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Mosaic Apse Icons of the Most Holy Mother of God

January 20th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie

Perhaps you remember our series on the categories or types of Mother of God icons? Below is an example each of the Mother of God Hodegetria type, and Kyriotissa type. I have been very fortunate to have visited both locations and I can’t help but mention how profound it is to stand in such old and venerable churches even though often –as is the case with the first one– the churches are no longer used for Mass or the Divine Liturgy.

The first picture is of the Cathedral Church (late 12th c.) on the Island of Torcello in the Venetian Lagoon. Torcello was the first island settled in what was to become the Republic of Venice. It is now, for the most part, deserted. The second picture is of the apse in the church of the Greek Orthodox monastery of Hosios Lukas (11th c.). The church is still part of an active monastery in Greece.

The Torcello apse mosaic is a Hodegetria type image of Mary (She who knows–-or shows– the way) holding the Child Jesus, presenting Him to us. The second is a Kyriotissa type (an enthroned Mother and Child), depicts Mary as the greatest among men because of her status as Theotokos (God bearer). The image is a sort of short-hand for the doctrine of the Incarnation. Both apses are Eastern or Byzantine in style.

I have always been attracted to the Eastern or Byzantine style of icons and church decorative ‘programs’ because they are so clearly dogmatic as well as mystical. Orthodoxy -right thinking/belief or right praying/practice- is of primary importance in the creation of the Byzantine images and how they are arranged in the churches. There is so much variety in the art in Western churches, especially art created with a strong sense of individual artistic expression, that what is believed can sometimes be hard to determine.

(Click on pictures for a larger image)

Cathedral on the Island of Torcello, Venetian Lagoon

'Hodegetria with The Apostles' in the cathedral on the Island of Torcello, Venetian Lagoon

'Kyriotissa' image in the apse and 'Pentecost' image in the dome. Church at the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Hosios Lukas, Greece

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Picture sources:

Torcello Cathedral and Church at Hosios Lukas

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