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Regarding Statues and Icons

Simayan

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Well, I've been wondering this for some time now, though I can't find a definitive answer on the internet.

I know that Catholics use statues in worship for veneration. We use icons. However, is there really a RULE against statues, or is it just culture?

I know the "Graven image" thing, but I've seen Orthodox icons that are carved into wood, as well as a 3D layer of silver/gold on top. So they're both 'graven', I suppose.

Personally, I have nothing against statues, and because of my Catholic-esque background, we have one of Mary and Joseph in our window, as well as all our crucifixes containing a metal lifelike Jesus.

I've seen a few threads on this forum, but they didn't really answer my question. I know that because icons show a flat scene and not merely a figure, it adds to the mystery. But seeing 40 foot stone statues of the Apostles in St. Paul's Basilica has a certain grandeur that can't be matched by a 40 foot icon.

So, I just wanted to get everyone's opinion on the topic.

-Will
 

aserb

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I was taught that icons are a window into heaven. In the Byzantine 2 dimensional icon the face(s) seem a bit obscured at times. This is because we see dimly into the heavens. Also in Byzantine tradition the icon should not be something that a person is drawn to in a sensual sense.

That is what I learned.
 

Simayan

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Yet in my church, and many large Cathedrals (St. Sophias in California, for example (see below)) use icons that look more like 3D paintings. So I assume it's not heretical.

 

cholmes

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Good question!  I sent an inquiry to Fr. John Matusiak (who handles these types of questions through the OCA website), and will post the response here.
 

Anastasios

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Simayan said:
Yet in my church, and many large Cathedrals (St. Sophias in California, for example (see below)) use icons that look more like 3D paintings. So I assume it's not heretical.

It may not be heretical, but it is not traditional, and is quite unfortunate.  Thankfully, many are realizing that ditching our Byzantine tradition of iconography (and music at that) for western forms was unfortunate and restorations are taking place.  A good example to me is St Anthony's Monastery in Arizona (leaving aside the controversy on other aspects...).  Now THAT is a nice looking Church.

Anastasios
 

cholmes

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Here is the response I received:

Dear Chris,

Statues emerged in the western tradition partially due to its prevalence in the western Roman Empire and partially due to the Renaissance, which attempted to adapt ancient classical art forms to new uses, such as Christian art.  While statues are not specifically banned in Orthodoxy there is a well known tradition of statuary in ancient Northern Russia, and even after the time of Peter the Great it was not uncommon to find statues in churches in St. Petersburg and elsewhere -- the custom never really caught on.

What is prohibited is portraiture; the statues found in ancient Northern Russia are not realistic, unlike those introduced after Peter the Great. 
Hence, any liturgical art that approximates portraiture, whether in statuary or paintings, is incorrect.

In Christ,
Father John Matusiak, OCA Communications Director
 

cothrige

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cholmes said:
Hence, any liturgical art that approximates portraiture, whether in statuary or paintings, is incorrect.
What exactly is meant here by 'portraiture?'  And why is it forbidden?

Patrick
 

Anastasios

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I will say though that as ART I find western style icons to be pretty sometimes and have a few in my home.  I am just opposed to them being in our temples, although, of course, I do not blow the issue out of proportion.
 

scamandrius

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Simayan said:
The icon of the Platytera (which is the only icon I can really see in this pciture) seems awfully "western" in its style.  Is it just me or does anyone else think this?  It is a beautiful representation, but it doesn't seem to match up with the norms of Byzantine iconography.  Am I off my rocker?  Let me know.

Also, is this a ROCOR temple?  WHy are there pews inside?  I thought the Russians (ROCOR, Moscow Patriarchate, OCA) all celebrated liturgy and the divine offices standing up.

Scamandrius
 

lubeltri

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cholmes said:
Here is the response I received:
Statuary has a tradition in Western Christendom that goes back long before the Renaissance. The number of statues in a medieval Gothic cathedral can be counted in the hundreds, sometimes thousands.

One of my favorite examples of medieval sculture is the enormous Ottonian-era (c.a. 970) Gero Cross found in Cologne Cathedral. The figure of Christ itself is 6'2" tall.




I found this remarkable 12th-century sculpture of the crucified Christ at the Cluny Museum in Paris 4 years ago. The rest of the statue did not survive. Isn't it something? Pardon the slight blur---I was taking photos on slow exposure so I could politely avoid using the flash, and I had forgotten to bring my tripod.

 

Keble

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cothrige said:
What exactly is meant here by 'portraiture?'  And why is it forbidden?
I'm wondering that myself. If you look at the pillar directly to the right of the iconostasis at St. Nicholas Cathedral in DC, you will see a mural icon of St. Tikhon that I am certain was painted from a photograph. Above the choir they have the "Martyrs of the Revolution" where the resemblance of the royal family to their actual appearances is rather, um, vague. Which is right?
 

Landon77

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What we need for those of us that like statues, are some Orthodox icronographers willing to do some icons in 3-D.
 

