Art of Iconography

A Guide to Resources in the Mount Angel Abbey Library

Updated November, 2009

The art of iconography has been a tradition of the church for over 1500 years and is currently seeing a resurgence in the West. Icons are described as "the Gospel in line and color," a depiction of the Incarnate Word. The close association of word and image is brought out as iconographers refer to their work as being written rather than painted. In the words of Theodore of Studios (759-826 A.D.), "his [Christ's] image was drawn in writing by the apostles and has been preserved up to the present. Whatever is marked there with paper and ink, the same is marked on the icon with various pigments or some other material. For the great [Saint] Basil says 'whatever the words of the narrative offer, the picture silently shows by imitation.' Hearing is equal to sight, and it is necessary to use both."

In Behold the Beauty of the Lord, Henri Nouwen says "icons...are created for the sole purpose of offering access, through the gate of the visible, to the mystery of the invisible." "This entry into the world of icons can at the same time be an entry into our own interior life, a passing through the 'narrow gate' that leads to Life" writes John Baggley in Doors of Perception.

Following is a partial list of the many books on the subject in the library's collection, with an emphasis on Byzantine iconography. Among the most recent books, those published since 2000, this list includes a number of "oversize" books, which have excellent quality and relatively large images of icons.

For additional listings do a subject search in the online catalog for

  • Iconography
  • Christian Art
  • Saints - Art


  • Books on Iconography
  • Videos / Audio Recordings
  • Web-based / Internet Resources

Books on Iconography

Videos / Audio Recordings

Web-based / Internet Resources

Icons Explained
A superb website with detailed explanations, a web-linked table of contents, as well as links to many web pages on related topics.

Orthodox Icons
Presented by the Orthodox Christian Foundation, this web page contains a number of beautiful images, each with a Byzantine or Russian style.

Novgorod Icon Gallery
This excellent site gives an explanation of the importance of icons in Russian religion and culture, as well as providing over 100 images of Russian icons from the 11th through 18th centuries.

Russian Icons
Images of 81 Russian icons from the 12th through 18th centuries.

Orientale Lumen
A collection of links to articles on Christian Iconography and Christian Icons.