The Importance of Religious Icons in Christian Faith

saint john baptist


Religious Icons play a particularly important role in the Christian Faith. The transcend, elaborate hagiographic images are described as a "window into the Kingdom of God". Religious icons are found both in churches, as an integral part of the expression of faith, and privately in homes. The icon for the faithful Orthodox Christian is a form of prayer and a "means" of prayer. Most of the pictures usually depict subjects from the life of Christ, from the life of his Mother Mary and from scenes from the Bible or from the lives of the Saints.

Religious icons for the Orthodox Faith is an integral part of the tradition of our Church from its foundation until today, with icons being perhaps the most characteristic feature of our churches. In the early years of the spread of Christianity, depictions of the saints, their stories, Jesus and the Virgin Mary were very limited, mainly in frescoes - famous among the catacombs under Rome due to the impending persecutions. The forms and representations that the icons or murals depicted were based on oral information that was passed on from mouth to mouth, among the faithful, while the first image is attributed to the Evangelist Luke and depicts the Virgin Mary.

The recognition of Christianity by the emperor of the Greco-Roman state Great Constantine marked the beginning of the "decoration" of churches with icons, which until then had been limited to private use only.

The Icons are the subject of controversy

The icons became the subject of a theological and political controversy that plagued the Byzantine Empire in the 8th century and the first half of the 9th century. Dividing believers into worshippers of the icons (Iconophiles) and fighters of images (Iconoclasts). The excesses of the expression of the two tendencies led to intense and bitter disputes between the two sides, which ended in 842 with the actions of Theodora, empress of Byzantium, wife of Theophilus, who restored the icons in churches and monasteries and brought about the final end of Iconoclasm. The Iconoclasts could not understand that the image does not reveal the nature of what it depicts but its face and not its "divine" essence. For the Orthodox Christian, the image does not "reveal" the face, but becomes the medium, the bridge, of the believer with the Divine. The Orthodox Christian does not worship the image, he worships it, he "greets" it with his attitude and through it he comes into a spiritual relationship with the content of his faith. According to Saint John the Damascene, the icon forms us, opens up avenues of knowledge and "narrates" through the faces or scenes that depict the "life" of the church.

Back to blog