What is an icon?
An icon is a holy image of an event or individual.
Icons are made of wood or metal and sometimes decorated with gems and embroidery. Most icons are painted on wood and can be small enough to sit on a shelf or as large as a full grown adult! The larger icons are often hung in cathedrals.
The images are sacred scenes or people, but the icons are not venerated in and of themselves. Rather, they are abstract “windows” to the divine for us to ponder.
Icons are also painted on eggs or egg-shapes made out of materials like papier mâché and ceramic. Eggs are symbolic of the renewal of life and seen in the spring to celebrate Easter, the time when Christians celebrate the risen Christ after His crucifixion.
Fast fact: Many members of the Russian and Greek Royal families are devout Orthodox believers.
Creating an icon
The artistic style and application of the colors adhere to a specific set of standards within the Orthodox church. It is a multi-step process that follows the ancient traditions of painting icons with a paste called gesso, egg tempera, pigments crushed with a mortar and pestle, and the delicate application of gold leaf. The completed icon is then sealed with linseed oil. Today, icon artists use acrylic paint in order to recreate the painting style of ancient times.
The Orthodox Church
The Orthodox faith from the Byzantine era continues to this day. It is a deeply embedded part of the cultures of Greece, Russia, and Eastern Europe.
Like the Catholic church, the Orthodox church focuses on rites and tradition. They have a head of their faith much like the Pope, known as the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch. The ecumenical patriarch is recognized as a successor to the Apostle Andrew (Andreas).
Royal families throughout history such as the Russian Romanovs and the former royal family of Greece (Hellenes) practice the Orthodox faith.