Orthodox Art and Architecture

Icon of the Mother of God the “Multiplier of Wheat”

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


O Lord, why are they multiplied that afflict me? Many rise up against me. Many say unto my soul: There is no salvation for him in his God. But Thou, O Lord, art my helper, my glory, and the lifter up of my head. I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy mountain. I laid me down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord will help me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people that set themselves against me round about. Arise, O Lord, save me, O my God, for Thou hast smitten all who without cause are mine enemies; the teeth of sinners hast Thou broken. Salvation is of the Lord, and Thy blessing is upon Thy people.



On October 15th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, Teachers and of every righteous soul made perfect in Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Holy Hieromartyr Lucian, Presbyter of Antioch the Great; Righteous Father Sabine the Bishop; our Righteous Father Varsus the Confessor, Bishop of Edessa; a certain Martyred Monk; our Righteous Father Efthymius the New of Ancyra, Founder of the Monastery of the Doves near Thessaloniki; our Righteous Mother Thecla of Wimborne, Egoumenissa (Abbess) of Kitzingen, who was also Heilga or Helga, that is, the Saint; Holy Martyr Rostislav, Prince of Moravia, who was tortured, blinded, and slain in the year 870; the Righteous Martyr Lucian of the Kiev Caves; our Father among the Saints John, Bishop of Suzdal; Saint Dionysius, Archbishop of Suzdal; On this day we celebrate the Synaxis of the holy Icon of the Most Holy Mother of God called Multiplier of Wheat (Sitidiotissa).

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, Holy Martyrs, Holy Hieromartyrs, Holy Confessors, Holy Bishops, Holy Archbishops, Holy Monks, Holy Nuns, Holy Abbesses, Holy Princes, Holy Mothers, Holy Fathers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Righteous, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

THE HOLY HIEROMARTYR LUCIAN, PRESBYTER OF THE CHURCH OF ANTIOCH. Saint Lucian was from Samosata, the son of pious parents. He established a catechetical school in Antioch, and taught the correct doctrines of the Faith and made clear the parts of the Divine Scriptures that were difficult to understand. He edited the Old Testament translation from the Hebrew language, and published it in an excellent edition, free from every heretical corruption and interpolation. He travelled to Nicomedia to strengthen the faithful there in their contests for Christ, and was accused before the pagan Roman Emperor Maximinus, with whom he conversed openly. When he had made a defense of the Christian Faith, he was condemned to imprisonment where, in 311 AD, he died of hunger and thirst.

Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Fourth Tone

Thy Martyr, O Lord, in his courageous contest for Thee received as the prize the crowns of incorruption and life from Thee, our immortal God. For since he possessed Thy strength, he cast down the tyrants and wholly destroyed the demons' strengthless presumption. O Christ God, by his prayers, save our souls, since Thou art merciful.

Kontakion Hymn. Second Tone

We all gloriously acclaim thee with hymns, O Lucian, thou most brilliant luminary, who wast first illustrious in asceticism and then shonest forth in contest: Intercede unceasingly for us all.



Holy Epistle Lesson: Philippians 1:12-20
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 8:22-25


"When you see that your mind is happily occupied with material things and dwells on material thoughts and the love of worldly things, then you should reflect on the fact that your mind loves material things more than God. For the Lord said: "For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also" (St. Matthew 6:21). The love of God persuades a man who feels this love in his heart to ignore fleeting pleasures, labors, and sorrow. In this, we should be convinced by the example of all of the Saints, who happily set aside such things for Christ." (Saint Maximus) [Source: The Evergetinos]


By Professor John Yiannias

Anyone who witnesses an Orthodox Divine Liturgy for the first time will be struck by its frank appeal to the senses. The central actions of the Divine Liturgy are, to be sure, the consecration and distribution of the bread and wine that constitute the Lord's Body and Blood. But the chanting and choral singing, the incense, the vestments and ritual movements of the priest and acolytes, and the images everywhere around are not mere embellishments. They are integral aspects of the whole liturgical "event." They reveal and celebrate its meaning.

It has been so for centuries. An old Russian chronicle relates that Prince Vladimir of Kiev could not decide which faith to adopt for himself and his people until his envoys reported from Constantinople that they had witnessed services there: "We knew not whether we were in Heaven or on earth," they declared, "for on earth there is no such splendor or such beauty, and we are at a loss to describe it. We know only that God dwells there among men." This often-repeated account may be anecdotal, but it contains a valid observation: the Orthodox Church makes no sharp distinction in its worship between the spiritual and the aesthetic. One becomes aware of God's presence through the senses, in the experience of "splendor" and "beauty."

