Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Icons of the Mother of God

June 18th, 2010, Promulgated by Bernie

I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the basic types of icons of the Theotokos (“God Bearer” or Mother of God) for the purpose of perhaps enhancing our enjoyment of viewing icon images and even leading some of us into meditation or prayer.

The term icon makes us think of the painted images used in worship by the Eastern Orthodox Church and, of course, the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches. These are panel paintings traditionally painted with melted wax and pigment, but other painting media can also be used. The support is a wood panel or panels, but, once again, other supports can be used including stretched canvas and wall fresco.

The term icon actually means any image, a much broader definition. So, even though the examples of the Mother of God we will see in this series fit the narrower definition of a panel painting in the Eastern/Byzantine style, there are parallel iconic images in Western art.

We’ll avoid for now any further discussion of icons –there is much to know—and simply concentrate on the categorical meanings of the poses and depictions of the Virgin and Child and their origin.

In this post we’ll merely view without comment an example from each of the categories and, in subsequent days, we’ll dwell on each one separately.

Click on the images for larger, sharper displays


Book Suggestion: Icons by Robin Cormack (Harvard University Press, 2007)

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8 Responses to “Icons of the Mother of God”

  1. Michael Zappe says:

    While encaustic (wax + pigment) is the oldest technique of iconography, what we consider traditional iconography now is really egg tempera.

  2. Bernie says:

    Michael Zappe,
    Yes, thank you for that clarification.

  3. Christopher says:

    I was at a Ukrainian Orthodox church today for a funeral for my good friend. It was a very beautiful service and they really did have a lot of this type of artwork in the church. The service was very reverent and very different than Roman mass.

    Where can I purchase artwork like this? Does anyone know of any good stores out there?

  4. Bernie says:

    I have used this online site quite often:

  5. benanderson says:

    Christopher, so sorry to hear about your friend.

    Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
    And let perpetual light shine upon him.

    May he rest in peace.

    May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed,
    through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


  6. RochChaCha says:

    This post made me think about a debate between Tim Staples and Steve Greggs I just finished listening to. Steve Greggs issue he had with the Catholic church was with how we refer to the blessed mother as Mother of God. The protestant preferred to call her Mother of the God Man. Foolish, I know,but the post title triggered the thought.

  7. Christopher says:

    I was studying some of Robert Sungenis work today over at the Bellarmine Theological Forum and came across this. Bernie you may be especially interested in this.

  8. Bernie says:

    Thank you very much for the link!

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