AxiosOrthodoxal news and traditionsWhy did icons emerge in the Christianity?

Why did icons emerge in the Christianity?

Icons that have become one of the symbols of Christianity, especially Orthodoxy, have not appeared in the Church at once. The Christian iconography itself developed over time, absorbing the cultural sentiments of society and new techniques of drawing. So why did icons emerge in the Christianity? Why is it important for Orthodox Christians to have their presence in the temples? We will find answers to these and many other questions in our material.


Scripture does not contain direct indications of obligatory worshiping to icons for Christians. However, the Church Tradition gives us some stories related to the veneration of images. The first of these is the legend of the Miraculous Image: the face of the Lord Jesus Christ miraculously printed on a towel that was given to heal the governor Avgar to the city of Edessa. The second is the tradition according to which, the apostle Luke wrote the first icon of the Virgin, which she blessed herself. In the early centuries of Christianity, images were not widespread, but not because of any religious, but for practical reasons. Christians were often persecuted, and therefore forced to change places for worship. Even private houses, in which community gatherings were conducted, tried not to allocate in a special way in order not to cause persecution.


An exception to this state of affairs was the Roman catacombs, where Christians gathered often and could feel safe. It is here that we see the first examples of Christian painting: frescoes "Good Shepherd", "Christ: Alpha and Omega" and others. Christians wanted to express their faith and prayer status not only through prayers and chants, but also in art. This was the impetus for the development of the first iconographic images, which differed in the naturalistic, brightness of colors and symbolism of the stories.


This style in icon painting prevailed after the establishment of Christianity as a state religion in the Roman Empire, and during the first Ecumenical Councils. Icon painters of that time used the ancient technique of encaustics and tried to find a special style of painting that would allow the viewer to convey the theological meaning of Christianity. Already at that time, the first features of the icon-painting canon began to be formalized. In 590, the Trull council forbade the depiction of Christ symbolically (as a lamb or otherwise), but only as God-man. Unfortunately, until this time there are a few icons of this period, since most of them were destroyed during the iconoclastic persecution of the empire.


The movement against icons stopped the development of iconography for more than a century. However, the rebuilding of the icon-decapitation of the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787 and the discipleship of the theology received from the years of the debate turned out to be useful factors for a new stage in icon painting. From now on, the icon is not just an image to which believers give respectful worship. The icon now also has a religious meaning, reflects the dogmas of the Church for the common people. This mission changes the very style of icon painting: it becomes more frozen, two-dimensional and very symbolic. There is a special icon-painting canon or rules how to draw icons correctly. The lands of the Byzantine Empire and Southern Italy become the centers of icon painting. Moreover, if the religious painting of the Renaissance subsequently displaced the Italian school, then in Byzantium, iconography evolved within the canons of the genre, although receiving some influence from the side of society.




In Kievan Rus, the first icon painters from the Slavs began to appear already in the XII century. These were famous masters-monks - holy Alipius and Grigory Pechersky. Gradually, by the XIII century, almost every major city had its own icon painting school. Old Rus isographs followed the canons and at the same time, they added local colors to the images. This is manifested in Rus icons in the features of the person of Christ or the Virgin, the general style of the design of the image. Further, the iconography in the Ukrainian lands continued to develop in its original way. An example of this are the icons of the XIII-XIV centuries preserved in the temples of Western Ukraine, as well as the later icons of the Cossacks time, which absorbed many elements of the Cossack or Ukrainian baroque.


In the XXI century, icon painting is not worth the place, just like any other art. Modern icon painters try to comprehend the canons of the genre in a new way, to apply them in a new sense, close to modern world. After all, the desire to express our faith in the paints remains with us. It will always be relevant to the Christians of the new millennium as well as it was during the first centuries of Christianity.


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