RUTR 274/374

Professor David Herman

Russian Orthodoxy Discussion


Central to Russian Orthodoxy and culture is the icon. The word "icon" derives from the Greek "eikon" and means an image, any image or representation. Most Russian icons are painted on wood.

The first Christian images appeared around the third century. When Christians sought to promote their religion, they borrowed much of the pagan art of the Roman Empire. In 313 when Christianity became the official religion of the Byzantine Empire, the iconography was developing rapidly and becoming a well established part of Orthodoxy.





One of the aims of iconography is to allow the viewer of the art to look beyond this world, in an understanding that in Orthodoxy it is not the natural world we live in that is important, but the spiritual world that is worthy of reflection. Thus icons become more than a reminder of the spiritual world and indeed become a link or window from this world to the next.

It is for this reason that the icon paintings to not look natural. They are not supposed to. "Christian Orthodox art the beautiful is not determined by the natural form of the objects, but by its sublime content, that is, by its power to serve the ideals of the faith."