Keble

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scamandrius said:
The icon of the Platytera (which is the only icon I can really see in this pciture) seems awfully "western" in its style.  Is it just me or does anyone else think this?  It is a beautiful representation, but it doesn't seem to match up with the norms of Byzantine iconography.
St. Sophia's interior is, um, eclectic to say the least, and the Platytera isn't in the running for Most Western Icon compared to the mural icons on the side walls, which are positively Baroque in their execution. (OTOH the icons around the base of the dome are conventionally Byzantine mosaics.) The thing is that one can see a drift towards western artistic styles through the 1800s and into the last century, and then a rather sharp reaction against them-- but incomplete. St. Sophia was caught on the cusp of this change, but nobody is going to go back and paint out the old icons. (The exterior, BTW, is unmistakably a Greek building.) St. Savior in Moscow is was/is being rebuilt outside the "norm" because the original's icons were in that style. St. Andrew's Ukrainian near my house also has these "western" icons, but it is very much an immigrants' church and thus perhaps immune to the pressure towards anti-western differentiation. But I think few would use such a style these days; most would want a building that they felt was more wholly Eastern.
 

Psalti Boy

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scamandrius said:
The icon of the Platytera (which is the only icon I can really see in this pciture) seems awfully "western" in its style.  Is it just me or does anyone else think this?  It is a beautiful representation, but it doesn't seem to match up with the norms of Byzantine iconography.  Am I off my rocker?  Let me know.

Also, is this a ROCOR temple?  WHy are there pews inside?  I thought the Russians (ROCOR, Moscow Patriarchate, OCA) all celebrated liturgy and the divine offices standing up.

Scamandrius
I kind of agree.  It does have a Western feel to it IMHO. 

One other question comes to mind, and believe me I love the look of the Orthodox churches, but why do we have to have so much gold and a very expensive look ???  I know that in some parishes people donate for a specific item for the church because they want to.  But wouldn't that money be better spent feeding, housing and clothing the poor. . . in this country ???  Some Orthodox churches look more extravagant than the TBN TV studios.  I used to think that the glitzy look of the church was cool.  But I guess in my old age I see things a little different than I did at Woodstock.
 

Simayan

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Pomp is costly.  :D


Just kidding. I'm still attracted to the glitzy aspect though.
 

Amdetsion

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The Icon is the word of God.

The "style" is a liturgical 'language' which speaks the true faith of the fathers to all thriugh the ages.

Western artistic forms I have seen do not 'speak' orthodoxy at all.

They may as well be up in the museum of modern art.

As for having in statues in worship; this behavior is very unfortunate for the orthodox church even from the very beginning. The oldest "christian" statue is no better than statue you find anywhere else. These are idols.

We have gone too far with plating, engraving as well. These are border line. But idolic still.

The Icon is all the faith needs.

I read one post state that they had a "lifelikeness" of Christ in statue form on his lawn.

What did Christ look like?

The reason why portraiture is no-good is the same reason why statues should be (are no good to me) to us. Statues evoke some sense of the person thus creating poor perspectives like "lifelikeness". If the statue looked like an Eskimo or an American indian would the statue still have a Christ "lifelikeness"?

NO!

That is wrong. Christ looks like all mankind.

WE should stick with orthodoxy.

Icons in the eastern way of the church.
 
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ozgeorge said:
I stumbled on this photo.
Is this pushing the boundary between an "Icon" and a "Statue" a little?

In short 'No'

What and where is that Church?

It is beautiful!! :)
 

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Simayan said:
Yet in my church, and many large Cathedrals (St. Sophias in California, for example (see below)) use icons that look more like 3D paintings. So I assume it's not heretical.

This church is ABSOLUTELY beautiful!!!
 

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Salpy

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I visited there once many years ago (St. Sophia, above.)  It was a bit overwhelming, but I don't want to criticize, as I think people decorate their churches as they do with the intent of glorifying God.

I heard a rumor that the face of the Mother of God was modelled after Loretta Young.  Has anyone else heard that?  The icon is quite beautiful.
 

Papist

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ignatius said:
Papist said:
Simayan said:
Yet in my church, and many large Cathedrals (St. Sophias in California, for example (see below)) use icons that look more like 3D paintings. So I assume it's not heretical.

This church is ABSOLUTELY beautiful!!!
I concur! Beautiful! Help the Catholics... they have lost their way... EEK!

http://www.amazon.com/Ugly-As-Sin-Churches-Forthright/dp/1928832369/sr=8-1/qid=1170427576/ref=sr_1_1/102-6951170-0048134?ie=UTF8&s=books
We are building a Church in my diocese that is a minature copy of St. Paul's outside the walls in Rome.
 

PeterTheAleut

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The last several posts spoke of iconographic canon in general but had very little to do with the specific relation of statues to [2-D] icons, so I split the tangent off and merged it into this thread:  Canonical Icons?
 
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