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Iconography

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[[Image:Luke first icon.jpg|right|frame|The [[Apostle Luke]] painting the first icon]]
'''''Iconography''''' (from Greek εικονογ�?αφία{{Lang-el|εικονογραφία}}) refers to the making and [[liturgics|liturgical]] use of '''icons''', pictorial representations of [[Holy Scripture|Biblical]] scenes from the life of [[Jesus Christ]], historical events in the life of the Church, and portraits of the [[saint]]s. Icons are usually two-dimensional images and may be made of paint, mosaic, embroidery, weaving, carving, engraving, or other methods.
Images have always been a vital part of the [[Orthodox Church|Church]], but their place was the subject of the [[Iconoclasm|Iconoclast Controversy]] in the 8th and 9th centuries, especially in the East. The [[Sunday of Orthodoxy]], the first Sunday of the [[Great Lent|Great Fast]] (Lent) every year celebrates the reestablishment of the Orthodox [[veneration]] of icons. The use of iconography is considered one of the most distinctive elements of the Byzantine rite.
=="Written" or "painted"?==
The most literal translation of the word εικονογ�?αφία {{Lang-el|εικονογραφία}} (''eikonographia'') is "image writing," leading many English-speaking Orthodox Christians to insist that icons are not "painted" but rather "written." From there, further explanations are given that icons are to be understood in a manner similar to [[Holy Scripture]]—that is, they are not simply artistic compositions but rather are witnesses to the truth the way Scripture is. Far from being imaginitive creations of the iconographer, they are more like scribal copies of the Bible.
While the explanation of the purpose and nature of icons is certainly true and consistent with the Church's [[Holy Tradition]], there is a linguistic problem with the insistence on the word ''written'' rather than ''painted''. In Greek, a painted portrait of anyone is also a 'γ�?αφή{{Lang-el|γραφή}}' (''graphi''), and the art of painting itself is called ζωγ�?αφιά {{Lang-el|ζωγραφιά}} (''zographia''). Ancient Greek literally uses the same root word to refer to the making of portraits and the making of icons, but distinguishes whether it is "painting from life" 'ζωγ�?αφιά{{lang-el|ζωγραφιά}}' or "painting icons" 'εικονογ�?αφία{{lang-el|εικονογραφία}}'. Thus, from a linguistic point of view, either all paintings—whether icons or simple portraits—are "written" or (more likely) "painted" is a perfectly usable English translation, simply making a distinction between the painting appropriate for icons and that appropriate for other kinds of painting, just as Greek does.
==See also==
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