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Russian Orthodox Church Icons

Russian icons (icon = image, Greek) are usually painted on a wooden base - icon board. The board is consisted of several parts bound together at the back by planks. The image is placed on the face side of the board in a shallow rectangle or square groove (ark). Before painting a board is covered with fabric, primed by mixture of natural glue and chalk, covered with the initial layer of dark red-brown or greenish paint and lighten where needed with ochre or whiting. Radial lines - assist, were gold painted on the top of regular paint. Assist in the antient art marked the "Divine Forces" and was placed on the Christ clothes only. Even clothes of Godmother and apostols have no assist. Begining from the XV century assist turned into a decoration and had been placed on all parts of icon - clothes, trees, buildings etc. According to custom, an icon artist was expected to be a person of high moral principle and Christian ideals who prepared for his work by fasting and praying. The iconography was neither a creation of the artist's imagination nor whim, but followed a prescribed pattern and subject according to Church tradition.
Sometimes icons had metal covers, oklads made for them, either to protect them from human handling in devotions, to enhance their beauty or as memorials. The oklads often were made of silver or gilded silver with the figures of the icon repeated by repoussé and chasing. The metal was cut out to reveal the painted faces, hands and feet of the icon beneath. Some oklads were studded with precious gemstones, diamonds and pearls. Starting from the XIV century many Church icons were assembled into multitier holders - iconostasis.
In a church small icons are set on portable, cloth-draped lecterns and larger ones are hung on the walls. Beeswax candles are burned nearby and the icons are kissed, touched and incensed as acts of devotion. Icons are blessed with holy water and also are carried in processions both inside and outside the church. An icon of one of the 12 special liturgical feast days is often displayed on a lectern in the center of the church, according to the day. An icon of a special saint whose memory the church is honoring or an icon of the church's patron saint may also be placed in this central location. The faithful pray, make the sign of the cross and display profound reverences such as bowing, kneeling, kissing and touching the forehead to the icon. Icons are venerated but they are never worshipped. These acts of respect handed down from ancient cultural traditions still survive worldwide in the Orthodox Church. In Russian Orthodox homes, icons are displayed in special places of honor, called the "krasniy ugol" ("beautiful corner"). To the Orthodox Christian, an icon is a constant reminder of God's presence in his church, his home and in his life.

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