Iconography in the Greek Orthodox Church
Iconostasis, or icon screen, is a prominent display of colorful and distinctive figures, which surround the walls of the Orthodox Greek Church. “Theology in color” is how icons have been described, and their purpose is to create a visual appreciation of the teachings of Gospels, writings of the Church and the hymnology of the Church to theologians, regardless of language.
There are many roles of the icon, which are described as follows:
- To portray and maintain the truths of Orthodox Christianity;
- To teach the lessons of the Orthodox Faith;
- To depict symbolism of the Liturgical Services;
- To serve as a guide of Christian living through the virtues of those portrayed; and
- To be a catalyst in worshiping God and venerate his saints.
Each icon was developed by the fourth century maintaining the importance of the preservation of theological truths. Contemporary iconographers continually use these prototypes.
The details of the body and human features are important in iconography in order to portray reality as transformed by Grace. For example, the body and features of saints is elongated, and skin tones are ocher rather than pink to emphasis an inner light, and halos surround the head to emphasize spirituality.
Today, iconography can be enjoyed in art exhibits across the country including such museums as the Art Institute of Chicago and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Icons are described as “Windows to Heaven” and honor the legacy and importance of the Greek Orthodox Faith. Read more about the importance of icons in ECCLESIA: Greek Orthodox Churches of the Chicago Metropolis by Panos Fiorentinos.