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

Abu Qurrah, Thawdhurus. A Treatise on the Veneration of the Holy Icons. Louvain: Peeters, 1997.

Baggley, John. Doors of Perception: Icons and Their Spiritual Significances. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's, 1988.

Beckett, Wendy. Encounters with God: in quest of the ancient icons of Mary. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2009.

Besançon, Alain. The Forbidden Image: an intellectual history of iconoclasm. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Bihalji-Merin, Oto. Byzantine Frescoes and Icons in Yugoslavia. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1958.

Bouyer, Louis. Vérité des Icônes: la tradition iconographique chrétienne et sa signification. Criterion, 1984.

Bunge, Gabriel. The Rublev Trinity: the icon of the Trinity by the monk-painter Andrei Rublev Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007.

Cavarnos, Constantine. Guide to Byzantine Iconography. Boston, Massachusetts: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1993.

Chavrukov, Georgi. Bulgarian Monasteries: Monuments of History, Culture, and Art. Sofia: Septemvri, 1978.

Cormack, Robin. Icons. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007.

---. Writing in Gold: Byzantine Society and its Icons. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Council of Nicaea. Icon and Logos: Sources in Eighth Century Iconoclasm: an Annotated Translation of the Sixth Session of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Translated, Daniel J. Sahas. Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1986.

Cutler, Anthony. Transfigurations: Studies in the Dynamics of Byzantine Iconography. University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 1975.

Demus, Otto. Byzantine Art and the West. New York: New York University Press, 1970.

DeNoble, Augustine. Brother Joseph: the painter of icons. Bathgate, N.D.: Bethlehem Books ; San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2000.

Doolan, Patrick. Recovering the icon: the life & work of Leonid Ouspensky. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2008.

Evdokimov, Michel. Light from the East: icons in liturgy and prayer. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 2004.

Ferrero Centeno, Fabriciano. The story of an icon: the full history, tradition and spirituality of the popular icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Chawton, Hampshire: Redemptorist Pub., 2001.

Florenskii, P. A. Iconostasis. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1996.

Galavaris, George. The Icon in the Life of the Church: Doctrine, Liturgy, Devotion. Leiden: Brill, 1981.

Galey, John. Sinai and the Monastery of St. Catherine. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1980.

Giakalis, Ambrosios. Images of the Divine: the Theology of Icons at the Seventh Ecumenical Council. New York: E.J. Brill, 1994.

Gosudarstvennye muzei Moskovskogo Kremlia. Treasures from the Kremlin. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1979.

Holy image, hallowed ground: icons from Sinai. Edited by Robert S. Nelson and Kristen M. Collins. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2006.

Huber, Paul. Athos: Miraculous Icons. Berne, Hallwag, 1968.

Joannes of Damascus, Saint. On the Divine Images. Translated, David Anderson. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's, 1980.

Jones-Frank, Michael. Iconography and Liturgy. Chicago, Ill.: Liturgy Training Publications, 1994.

Kalokyris, Constantine D. The Essence of Orthodox Iconography. Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox, 1985.

Klymasz, Robert B. The Icon in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1996.

Lazarev, Viktor. Old Russian murals & mosaics: From the 11th to the 16th Century. London: Phaidon, 1966.

---. Andrei Rublev. Moskva: Sovetskii khudozhnik, 1960.

---. Novgorodian Icon-Painting. Moskva: Iskusstvo, 1976.

Krekhovetsky, Yakiw E. Jakob. Iconography: faith in color. Toronto, Ont.: Basilian Press, 2006.

McKenzie, A. Dean. Greek and Russian Icons. Milwaukee: University of Wisconsin, 1965.

Monastic visions: wall paintings in the Monastery of St. Antony at the Red Sea / edited by Elizabeth S. Bolman; photography by Patrick Godeau. New Haven, CT: American Research Center in Egypt/Yale University Press, 2002.

Mondzain, Marie-José. Image, icon, economy: the Byzantine origins of the contemporary imaginary. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2005.

