Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ikonostasis - Eικονοστάσις

Click an ikon to zoom full size.

This blog, Ikonostasis, is simply another repository of Orthodox ikons on the web, which I hope will be used by my Christian brethren in their online or printed publications.

The core of the collection is the more than 700 ikons that I have collected from the weekly bulletins of Aghía Triás church over the course of over twenty years that I have been worshipping there. I saved them for personal use and to give away as part of my personal witness, but I've always wanted to scan them, edit them, and make them available on line. Now, finally, here they are! Most of the images are from that collection of bulletin covers, but I have also added other ikons that I either personally own or have access to.

The best book on ikons and ikonography is not, as many would think, a beautifully produced picture book of ikons in color. The best book on ikons is the Holy Bible, as that is where a great many ikons originate and, in fact, ikons are the Word of God in visual form, and their writing is under extremely tight discipline. The ikon cannot depict anything that is not written in the Bible, except of course, for those ikons which depict events and persons after the Bible was written.

The next best book on ikons is The Painter's Manual of Dionysius of Fourna. Anyone who is serious about ikons should get a copy of this book. It not only gives you technical instructions on the materials, but also explicitly teaches you what to put in the ikons, what can be depicted, and how. It also instructs on how the ikons are to be configured in a house of worship, and many other things.

The ikons are organized in groups by subjects, and the blog is searchable using the little search window in the upper left of the screen. Each ikon is shown in small format. To download an ikon, first left-click on the small format in order to expand it to full size. Then, when the full size opens, right-click on it and choose "Save Picture As", and specify where you want to save it. Once downloaded, you can edit it and use it in your own publications.

Some of the images are actually non-ikons because, though they are religious pictures, they are not technically ikons, as defined by Photios Kontoglou, the modern proponent of authentic ikonography.

Ikons are the heritage of all Christians, all followers of Jesus. They are, or can be, something more than mere art—in fact, within the Orthodox Church it is explicitly denied that they are primarily an art form, but affirmed to be a work of prayer—but they are never to be considered objects of worship. When the Orthodox venerate an ikon by any bodily gesture, it is not the wood and paint of the image, but the event or person depicted in the image that we are venerating.

In the case of an ikon of Christ or of the Holy Trinity, we attest our worship the One True God by venerating the ikon. In the case of an ikon of any saint (Mary, the Birthgiver of God is rarely shown alone in an ikon) we attest our belief in the living presence of the saints who in the flesh have fallen asleep (reposed, died) and are now with the Lord. In the case of an ikon of an event, we attest our belief in the reality and historical validity of what is depicted, and especially our belief that it manifests an act of God.

Many have been converted to true faith in the living Christ by contemplating an ikon—I am speaking now of both Orthodox and non-Orthodox, as well as non-Christians. I do not understand the operation, but I do know from experience that ikons can have this effect on people. They have this effect on me. Through their supernatural beauty they can draw our souls away from the transient and illusory beauties of this world, and place us before the One whose Beauty is without end and the Source of all true Beauty, the Lord.

What else can I say? Well, forgive me, brethren, for the poverty and incompleteness of my efforts, but still I hope that you will find this small work of mine useful in your life and witness. And please be patient, as I upload and create this ikon library: it won't be built in a day.

To God be the glory! Δόξα τω Θεώ!

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