Learn About the Icon of Saint James – PISTEVO – The Art of Belief Series

Learn About the Icon of Saint James – PISTEVO – The Art of Belief Series


Inspired by the documentary, PISTEVO, the Orthodox Christian Network will be featuring iconography and the Saints of the Orthodox Church.  Iconography, the centuries-old tradition of depicting faith through images, was the primary means of teaching Christianity until written records were formally canonized as the Holy Scriptures.  Please join us in raising awareness of iconography as a window into heaven &  finding and fostering one’s faith.

Icon of Saint James Son of Zebedee

Source: A Reader’s Guide to Orthodox Icons

St. James was “was the son of Zebedee. He, with his elder brother John and with Peter, constituted the privileged group – the inner circle of the disciples. James was present at the Transfiguration and the Agony in Gethsemane”,  explains Rev. George Mastrantonis.

Presvytera Vassi Haros notes, “We often hear the Bible story of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and how they asked to sit at Jesus’ left and right hand. (Mark 10:35-45).  She adds, “The story goes on to correct them in their request, that those places are “not (mine) to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.” He is referring to the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. This is where Jesus goes on to preach that the we are to be servant-leaders. It seems to be our natural instinct to want to be first (and second.) but with Christ, our natural instinct needs to be controlled. Salvation comes when we move away from our instincts, when we fight our impulses, and train ourselves to be obedient and to serve. This is a hard lesson for us to learn, even a disciple of Jesus, who was with Him every day had to be reminded: “And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 43-45)

In an excellent article, ‘How to Recognize the Holy Apostles in Icons’, notes that:

“There are two Apostles named James. The son of Zebedee is the James often nicknamed “the Greater” in the West. This is largely because among the Twelve he was part of the “inner-circle” which also contained St. Peter and St. John. The Apostle John is also the brother of James and together they were known as the “Sons of Thunder”. James is shown with medium length brown hair and beard. Though often difficult to identify by sight alone in Icons of the Twelve, he is recognizable in the bottom-right of this Icon of the Transfiguration, which along with the young John and curly-haired Peter, James was privileged to witness. He is depicted as a young man (short beard, not white) in all icons, as he never got to live to an old age, being martyred a little over 10 years after the Resurrection.”

(Source:  A Reader’s Guide to Orthodox Icons)

Rev. Mastrantonis further helps us understand St. James by explaining that he:

“His zeal was ardent and he and his brother were named by the Lord “Boanerges”, which means “sons of thunder”. James was beheaded by Herod Agrippa I in A. D. 44, the first of the Twelve to suffer martyrdom. A theory that he preached in Spain is counter to the tradition of the Church and the Epistle to the Romans, 15:20 and 24, which concur that he did not leave Jerusalem. According to an old Spanish tradition, the body of St. James was transferred to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where St. James was one of the most revered Spanish saints during the Middle Ages.”



How Can You Get Involved?

1.  Share Your Favorite Saint(s) & Icons(s)

  • Take a photo of your favorite icon.
  • Write a few sentences of 30 words or less about your faith, the icon & the Saint’s significance in your life.

2.  Email the photo and text to:  InspiredbyPistevo@myocn.net

  • We will notify you when your photo & text is uploaded to the Orthodox Christian Network web site (myocn.net) and Facebook page – – – and shared with millions worldwide!  We look forward to hearing from you.


Inspired by the documentary, PISTEVO & The Greek Orthodox Church of Our Saviour in Rye, New York, the Orthodox Christian Network is embarking on a major initiative to feature iconography and the Saints of the Orthodox Church over the next several months and years to come.  Please watch  PISTEVO – “I Believe”, and join us in raising awareness of iconography as a window to finding and fostering one’s faith.

We invite you to share your experiences as to how icons have fostered your faith.  Please post to the Orthodox Christian Network’s Facebook page or email us at InspiredByPistevo@myocn.net.


Iconography, the centuries-old tradition of depicting faith through images, was the primary means of teaching Christianity until written records were formally canonized as the Holy Scriptures. Yet even today, centuries later, iconography remains a spiritually powerful part of Orthodox Christian theology.  For many, the images enhance one’s ability to go deeper into the exploration and appreciation of their faith.

Click here to view an archive of all Saint and Iconography posts.


The independent documentary depicts a community coming together to complete the centuries-old mission of iconography led by Father Elias Villis at the Greek Orthodox Church of our Saviour in Rye, NY.

The epic film, PISTEVO, directed by  Director, Mark Brodie, and written and produced by Taryn Grimes Herbert expresses “why we honor the traditions of our theology and share our spiritual experience with the Orthodox world.”

Click here to visit The Art of Belief and watch the full length film – PISTEVO.

Posted by Nick Mavrick.  You can find Nick Mavrick on Google+

About author

Nick Mavrick

Nick Mavrick served on the OCN Board of Directors. The OCN Board consists of volunteers, who are also donors, and are passionate about giving back to the Orthodox Church. We welcome other volunteers to join us.