Muzj, Maria. Transfiguration: Introduction to the Contemplation of Icons. Boston, MA: St. Paul Books & Media, 1991.

Nes, Solrunn. The Mystical Language of Icons. London: St Pauls, 2000.

---. The uncreated light: an iconographical study of the transfiguration in the Eastern Church. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2007.

Nouwen, Henri J.M. Behold the Beauty of the Lord. Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press, 1987.

Onasch, Konrad. Russian Icons. Oxford: Phaidon, 1977.

Ouspensky, Leonide. Essai sur la théologie de l'icone dans l'Eglise orthodoxe. Paris, Éditions de l'Exarchat patriarcal russe en Europe occidentale, 1960.

--- and Vladimir Lossky. The Meaning of Icons. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's, 1982.

---. Theology of the Icon. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's, 1978.

Papageorgiou, Athenasios. Icons of Cyprus. New York: Cowles, 1970.

Peers, Glenn. Subtle bodies: representing angels in Byzantium. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

Playne, Beatrice. St. George for Ethiopia. London, Constable, 1954.

Rice, David Talbot. The Art of Byzantium. New York: Abrams, 1959.

--- and Tamara Talbot Rice. Icons and their Dating: a Comprehensive Study of their Chronology and Provenance. London: Thames and Hudson, 1974.

Rice, Tamara Talbot. Russian Icons. London: Spring Books, 1963.

Rublev, Andrei. Rubljov. Milano: Fratelli Fabbri, 1976.

Soloukhin, Vladimir Alekseevich. Searching for Icons in Russia. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972.

Stylianou, Andreas and Judith A. Stylianou. The Painted Churches of Cyprus. London: Trigraph for the A.G. Leventis Foundation, 1985.

Temple, Richard. Icons: divine beauty. London: Saqi/The Temple Gallery, 2004.

Theodore Studites, Saint. St. Theodore of Studites on the Holy Icons. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's, 1981.

Tradigo, Alfredo. Icons and saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Los Angeles: J.P.Getty Museum, 2006.

Trubetskoi, Eugenii Nikolaevich Kniaz. Icons: Theology in Color. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's, 1973.

UNESCO. USSR Early Russian Icons. Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society by arrangement with UNESCO, 1958.

Uspensky, Boris. The Semiotics of the Russian Icon. Lisse: Peter de Ridder Press, 1976.

Werner, Alfred. Icons: Religious Art of Eastern Europe. New York: A.A. Wyn, 1949.

Weitzmann, Kurt. The Icon. New York: Knopf, 1982.

---. The Icon: Holy Images -- Sixth to Fourteenth Century. New York: G. Braziller, 1978.

---. Studies in the Arts at Sinai: Essays. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1982.

Wild, Doris. Holy Icons in the Religious Art of the Eastern Church. Berne: Hallwag, 1961.

Williams, Rowan. The dwelling of the light: praying with icons of Christ. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 2004.

---. Ponder these things: praying with icons of the Virgin. Franklin, Wis.: Sheed & Ward, 2002.

Zibawi, Mahmoud. The Icon: Its Meaning and History. Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, c1993.

Video/Audio Recordings

Andrei Rublev (In Russian with English subtitles). New York: Fox Lorber Home Video, 1992.

Contemplating Icons an Introduction to Icons and Prayer. Donnellson, Iowa: Heartbeat [distributor], 1989.

Driscoll, Jeremy. Praying with icons. [Sound Recording] St. Benedict, OR: Mount Angel Abbey, 2001. (Fr. Jeremy Driscoll is a monk of Mount Angel Abbey. All of the particular icons referred to in these conferences were "written" (i.e. painted) by iconographer Br. Claude Lane, O.S.B., also a monk of Mount Angel Abbey.)

The Form of Iconography. Orthodox Liturgical Arts Association, Inc., 1990.

Iconography, Egg Yolk Tempera Technique. Winter Park Fla.: Orthodox Liturgical Arts Association, Inc., 1986.