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About Icons

The home of the icon is in the Christian Orthodox Church, also called the Eastern Church, which is richly decorated with icons. It plays an important role in the worship service as well as in the everyday life of orthodox Christians. In orthodox homes icons are reverently placed in the "beautiful corner", which is the corner facing the east. Lights are turned on and prayers are offered. Many believers belonging to other churches have adopted icons as their own devotional objects and the interest in icons is steadily growing.

The icon („eikon“ in Greek), denoting an image or a picture, signifies the presence of God. It is founded in the truth that God became clothed in flesh, assuming human form in Jesus Christ. While believers do not worship the icon, they treat it with great reverence. The Church Father, John in Damascus, says: "It is not the matter (the material) that we honour but the Creator of matter (the material) which became flesh for the sake of of our salvation.

The Second Council of Nicaea (787) accepted the following resolution regarding the icon: "As the sacred and life-giving cross is everywhere set up as a symbol, so also should the images of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the holy angels, as well as those of the saints and other pious and holy men be embodied in the manufacture of sacred vessels, tapestries, vestments, etc., and exhibited on the walls of churches, in the homes, and in all conspicuous places, by the roadside and everywhere, to be revered by all who might see them if these represent our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ or our immaculate High Lady, the Holy Mother of God, or the holy angels or honourable people. For the honour accorded to the image is accorded to what the image symbolizes, and he who honours an icon honours what the icon depicts. "

The icon embodies a theology of beauty. It proclaims the church’s religious teachings and its gospel in colours, shapes and lines. This is a question of quiet or silent preaching. The icon is intended to be seen, just as the word is to be heard. "What the word proclaims with its sound, the icon shows us silently," is a saying attributed to the Church Father, Basilius the Great.

It is sometimes said that the icon is a window to the glory of God. The icon proclaims the Kingdom of God, which consists in a transformed human race and a regenerated universe. The shining gold of the icon proclaims the glory of God and eternity, where everything is illumined. Or, as it is said in the Orthodox Church, it proclaims the "eighth day", "the day without end, the day without evening, eternity without age, sun without sunset".

The Heritage of Byzantium

This use of language refers to the visual arts of the Eastern Church. Already in the fourth century, the iconography was fully developed. When Russia was Christianized (in 988), icon painters came from Constantinople to Russia with the aim of teaching Russians this profession. The visual arts in the Eastern Church reached its height in Russia in the 15th century with the icon painter Andrei Rublev.

The Byzantine heritage has also made its inroads in the Faroe Islands. In recent years, several Faroese women have learned to paint, or more correctly expressed to "write" icons, most recently on the island of Mykines, where the northern gannet (Morus Bassanus) has its place of habitation.

The Russian icon depicted on one of the stamps shows the Mother of God (Theotokos), one of the best known icon motifs. In Russia, tradition requires that the bride receives an icon of the Mother of God as a wedding gift.

Carl Niclasen, Tórshavn, bought this Russian icon in 1970 from Curt Berndorff Antikviteter in Copenhagen.

Meinhard Bjartalíð