Icon of Christ Emmanuel

Orthodox Icon of Christ Emmanuel

Christ icons are the most revered shrines in Orthodox Christianity. The tradition tends to depict Jesus Christ at the age of preaching when He was about 30 years old. However, the icon of Christ Emmanuel represents the image of the young Savior, referring to Isaiah’s prophecy of the birth of the child whom they would name Emmanuel. The name is of Hebrew origin and means “God is with us.” The iconography of this type is controversial but still highly popular in Russia and other Orthodox countries. 

The description of the Orthodox icon of Christ Emmanuel

Images of Christ Emmanuel first appeared around the 6th century in the form of the mosaics in the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. This theme was also used in Byzantine and Balkan religious art, but a bit later – in the 14th century. However, it was in the 12th century in Russia that the iconography of Emmanuel received the greatest recognition.

The young Jesus is usually depicted dressed in a golden himation and chiton, sometimes with a scroll in His hand. Christ’s face expresses wisdom and severity. His forehead is high and wide, His hair is thick and wavy, and His gaze is serious. The icon of Christ Emmanuel shows that even in His infancy, the Savior was already filled with divinity combined with His human beginning. Following the Orthodox tradition, He is often depicted with mature facial features. However, there are also images of Christ Emmanuel with childlike features. Such icons are mainly inspired by Western painting. 

In Russian religious icons, Christ Emmanuel is most often depicted in a shoulder-length form. Sometimes, He appears between the Archangels. One such icon dating to the 12th century is now in the collection of the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. It should also be noted that small icons of Christ Emmanuel, which began to appear in the 16th century, are particularly popular today. 

Icon of Christ Emmanuel with Archangels

The meaning of the Christ Emmanuel icon

The image of Christ Emmanuel indicates that Jesus Christ is the Messiah of whom the prophecy was spoken. We see the fusion of two natures: divine and human. Some doctrines reject the truth of Christ’s duality, claiming that He was not human. The icon of Christ Emmanuel proves otherwise and clearly shows that Christ lived and grew up as an ordinary man.

Icons of Jesus Christ are the greatest shrines of the Orthodox Christian Church and are revered by all believers.