Throughout time, some of the most famous buildings and monuments that withstood the test of time were those dedicated and closely connected to religion, and they stand not only as historical structures but as a reminder of all the things that happened. We all agree that no matter if one is entering the mosque, synagogue, cathedral, or a church, once we step in, that sense of peace and unity is overwhelming, and even though today, atheists are more than ever-present, even they cannot explain nor undervalue that feeling. The meaning and significance of religious buildings and monuments is enormous, and, for centuries now, people from all over the world travel just to visit one, and Russia, as one of the countries with so many churches and cathedrals, is for sure one of them.
What makes Russian cathedrals and churches so unique and special and something that everyone should visit and see for themselves at least once in their life is undoubtedly the icons. To someone not familiar with orthodox religion and rituals, Russian icons may look the same as those in catholic cathedrals, but in reality, they are much different than anything else, and the way these icons are painted is the core of what makes them so different and unique. Namely, they are a notable part of Russian history, and as such, have an immeasurable role in Russian culture and society overall, and this way of ancient painting tradition dates back for more than a thousand years. There are many interesting things about them, like what makes them so unique, how they are painted, and how important they are, and that is why we will now present some of the most interesting characteristics about them to all of you craving to know more about Russian icons.
1.The author is never leaving a signature
It is necessary to be an amazing artist to write an icon because each of them is a real masterpiece, and writing them requires much time and effort. Because of that, many people are surprised when they search for the name of the author, but they cannot find it. It is because each of them is written for the glory of God, and no one wants to take the glory for themselves, so there are no signatures on the icons. If we are speaking about history, it is possible to recognize the artist by recognizing their style, which can be seen through color choice or other characteristically things on the icon. The real signature will never be on the icon, no matter how old or new it is, and that is one of the ways to respect God and pay tribute to him.
2.Some of them are believed to be miraculous
Having faith can make our lives much easier, especially during some dark times, and turning to religion may look like a logical solution in these circumstances. Because of that, many people are visiting churches and monasteries and pray in situations when they or someone they love is sick or have serious problems in life. Sometimes prayers help, and many of these people are convinced that it is because of a miraculous icon. That usually happens when people find themselves in a hopeless situation, and religion and faith are all they have. There are many stories about miraculous healings in front of the icon, from blind people who started to see, those who couldn’t walk but stood up in front of it, to people who didn’t have children for years but got the after visiting certain church or monastery. No one can claim that it is true and that there is some logical explanation for miraculous icons, but, on the other hand, no one can say that it is not. People need something to believe in, and sometimes miraculous icons are everything they have.
3.The look of the person on the icon
It is important to know that it is almost impossible to be sure how the saints from our past looked, so their look on the icon is probably different than reality. The icon is not a portrait of the person, and it should show us the spirituality of the person on it. Because of that, some things are written in it for purpose, and they have their meanings. The main symbol of wisdom is the high forehead, and when it is wrinkled, that symbolizes the broad knowledge of the saint. Smart people are usually keeping silent, and the symbol for that are closed mouths. The nose in them is usually longer than it is normal, and it symbolizes attuning to the incense of prayers that go straight to Heaven. Each symbol is important, and writing icons is not an easy job since it requires much love, knowledge, and talent to do something like that.
4.The way saints and martyrs are painted
Even though every icon and person may look the same to the untrained eye, there are some fundamental rules for painting icons, and depending on whether they are bestowing saints, martyrs, or prophets, each of them is represented in another way. If you noticed that a person on the icon is holding a scroll, it means that you are looking at the prophet, the saints are painted wearing the episcopal robe, and martyrs are holding with a cross in their hands. If this wasn’t clear enough, every detail, no matter how small it is, represents something and has a meaning, and that is why huge attention to detail was a must when these icons were painted, but it is also why everyone who saw them in person will forever remember that special feeling. Just like every time you look at the masterpiece from some renowned artists, you notice something new, and a similar thing can be said for Russian icons.
5.They are an integral part of services
Icons have enormous meaning and role during service, and special attention is paid to them during the liturgy. If you are lucky enough to witness one of the services, what you will be able to see is how much respect, care, and love is dedicated to them. They have extreme value both, material and spiritual, which is why people from all parts of the world are interested in purchasing them. According to russianicon.com, the Orthodox religion claims that
antique Russian icons were directly inspired by God, which only adds
to their value.