Holy Apostles in Orthodox Icons. Part III
The Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ were the foundation stones of His church, not to mention that several of them even wrote the Gospels as Eyewitness Accounts. Therefore, it’s not surprising that Eastern Orthodox icons, depicting these heroes of the faith, are so popular among Christian believers and religious icon collectors. We have already written about how to recognize some of the Holy Apostles in hand-painted icons of saints, but let us provide you with more information that can help you with your search!
St. James Alphaeus
St. James Alphaeus, known as James the Younger, is usually depicted with a brown pointed beard and curly or wavy hair. As you know, there are several Jameses in Eastern Orthodox iconography. You are already acquainted with St. James the Great, son of Zebedee, so that you know how to distinguish them. However, in religious icons, St. James Alphaeus can be also confused with St. James Adelphos, who is sometimes called James the Just or Brother of Our Lord. The last one was the first Bishop or Patriarch of Jerusalem and, therefore, is usually shown in the robes of a Bishop.
Please do not confuse him with Judas Iscariot! St. Jude was the brother of St. James Alphaeus and one of the Twelve Apostles. He is also known as Lebbeus, Judas Thaddaeus, Jude of James, and even the Brother of the Lord. In Orthodox Christianity icons, St. Jude is shown as a mature man with curly brown or gray hair and beard. Besides, in some famous religious icons, he can hold a scroll with a quote from his own Biblical Epistle.
St. Phillip is famous for his warm heart, missionary instinct, and simple faith in the Lord. He was one of the first Apostles who recognized Jesus Christ as the Messiah and immediately responded to His call. Moreover, it is he that stressed the cross as a Christian sign. For these reasons, Eastern Orthodox icons depicting St. Phillip are among the most popular and beloved. The remarkable Apostle is usually shown as a beardless young man, sometimes holding a scroll.
Judas Iscariot, the traitor, is certainly not a saint, though he was one of the original Twelve Apostles and, therefore, is depicted in some famous religious icons. “The Last Supper” is one of them. In this antique icon, Judas Iscariot is shown as a dark-haired man with a beard, dipping his hand in the dish. However, in other Orthodox Christian icons, he is usually depicted as a beardless young man, like St. Thomas, St. Philip, or St. John. Besides, Judas Iscariot is never shown with a halo, even if all other Apostles are.
St. Matthias was chosen by the believers to replace Judas Iscariot following his betrayal of Jesus Christ and suicide. In Eastern Orthodox Church icons of saints, he is usually shown as a silver-haired elderly man. It is believed that long before becoming a disciple of Christ, St. Matthias was already a man of maturity so that he was probably the eldest one among the Twelve Apostles.
Here is the most important information that can help you recognize Holy Apostles in famous religious icons. However, don’t forget that there are always exceptions to every rule, so if you have any doubts, do not hesitate to call experts on Eastern Orthodox iconography!