Christ Pantocrator mosaic from Hagia Sophia

Orthodox Christian Icons and Their Types

As you know, Orthodox Christian icons are visual representations of God, the Mother of God, the saints, and other religious figures or various scenes from the Bible. They can be traced to the third century when Christian believers painted images or ‘icons’ of Jesus and the Apostles on the walls of the Roman ancient underground cemeteries. This unique form of religious art later spread to Greece and eventually to Kievan Rus’ in 988, when Prince Vladimir the Great chose Byzantine Christianity as the religion for his people.

Today, people use Orthodox Christian icons to focus their attention on God in prayer, to illustrate various historical events and church feasts, to decorate their places of worship, etc. Moreover, being so-called ‘windows into heaven,’ holy icons can be found not only in Orthodox churches but also in many private homes. There are actually several types of religious icon paintings that can be used for different purposes:

Theological icons

These Orthodox Christian icons teach people our history and theology. They are a great means to tell the stories of Scripture and describe the lives of the saints, not to mention a variety of symbols used by iconographers to convey the theological truths. From the lighting and scenery to the stances of the people and colors, Orthodox icons teach who God is, and who we are in relation to Him.

Domestic icons

As it has been already said, religious icons can be found not only in churches but also in private homes of Orthodox Christian believers. People hang them on the wall or place them on the special shelves in the most visible place in the house to create a beautiful icon corner so that it could bind the whole family in common prayer. Furthermore, many Orthodox Christian believers also carry small religious icon paintings on journeys as protection.

Processional icons

Some Orthodox Christian icons – especially icons of Christ and the Mother of God – are created portable to be carried in different processions. This tradition dates back to the times when Byzantine emperors took religious icons, embroidered on cloth or painted on wood, on military campaigns as part of the army’s defensive arsenal. No wonder, such icons appear in many narratives of historical texts.

Calendar icons

Calendar icons are truly unique pieces of religious icon art. Also known as the Menaion or Menologia icons, they depict the feast days and the saints for every month of the Orthodox year in chronological order, starting from the 1st of September. Each of them is a true masterpiece of miniature painting that can be additionally used as a universal Orthodox calendar, which makes such hand-painted icons extremely popular among both, Christian believers and art collectors.

Browse our unique collection of antique Orthodox Christian icons to learn more about these amazing creations. Moreover, each item presented in our online religious icons store is available for sale. Have any questions? Do not hesitate to press the “Ask a question” button for more detailed information!