Orthodox iconography

The History of Orthodox Iconography

Orthodox icons are of great religious, cultural, and historical value. For believers, these shrines serve as objects through which they can turn to certain saints, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ. Everyone knows that Orthodox iconography originated a long time ago. But who first created icons and why? Keep reading to find out all the answers. 

The history of Orthodox iconography 

Icon made by Jesus Christ

According to some church accounts, the first icon was created by Jesus Christ Himself during His lifetime. As the story goes, when the fame of the great miracles of Jesus Christ was spreading throughout Syria, the ruler of the Syrian city of Edessa fell ill with leprosy. He had never met the Savior, but he believed and prayed to Him. Once he wrote a letter to Christ asking to heal him. The ruler sent his court painter to Jesus who was in Palestine at the time to deliver the letter and draw His image. But the messenger was unable to reproduce the image of Christ who was always surrounded by a great number of people. Jesus summoned the painter to Him and asked to bring a towel and some water. He wiped His face with the towel, and His divine image remained there. Through prayers with this “icon” of Christ, the governor of Edessa began to heal. It was the first icon ever created. 

Icons painted by the Apostle Luke

Orthodox iconography is of such importance largely due to the Apostle Luke. The saint painted numerous icons of the Mother of God, including the first Hodegetria icon and icons of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. 

Icons in the Old Testament

In the Old Testament, one can find a reference to the painting of temple doors and walls with images of cherubim. This ancient tradition has been preserved to this day. It is also worth noting that if there was a prohibition against religious images in those days, the Old Testament would not have described a temple with paintings of cherubim. 

Icons by unknown artists

Many antique Orthodox icons were created by unknown iconographers. One of them is the icon of St. George, which, according to the legend, appeared in a temple after several monks asked God to show them the true patron saint of their church. 

Orthodox iconography has a rich history and occupies an important place in Christianity. It is a whole sacred world with many interesting stories that are just waiting to be heard.