The Deesis as an Important Part of Orthodox Christian Art

The Deesis as an Important Part of Orthodox Christian Art

Orthodox Christian art is a canonical but rather diverse cultural layer that includes icon painting, frescoes, religious architecture, and other types. It fascinates with its symbolic themes, visual techniques, and a variety of ways to represent biblical subjects using the material aspect of our being.

One of the strongest and most common images in Orthodox religious art is the iconography of Jesus Christ known as Deesis, which can be translated from the Greek as “prayer” or “intercession.” What does this type of Orthodox icons represent? And what meaning does it carry for the entire Christian world? Read about this and more in our blog post.

The iconography of the Deesis and its features

The composition of this important type of Christ icons was formed in the early Byzantine period. There are many variations of such icons, with different numbers of figures standing next to Jesus, but the most popular is the traditional three-figure image that evolved in the post-iconoclastic period.

The traditional Deesis icon shows Jesus Christ with the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. The image of Christ appears in the center of the icon. He is usually depicted enthroned, looking directly at the viewer. Christ holds an open Gospel in His one hand and blesses with the other. The Mother of God and John the Baptist are depicted on either side of the Savior, bending toward Him in a gesture of prayer.

The meaning of Orthodox Christian art and the Deesis

The meaning of the Deesis iconography, which is included in Orthodox Christian art, is an intercessory prayer for the entire human race. The Theotokos and John the Baptist, who were the first witnesses of the manifestation of the divine essence of Christ, act as intermediaries between men and the Heavenly Judge and pray for the salvation of sinful souls and the mercy of God. It is this meaning that the Deesis carries, making this iconographic theme incredibly important to the Orthodox world.

The belief in the sinless life and the salvation of the human soul at the Last Judgment is one of the key themes that Orthodox Christian art addresses. The Virgin Mary and John the Baptist symbolize the spiritual purity of mankind and the hope for the exaltation of good over evil in the soul of every believer.