St Nicholas icon

Iconography Analysis: Lesser-Known Facts About St Nicholas Icon

The image of Saint Nicholas is larger than life. He is among the most recognized and revered saints in Eastern Orthodox Christianity. It is no wonder that icons depicting the saint are considered the most numerous after icons of Christ Pantocrator and icons of the Mother of God. Moreover, many people are genuinely interested in the personality of the bishop of Myra. There are many stories, myths, and legends attributed to his name. The iconography of the saint is no less interesting. Below one can find some lesser-known facts that will tell more about the peculiarities of St Nicholas icon.

Iconography analysis: lesser-known facts about St Nicholas icon

The status of the saint influenced the characteristics of his icons.

Many Christians know the saint for his nickname, which is Nicholas the Wonderworker. According to one of the legends, he helped many people restore justice and was responsible for numerous miracles. With time, holy icons with his image also became wonderworking. As of today, St Nicholas icon can be found in the home iconostasis of almost every Christian family.

Saint Nicholas icons are a distinct type of religious icon.

As mentioned before, the number of religious icons of Saint Nicholas is so great that they have long become a distinct type of icons in the world of iconography. Most of the time, you see the saint depicted alone. He can be shown bust-length, shoulder-length, or full-length. Apart from that, there are hagiographical icons of Saint Nicholas, depicting different periods of life of the saint.

St Nicholas icon had an impact on many cultures.

As it is known, the saint once laid the foundation for the emergence of Santa Claus and different modern Christian feasts. What is worth mentioning is that the sacred icons of Saint Nicholas were vital for exploring the real historical figure from the past. There were not so many paintings of the bishop, though.

There is a debate about Nicholas’ skin color.

Over the last decade, Nicholas’ skin color has become a matter of historical, iconographic, and political debate. Just so people know, one study once showed that the saint was likely to have brown, not white, skin. When it comes to iconography, icon painters depict him both ways.

The phenomenon around St Nicholas icon is indeed common and complex. It is one of those examples when iconography as a craft goes beyond the boundaries of religious art and becomes a notion of both historical and cultural value.