St Basil the Great Icon: Facts and Iconography

St Basil the Great Icon: Facts and Iconography

St Basil the Great icon is one of the most revered Orthodox icons in Russia. For centuries, people have been asking the saint for help and protection, turning to him in moment of need. So, who was this saint, and why is he highly venerated by Christian believers?

The life of Saint Basil began in 330. He came from a pious, noble, and wealthy family. According to some sources, his grandmother on the father’s side was the mentor of Gregory the Miracle-Worker, and his grandfather on the father’s side was a devoted Christian.

Saint Basil’s mother, Emelia, was very righteous. Together with his grandmother, they instilled a love for Christ in the boy at a young age. Basil was also well educated thanks to his father, a very intelligent man. He studied at Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he met Gregory the Theologian, and later continued his education in Constantinople.

St Basil the Great Icon: Facts and IconographySaint Basil worked as a lawyer, but at some point, he decided to dedicate his life to traveling, which eventually led him to become an ascetic monk. The future saint devoted much time to prayers, studying the Scripture, and charity, leading a secluded life of fasting and abstinence. In 370, Basil was appointed the Bishop of Caesarea. The last years of his life were dedicated to helping people, building hospitals, and protecting the poor and sick, who loved him for his decency and compassion. The righteous Basil died before he was even fifty years old. The deep love of believers for him resulted in the appearance of St Basil the Great icon that is now highly venerated around the world.

St Basil the Great icon: Iconography

The most common type of St Basil the Great icon depicts the holy teacher wearing a light phelónion. In his left hand, the saint holds the Gospel, and with his right hand, he makes a blessing gesture. The Orthodox icon of this type is often used to decorate the altar. In Russian icons, St Basil can also be depicted holding the infant Jesus Christ or bowing in prayer, with an open scroll in his hand.

It is interesting that the image of St Basil the Great is often found on the 16th-century monuments created during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. Other notable finds belong to the 17th century. During that period, Basil the Great was depicted with other saints, usually with Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, and sometimes Paraskeva of the Balkans.