Apostles in icons

How to Recognize the Holy Apostles in Icons?

Orthodox icons of the Holy Apostles are highly revered Christian relics. Like all religious icons, they do not depict the figures of the saints in a realistic way. They focus on the spirituality of the saint’s image rather than on the natural facial features, clothing, scenery, etc. Therefore, it is sometimes challenging to recognize a particular saint without their attributes. The Holy Apostles are often portrayed in icons with specific features. In this blog post, we will discuss these features in more detail.

Who are the Holy Apostles?

The word “apostle” in Greek means “messenger.” According to Christian tradition, Jesus had twelve of His closest disciples, who were His followers. They became known as Apostles because they preached the word of God and followed Christ.

How to recognize the Holy Apostles in icons?

There are many icons of the Holy Apostles, depicting each one separately or all together. So, how to recognize the Apostles in icons? You should consider the following.

St. Peter is the leader of the Twelve Apostles. He has gray curly hair and usually holds a scroll.

St. John has a long beard and a high forehead. His attributes are an open gospel and an eagle.

St. Matthew is depicted with a wavy beard and cropped hair, often holding the Gospel. Sometimes, angels can be seen near him.

St. Andrew, formerly a disciple of John the Baptist, has long ungroomed hair and a scroll in his hand.

St. Bartholomew is usually depicted as a middle-aged man. He has short hair and a beard. Like almost all the Apostles in icons, he holds a scroll.

St. Simon has gray curly hair and a high forehead. He is often depicted with a saw, an instrument of his martyrdom.

St. Thomas, who is also known as “Doubting Thomas,” is often portrayed as a young man or even a teenager.

St. James, Son of Zebedee, has brown hair and a beard. He died a martyr’s death before he reached old age.

St. Judas is a mature man with a brown beard.

St. James Alphaeus has a sharp beard and wavy hair. He is dressed in the vestments of a bishop.

St. Philip is always depicted as a beardless young man.

St. Matthew, the one who replaced Judas Iscariot, is depicted as an elderly man.

Now you know how to recognize the Holy Apostles in icons. Do not miss our new blog posts to learn more about religious icons!