The Sacred Meaning of the Russian Icons
The Russian icons spread immediately after the adoption of Christianity in 988. Each temple and monastery had its own miraculous or revered images of Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, and the saints. Since their appearance, these holy pieces of religious art have been tending to be the windows into the sacred world, undetectable to the human eye. For believers, it is the Kingdom of Heaven where the Lord, the Mother of God, and the saints dwell.
Within first centuries of Christianity, the Russian icons were often understood as the “books for the illiterate.” The fact is that not all believers could read books, especially theological ones, but the icons taught them the main Christian dogmas and told about the central events of the Old and New Testaments through symbols and images.
Russian icon art is distinguished by the reverse perspective technique that creates an illusion that the depicted world of saints, striking in its cosmic scale, is in front of the audience.
The icons, meeting a person at the entrance to the church, have to prepare the Christian soul for the beginning of the praying, to “switch” its spirituality. They are a somewhat bridge between God and a person, where divine grace is manifested through the holy image.
One of the important Christian virtues for all believers is the memory of God. According to the thought of the Holy Fathers, a Christian should live in awareness of the constant presence of God. Both the iconostasis in the temple and the holy corner in the house serve to believers as an everlasting reminder of God and His saints.
The Russian iconostasis is a symbol of the world of saints and angels – the Kingdom of Heaven that is inaccessible to believers. This world is a place and state of mind they are striving for. Along with that, from a physical point of view, the Russian iconostasis is a screen where icons are placed, separating the sanctuary from the main part of a church or temple.
Historically, the Russian icons have passed a thorny path that was no easier than the path of the saints they depict. The icons of Russia have survived the ruining times of early Christian iconoclasm and the Russian Revolution cultural disaster of the 20th century. They are now carefully preserved in churches, museums, and private collections, still looking so amazing that they take your breath away.
For centuries, the Russian icons have been a real help for the Russian people. In the most difficult moments in history, they did not let people lose heart, reminding them of unity. Now, the icon is a true phenomenon reborn to show its great miraculous power again.