Icon “Not Made By Hands” (Novgorod, 12th c.) – J29


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All icons of the Holy Face of Christ are patterned after the very first icon made by Jesus Christ Himself when he presented a cloth pressed to His face miraculously embedded with His image on it to the court artist of King Abgar of the City State Edessa, a neighboring kingdom of Israel at the time just before Christ’s Passion.  This image became the pattern after which all icons of Christ have faithfully followed and was kept in Edessa until a.d. 944 when it was transferred to Constantinople.  It was lost in a.d. 1204 at the time of the sack of Constantinople by the Western Knights of the 4th Crusade.  Since Christ Himself made this icon by a miracle, we say that it is “Not Made by Hands.”

This icon is one side of a two-sided icon originally from the Dormition Cathedral in the Moscow Kremlin and is very striking in appearance with Christ’s face boldly standing out against the large cruciform nimbus or halo in the background.  His hair extends outward in four locks, with His beard in two locks, and His eyes fix on us powerfully to mystically respond by entering a deeper relationship with Him.  He is most truly majestic and radiant. 

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Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia




12th c.