Learn About the Icon of St. John – The Art of Belief

Learn About the Icon of St. John – The Art of Belief


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.

St. John was “one of the inner circle with Peter and James. The son of Zebedee, he and his brother James were Icon of St. Johnnamed the “sons of thunder”. John is the author of the fourth Gospel, the Book of Revelation and three Catholic Epistles”,  explains Rev. George Mastrantonis.

In an excellent article, ‘How to Recognize the Holy Apostles  in Icons’, it is noted that “there are two common depictions of the Apostle John:  as the “Beloved Disciple” and as “the Theologian”.  The article explains that:

The first icon “is of the young Apostle John – the John who rested upon the breast of Christ during the Last Supper.In any icon showing scenes from the life of Christ (e.g. the Transfiguration, the Crucifixion) or those depicted in the Acts of the Apostles (e.g. the Ascension or Pentacos) then St. John is shown as the beardless brown-haired youth, little more than sixteen years of age.”

The second icon is explained that when “John is painted in a “portrait”, rather than as part of a Biblical scene, then he is usually shown as the elderly John “the Theologian”.  This is the John who, sixty years or so after the Resurrection of Christ, is exiled upon Patmos and writing both the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation.  He is shown with long white beard and high forehead, holding the Gospel book which led to his title “the Theologian”, often shown open to reveal some verses from the book.  He may also be shown with an Eagle, the symbol of both John and his Gospel”.

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

“As Jesus took His final breaths on the cross, His Mother, Mary, and His Apostle, John, lay at His feet, praying and watching over Him. Jesus told John to look after Mary as his mother, and that Mary should take John as a son. I think that it is our duty as children to care for our parents as they cared for us. St. John the Theologian was able to care for family, while writing the divine Gospel and the epic Book of Revelation. That indeed is an example of faith in word and deed”, said James Carras, devout believer and Development Director for the Orthodox Christian Network.

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

“was imprisoned with Peter and later appeared in the Sanhedrin. John also was sent with Peter to Samaria, where they prayed that the converts might receive the Holy Spirit. In Jerusalem, he was present at the Council of the Apostles. John was “one of the two” with Andrew who first had an audience with the Lord, He was the one “whom Jesus loved” and who reclined on his bosom at the Mystic Supper.”

“Jesus from His cross entrusted His mother to John at the foot of the cross. He was the one who ran with Peter to the tomb on the morning of the resurrection, and who recognized the Risen Lord at the Sea of Tiberius, where our Lord spoke to him the words that he would not die (John 21:7).”

“According to tradition, he went to Asia Minor and settled in Ephesus. Later he was exiled to Patmos, an island.”



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.