This emphasis on sensory involvement has its basis in the Orthodox and thoroughly Biblical conviction that it is the whole world, and not only man's soul, that will be transfigured-"saved"- when Christ establishes His Kingdom at the end of time. The Divine Liturgy is the anticipation and conditional realization here and now of that promised end. Far from denying God's material creation, it sanctifies it. The divine Eucharist itself is proof of this. However, the beauty of the Divine Liturgy is of a kind that is consistent with the Church's vision of that transfigured world.

This qualification is important. Many things loosely called "beautiful" in fact embody values symptomatic of the world in its unsanctified condition and consequently heave no place in the Church. Such, to give an example, would be a picture, however, artistically executed, that depicts a saint as physically attractive or mawkish. On the other hand, the beauty prefiguring God's Kingdom can seem strange or forbidding to those who do not partake of the deeper experience of the Church and therefore do not share its vision. One often hears people complain of the somber faces in icons. While the Church's worship appeals to the senses, it presupposes a canon of beauty that is compatible with the new life to which believers are called. The outstanding achievement of the sacred arts of Orthodoxy lies in their brilliant and creative response to the requirements of this canon.

The art and architecture of the Orthodox Church came to maturity in the Christian Roman, or Byzantine, Empire and accompanied the faith to those countries that received their Christianity from Byzantium. It also exerted strong influence on the art of Western Christians until well into the 13th century. In the Orthodox world the fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD accelerated the development of national styles within the Byzantine tradition-Greek, Serbian, Russian, Bulgarian, Romanian, Arabic-but also led to the gradual adoption of Renaissance and Baroque ideas from the West, until in the 19the century the Byzantine essence of Orthodox art was barely discernible beneath the Western overlay. In recent decades, however, Orthodox artists have begun to recover their Byzantine heritage, just as Orthodox theologians have returned to the Patristic sources of Orthodoxy.



The Orthodox church building is nothing more (or less) than the architectural setting for the Divine Liturgy. Originally, converted houses served the purpose. The history of the church as a conspicuous structure begins with the official toleration of Christianity by Constantine the Great in 313 AD, although there is evidence that sizable churches existed before his time in some large cities. In the 4th and 5th centuries, buildings were erected to facilitate baptism (baptistries) and saints (martyria); but it was the building designed primarily to accommodate the celebration of the Holy Eucharist that became the typical Christian structure - the church as we think of it today.

The Basilica

As early as the 5th century, church plans varied from one part of the Empire to another. A church in, say, Syria or Greece and one in Italy or Egypt were likely to differ noticeably. But most were basilicas, long rectangular structures divided into three or five aisles by rows of columns running parallel to the man axis, with a semi-cylindrical extension--an apse--at one end (usually the eastern) of the nave--or central aisle. The altar stood in front of the apse. A low barrier separated the vema--the area around the altar--from the rest of the church for the use of the clergy. Sometimes a transverse space--the transcept--intervened between the aisles and apsidal wall. Just inside the entrance was the narthex, a chamber where the catechumens stood during the Liturgy of the Faithful. In front of the entrance was a walled courtyard, or atrium. The roof was raised higher over the nave than over the side aisles, so that the walls resting on the columns of the nave could be pierced with windows. From the beginning, less attention was paid to the adornment of the church's exterior than to the beautification of its interior.

The flat walls and aligned columns of a basilica define spatial volumes that are simple and mainly rectangular (except for the apse); they also are rationally interrelated and in proportion to each other, with a horizontal "pull" toward the vema, where the clergy would be seen framed by the outline of the apse. More dramatic spatial effects were made possible when vaults and domes, which had been common in baptistries, mausolea, and martyria, were applied to churches.

The Dome

The dome was put to its most spectacular use in Constantinople, in the emperor Justinian's great Church of the Divine Wisdom, Hagia Sophia, raised in a phenomenally short time, less than six years (532-537 AD); for many centuries it was the largest church in Christendom. The architects, Anthemius and Isidorus, created a gigantic, sublime space bounded on the lower levels by colonnades and walls of veined marble and overhead by membranous vaults that seem to expand like parachutes opening against the wind. The climatic dome has forty closely spaced windows around its base and on sunny days appears to float on a ring of light.

Hagia Sophia is sometimes called a "domed basilica," but the phrase minimizes the vast differences between the dynamism of its design and the comparatively static spaces of a typical basilica. No church would be constructed to rival Hagia Sophia; but the dome was established as a hallmark of Byzantine architecture (although basilicas continued to be built), and it infused church design with a more mystical geometry. In a domed church one is always conscious of the hovering hemisphere, which determines a vertical axis around which the subordinate spaces are grouped and invites symbolic identification with the "dome" of heaven.

(To be continued)



May the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George