and Salome, is also called James the Great or James the Greater to distinguish him from St. James, son of Alphaeus. He was the brother of St. John and the first Apostle to be martyred. For this reason, in Christian religious icons of saints, he is always depicted as a young man with medium length brown hair and a short beard. Although James the Greater is not always recognizable by sight, you can identify him standing next to the curly-haired Peter and young John in the Orthodox icon of the Transfiguration.
St. Thomas is also called Didymus meaning “the twin” or “Doubting Thomas” because he doubted about the resurrection of Jesus Christ when first told. In famous religious icons of saints, he is usually depicted as a young beardless man, as if alluding to the fact that his initial doubts were caused by his youthfulness. Besides, in Eastern Orthodox icons, St. Thomas can be shown with the scroll, which denotes his rank of Apostle, or with his “My Lord and my God” confession of faith in hands. By the way, it is the greatest confession of faith recorded anywhere in the Bible, as St. Thomas is the first Apostle to put into words that Jesus Christ is both Lord and God.
St. Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael or Nathaniel, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ who called him an “Israelite…incapable of deceit.” The appearance of this holy Apostle, which we see in famous religious icons, is based on dreams and visions of a number of people, to whom St. Bartholomew appeared after his martyrdom. Thus, Orthodox icons usually depict him as a middle-aged short haired and short bearded man with the scroll of an Apostle.
St. Andrew was the elder brother of St. Peter and a Christian Apostle known as the First-called. He is probably the most recognizable in religious icons Apostle thanks to his long, unkempt, white hair and beard. Such an appearance is actually caused by the fact that St. Andrew was formerly a disciple of St. John the Baptist. Holy icons of saints usually depict him as an old man holding a small scroll or the Gospel Book to identify him as a preacher.
In Eastern Orthodox Church icons, St. Matthew, who is also called Levi, usually holds a large Book that shows that he is one of the four Evangelists. Moreover, famous religious icons with Biblical scenes, as well as portrait icons of saints, depict him with close-cropped hair and a long white wavy beard. In addition, St. Matthew can also be shown with a winged man, the symbol of his Gospel.
Stay with us to learn more about the main distinguishing features of Holy Apostles that will help you recognize them in Orthodox icons!