Week 5 ~Hannah

During the Byzantine era and when Christianity was still relatively new, images of Jesus and the saints were used for remembrance and to place context into worship. During the 8thand 9thcenturies, iconoclasts destroyed some of these images because they believed it was a form of idol worship. This has influences to today’s Christianity. Today, I would say Christian art is very symbolic with many depictions of Biblical scenes. We rarely have icons in the church and it is even rarer to have icons in your home. If you are a non-denominational Christian, then you may not even have seen an icon let alone use it in your worship. With this time period of the iconoclasts, art in Christian history became less important. I think Christian art is still relevant and important, but I think it lost some of its significance after this period. Those who are not Orthodox or Lutheran may not understand icons. I was fortunate to have an Orthodox on my trip to Israel and Jordan and I loved hearing about her beliefs and the importance of icons in her own life. They do not believe that those icons should be worship, rather, they believe that they are a symbol of the saints or Jesus and is a way that they can sense the presence of them. Being around her really shifted my perspective on Christian art and its importance.

The resolution in 843 AD allowed for the creation and use of images and icons. I think there is a sense of freedom in this decision that they were able to draw, paint, etc. whatever they chose to. Just like in America we have freedom of speech, they received freedom of art and worship. I think this is important to art-making today. Almost every religion has an artistic outlet and I think it is important to see the beauty in an art that may not be about something we believe in. We have the freedom to create, and that is the beauty of art.

Image Source

I love the Christian Byzantine era and its art. I was fortunate to see many mosaics and icons from this era as I was traveling in Israel and Jordan. The piece that caught my attention was an icon of Peter. Saint Peterwas found on Mount Sinai in Egypt in the Church of Saint Catherine’s monastery. It was painted in the 6thor 7thc. and resides in the monastery when it is not being show at different museums. This icon was painted with beeswax mixed with different dyes to get its color. It is 36.6 in x 20.9 in and depicts Saint Peter in the middle holding a staff shaped like a cross. Above him are three people who are smaller than the size of Peter’s head. They are St. Menas, Jesus, and Mary. Each figure has a halo around them depicting them as holy.

Image Source

The artist of this painting uses a blend of 2D and 3D to depict St. Peter. Peter himself is 3D but the halo around him is flat. There is an added depth to the image because of the buildings and their shape. The contrast between these two dimensions brings the focus to the halo around Peter’s face. This is really emphasizing his importance and holiness. The artist also uses white to clothe Peter. This could mean purity and innocence. The colors around Peter are blues, red, and browns. All of the colors around him are muted so that he stands out from them. The halos of all of the figures are yellow to show emphasis.

The artist uses every inch of space that is on the panel. Peter takes up ¾ of the panel with his shoulders going from one side to the other. The artist also uses the space at the top to show important saints and Jesus above Peter. There is also movement in the way that Peter’s garb is wrapped with the use of lines and shading. This adds texture in his clothes. There is also texture in his beard and hair. The use of straight and circular lines adds a feeling of texture to his hair.

It is hard to tell because of the wear of the icon, but the images above Peter seem less realistic and naturalistic than Peter himself. Peter was painted naturalistically with a creased forehead and realistic eyes. His hair looks very real with the texture and color as well as the colors of his skin. This painting depicts an important figure in Christian history and I think it is quite stunning to look at. Peter has always been one of my favorite Bible characters because of his tenacity, yet fear and acceptance of his humanity.


Saint Peter, Church of Saint Catherine’s monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt, 6th or 7th Century.

MonasteryIcons. (2008, May 21). WordPress. Retrieved from The Icons of the Monastery of St. Catherine of Sinai: https://monasteryicons.wordpress.com/2008/05/21/the-icons-of-the-monastery-of-st-catherine-of-sinai/


7 thoughts on “Week 5 ~Hannah”

  1. I like the connection you made from the resolution in 843 A.D. to modern day America where they were granted freedom just like we are here! It’s amazing that the painting you analyzed was made with beeswax. The texture is incredible! The colors used complement each other very nicely and highlight Peter’s figure, like you said. It’s cool how there are three smaller circles at the top and one large circle below them, making a triangular shape with Peter’s head at the point. Great post !!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Melia! The texture really is amazing and how they used the colors is incredible. I am always blown away by early and ancient historical art!


  2. I enjoyed reading your blog post. I like how you mentioned the background of iconoclasts. I researched about the difference between Greek and Roman art, so it was helpful to read about it. It is very true that icons are not really used today. I agree that Christian art has lost some of its importance. That is so cool that you were able to learn about this topic from someone who has personal experience with it. That is so cool that you were able to see some of the mosaics and icons from the Byzantine era! I have always wanted to go to Israel and/or Jordan. I love the piece you mentioned in your post. It is beautiful. You analyzed the piece very well. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Do you think maybe that instead of icons disappearing in somewhere like a nondenominational church, that they might have developed into something else? I know art has transforned more towards the art of speaking for pastors in those kinds of churches. I also often hear people praising the message or sermon, or even getting frustrated because a pastor didn’t “take it deeper” when the individual could honestly go and take it deeper in their own personal growth with God. Do you think maybe the icons have shifted towards leadership and sermons?


    1. That’s a really great question! I think it is possible that icons have shifted to a different creative outlet, but I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I think sermons and leadership are shifting and becoming really growth-filled but I also think the loss of art could be bad or good.


  4. I like that you talked about your friend who has a real connection to icons and their actual use. So much stigma arises from simply not knowing or understanding what something is actually about. Also, I think you are right about Christian art becoming less significant in the modern era, and I was wondering what you think the reasons for that are? Honestly I think that art in general is not nearly as prominent as it once was. A lot of other things have taken its place in the minds of everyday folk. It’d be interesting to get your take.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a really great question. I think part of it has to do with the business of our society. We are a society that is always on the move and we often don’t have time to admire or even create art.


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