Hagiography (sacred icon painting) as sacred art.
Hagiography- Study - History.
A certain contemporary hagiographer dedicated his book, "To the kind Wisdom of God that created beauty". Truly, God graced man with the capability to imprint on lifeless surfaces different compositions, faces, places, to express feelings, to create some sort of life. Who doesn't feel awe in front of unique masterpieces of great paint artists who served this art through the centuries? However, despite the artistic value and beauty of their works, they haven't ceased nor cease to be works that relate to man. For this the beneficial providence of the Triune God did not stop here.
The All Holy Spirit inspired godly souls and endowed them with artistic and spiritual sensitivity so that they may present and finally succeed in rendering with colours and lines not just a type of life but life itself, our God-Man and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Son of God, "the beautiful beauty above all men".
That the achievement of the Christian hagiographers is divinely inspired one can easily confirm having as a guide the Holy Bible. In the book of Exodus, the following is mentioned: "And the Lord spoke unto Moses saying: See I have called by name Bezaleel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom and in understanding and in knowledge and in all manner of workmanship. To devise cunning works, to work in gold and silver and in brass. And in cutting of the stones, to set them, and in carving timber to work in all manner of workmanship" (Ex 31:1-5). If therefore during the time of the Old Testament for the construction of the tent of Martyrdom, God gave to Bezaleel, "spirit of divine wisdom", how much wisdom and inspiration would He give to the masters of the New Testament that they may portray the archetype beauty of the Lord's appearance?
This way therefore, Orthodox hagiography made its appearance and it evolved to what is also called Orthodox painting. In our time, a general wave of return to the sources of Orthodox tradition is observed. In this effort the revival in our days of the Byzantine hagiography is included. Many Greek and foreign theologians and various specialists in the area of art, Orthodox or non, have perceived that hagiography is not some type of art that has served only her time. They discovered in fact that what they believed was incomplete and lacking, has some secret, spiritual and theological depth. Here exactly is the key to understanding the Orthodox icon. Like a hidden treasure, its purpose is explored and the value of iconography is finally discovered.
The icon doesn't simply help the memory to recreate early events or faces, but it creates a feeling of presence. It brings the faithful to a personal relationship and contact with the hypostasis of the drawn saint. Therefore, the icon is not a simple work of art or religious picture but as emphatically stressed by L. Uspenski and F. Kontoglou, it is a holy liturgical utensil that sanctifies man. It was appropriately named Holy Bible for the simple and illiterate people and a visual theology for the scrutinizers and experts. The sacred icons "speak" to the hearts of men and every soul that gazes these divine forms and depictions succeeds in communicating with God and His saints.
The Holy Hesychast wishing humbly to contribute to the spiritual ascent of God's people and to enlighten on the theology of the sacred icon, proceeds with this uncomplicated presentation, so that the faithful having the necessary knowledge to consciously worship and relate with their mind and heart to the prototype and as Great Basil preached that "the honour of the icon remains with the prototype" (namely the person depicted)