Icons are of great importance, particularly in the Orthodox Christian Church. These beautiful and elaborate paintings are described as "windows into the kingdom of God", their primary purpose being to enable a face-to-face encounter with a holy person or make present a sacred event. Narrative icons are images corresponding to the written Bible, portrait icons reveal symbols and information about the virtues that we try to remember in the holy person being depicted.
Icons are painted in a way that is designed to be timeless - those who 'write' icons must follow strict Canon rule, ensuring the image remains constant and consistent, enabling all who see it to instantly recognise the person being depicted, or the story being told.
The icons below were generously donated to St Nicholas' Church:
The Virgin Mary was donated by Barbara Harding in memory of her Mother.
The Resurrection, St Nicholas and St Katherine were donated by the Thoupos Family, in memory of Neophytos and Kaliopi Thoupos.
A Guide to the Icons can be purchased from St Nicholas' for a cost of £1.50.
The Virgin Mary and her Child
The tradition of the Orthodox Church maintains that the first iconographer was the evangelist Luke, and that the first icon he painted under divine inspiration was of the Mother of God holding the Christ-child.
Mary is shown wearing a veil typical of Jewish women of the period, which also reveals to us her humility and piety. The veil is red, the colour of divinity, whilst the clothes under the veil are blue, the colour of humanity. Also upon her veil are three stars, which represent her eternal virginity.
On this icon, Mary looks directly at us, yet with her hand she directs us to the Infant she is holding. That Infant is identified to us as Jesus Christ (abbreviated as IC XC).
Above her head are the letters “MP OY”, an abbreviation of the Greek: “Mater Theos” – the Mother of God.
On close examination of this icon, you will notice that the infant Christ has a sandal hanging from his foot - this is an Orthodox way of pointing to the child's real humanity and dependence on his Mother in the early years of his life.
A prayer to the Virgin Mary
Loving Mother of the Redeemer,
Gate of heaven, star of the sea,
Assist your people
who have fallen yet strive to rise again,
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
yet remained a virgin after as before,
You who received Gabriel's joyful greeting,
have pity on us, poor sinners. Amen
In this Icon, Jesus Christ stands victoriously in the centre. Robed in Heavenly white, He is surrounded by star-studded light, representing the Glory of God. Christ is shown dramatically pulling Adam, the first man, from the tomb. Eve is to Christ’s left, waiting for Him to act.
Surrounding Christ are John the Baptist and the Old Testament Saints who preceded Jesus. Those who died before Christ’s crucifixion descended to Hades, where they patiently waited the coming of their Messiah. Now they are freed from this underworld, and mingle freely with Christ and His angels.
Beneath Christ’s feet – which still carry the marks of His crucifixion – lay the gates of Hades, smashed wide open. They are shown laying in the shape of the Cross, with broken locks and chains surrounding them.
A prayer for the Resurrection
that we who are baptized into the death
of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
may continually put to death our evil desires
and be buried with him;
and that through the grave and gate of death
we may pass to our joyful resurrection;
through his merits,
who died and was buried and rose again for us,
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
In this icon, St Nicholas is dressed as a bishop, characterized by the white stole embroidered with crosses over his shoulders. The bishop’s stole represents the lost sheep carried over the shoulders of the good shepherd (John 10:1-21) and signifies the bishop’s pastoral role. In St Nicholas’ time, it would probably have been made from lamb’s wool.
As a bishop, St Nicholas also holds a copy of the Gospels in his left hand. Another ministry of the Church’s bishops is to preserve and proclaim the Gospel. His right hand is shown to be giving a blessing.
A Prayer for St Nicholas
Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, by the prayers of your servant Nicholas grant us a childlike heart to know and do your will!
Lord Jesus Christ, gentle and humble in heart, pour out on us the spirit of mercy and compassion!
Lord Jesus Christ, fill with love and understanding the hearts we lift up to you in prayer! Amen
St. Katherine (also Catherine) was born to a noble family, and at the age of 18 she attempted to persuade Emperor Maximinus to end his persecution of Christians. She was imprisoned by the emperor and who sent many of his greatest scholars to convince her to forsake Christianity. So great was her eloquence and reasoning that she succeeded in converting these scholars as well as many of the Emperor’s soldiers. All were put to death by the Emperor. The Emperor then tried to torture St. Catherine on a spiked wheel which was destroyed miraculously. She was then beheaded, whereupon her body was carried by angels to Mount Sinai where St. Catherine’s Monastery was later founded
This icon of Saint Katherine (Catherine) describes her royal status with her wearing a crown and royal cloak. Her posture is one of supplication to Christ as she holds the cross.
A Prayer for St Katherine
Glorious Saint Katherine, virgin and martyr, help me to imitate your love of purity. Give me strength and courage in fighting off the temptations of the world and evil desires.
Help me to love God with my whole heart and serve Him faithfully.
O Saint Katherine, through your glorious martyrdom for the love of Christ, help me to be loyal to my faith and my God as long as I live. Amen