Traditional Orthodox Icons


Written by
Khourieh Randa Al Khoury Azar

– All our icons are hand written with prayer.
– They are written according to an ancient technique that is still used in monasteries.
– The technique includes using egg tempera with natural pigments and genuine gold leaves for the background.
– We mainly use  hard wood and cover it with cotton linen cloth and twelve layers of natural gesso, which is prepared from rabbit skin glue and ultra fine marble dust, and then sanded to be soft to a certain degree.
– The brushes are so soft and from natural hair to provide smooth strokes. When the icon is ready it is varnished with Olifa oil, which is a natural oil varnish that hardens with time. Icons can be varnished with some other types of professional varnish also.

Things to consider on ordering an icon

– You are welcome to order any icon you like.
– Your choice of icons is not limited to the ones available on this web site.
– The writing time of a new icon depends on its size and on the number of faces depicted.
– The price the icon depends on its size, the type of wood, the gold technique chosen, its theme and the number of faces depicted.

Prophet King David Icon
A prayer before starting to write an icon:

O Divine Master of all that exists, enlighten and direct the soul, the heart and the mind of your servant: Guide my hands so that I might portray worthily and perfectly Your Image, that of Your Holy Mother and of all the Saints, for the glory, the joy, and the beautification of Your Holy Church. (Quenot, p.13)

The purpose of the holy icons according to St. John of  Damascus.

BYZANTINE ICONOGRAPHY is a sacred art. It is an art that is spiritual in essence and aims. 

St. John Damascene in his defense calls attention to the functions of the icons and to the purposes they serve in the spiritual life of Orthodox Christians. He cites seven functions:

Saint John Of Damascus Icon

The seven functions of the icons:

(1) Icons are means of honoring God, His Saints, and His holy Angels.

The first function of honoring God, His Saints, and holy Angels, is evident in the remark, made by Saint Basil and often repeated in Damascene’s three discourses, that “the honor that is given to the icon passes on to its prototype. The very fact that Damascene espouses this view and upholds the veneration of icons makes it plain that he recognizes and duly emphasizes this function.

(2) They serve as means of instructing in matters of the Christian Faith, of the teaching of the Church.

 He also emphasizes the function icons serve of instructing in the Christian Faith, in the teaching of the Church. Icons, he says, are like books (bibloi). “What the book is to the literate,” he remarks characteristically, “icons are to the illiterate (agråmmatoi), and what speech (lögos) is to hearing, that the icon is to sight.” 
Books and speech teach by means of words, while icons teach by means of forms and colors. Again, commenting on a passage from Saint Basil, he says, “Icons are books of the illiterate, the never-silent heralds of the honor that is due to holy personages. They teach those who see them with a soundless voice.” Later, he quotes a statement of Bishop Leontios of Neapolis, Cyprus, on the didactic function of icons. Leontios says, “Icons are books which lie open conspicuously in the church.” And still later Damascene speaks of the icon as “a hymn of triumph (thriambos) in memory of the victory of those who have excelled (spiritually) and shone.”

(3) They remind us of this teaching.

Closely related to the didactic function of icons is that of reminding us of what they teach us. We all have the tendency to forget this teaching, as our mind shifts its attention to worldly concerns. Like a book which at all times lies open —according to the felicitous analogy of Bishop Leontios of Neapolis— an icon reminds us of things spiritual. It does this quickly, being, as Damascene says, a concise memorial (hypomnesis).
The function of reminding is not limited to the illiterate: it extends to the literate as well. The following passage from Saint Gregory of Nyssa, quoted by Damascene, illustrates this vividly. Speaking of his experience of seeing icons depicting the Sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham, Saint Gregory says the following: “I have often seen the sacrifice depicted on an icon and never went past the sight without shedding tears, for the art of painting vividly brings the story to the mind.” 

(4) They lift us to the prototypes, to the holy personages whom they depict, to a higher level of thought and feeling.

The fourth purpose of icons, that of lifting us up to the prototypes, may be termed their anagogic function (from anagoge, “a leading upward”). Damascene quotes a passage from Saint Dionysios the Areopagite in which a cognate word appears, and comments on it.
The passage states that “by sensible icons (aisthetais eikosi) we are led upward (anagometha) as far as possible, to divine contemplations (theias theorias).
Icons lift our soul from the material to the spiritual realm, from a lower level of being, thought, and feeling, to a higher level. This ascent has as its most noticeable accompaniment spiritual joy.
Damascene, emphasizes this. Thus, he says, “I enter into the common place of therapy (iatreion) of souls, the church, choked by thoughts as by thorns. The blossom of the paintings attracts me to gaze at it, and as a meadow delights my sight and imperceptibly instills into my soul the glorification of God.” Again he says, “People rejoice with spiritual joy (euphrosyne pneumatiké) by the mere remembrance of the righteous, and are led on to zeal and imitation of their good deeds.”

(5) They promote virtue and the avoidance of vice, by arousing us to imitate these holy personages.

The last remark makes evident the powerful influence which holy icons exercise as incitements to virtue. The contemplation of icons arouses us to imitate zealously the good acts and virtues of the holy personages depicted on them, and thus to become ourselves holy. Thus, Damascene remarks that icons are made for the purpose of “glorifying God and His Saints, and for arousing zeal for virtue and the avoidance of vice, and for the salvation of souls.”

(6) They are conducive to our sanctification.

Sanctification (hagiasmos) is a sixth purpose of icons. Saint John remarks that the icons of Christ and of His Saints “are filled with the Holy Spirit.”  As regards the Saints, he asserts that during their life on earth, they were filled with the Holy Spirit, and when they died the grace of the Holy Spirit remained in their souls, their bodies in the graves, and their icons.
From this it follows that in venerating icons devoutly we become ourselves to some degree partakers of Divine grace. He says this explicitly in speaking of icons of Christ. “Through icons done by painters,” he says, we contemplate the likeness of Christ’s bodily form, His miracles, and His sufferings, and are sanctified (hagiazometha).”

(7) They enhance the beauty of churches.

A seventh function which holy icons serve, noted by Saint John Damascene, is that of enhancing the adornment (kallopismos) of the church building. Thus, he asserts that it is good to adorn (kosmésai) all the walls of the house of God with paintings that depict the forms and likenesses of holy personages. In order to fulfill this function properly and effectively, icons must be expressive of spiritual beauty—the beauty of holiness, the inner beauty of holy personages—rather than physical beauty.
Also they must be skillfullly done, must be works of true art. Cognizance of this is evident in Damascene’s discourses on icons. His emphasis on spiritual beauty in the decoration of churches is evident particularly when he plays down the mural decoration which the Prophet-king Solomon made in the temple that he built. He had depicted here, besides Cherubim, such things as lions and oxen, palm and pomegranate trees.
Much more worthy than these things for decorating a church arc, he emphasizes, representations of Christ and Saints.
Cognizance of the need of iconography (eikonographia) to be skillfully done is evidenced by Damascene’s speaking of it as ornamentation, and by his comparison of a church adorned with icons to “a meadow that delights the sight” of the beholder. In defending the use and veneration of holy icons, he had in mind particularly icons of the highly stylized, eminently spiritual art works of Byzantine iconography.

(Ref. Guide to Byzantine Iconography, Constantine Cavarnos)

References to these functions are scattered in Damascene’s three discourses.

You can find via this link the complete three discourses of his defense:
Apologia of St. John of Damascus Against Those Who Decry Holy Images