The Patron of Iconographers

The Patron of Iconographers


Our primary goal at the  Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is to share the truth of Orthodoxy with the world. Our secondary goal is to generate fruitful conversations that strengthen us in our own faith and increase our ability to share it in meaningful ways with our fellow human beings. This is why OCN has collected a group of various teachers, philosophers, priests, artists, parents, and writers to post articles on our blog, The Sounding.  Enjoy the following post and feel free to comment below.

The Patron of Iconographers- Saint Luke

Saint Luke was from the city of Antioch and was likely from a pagan family. As a young boy, he sought wisdom and loved to study the arts and sciences. He was gifted as a physician and painter. There are two traditions that are told of Saint Luke. The first one is that he was one of the Seventy Disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ and was in Jerusalem at the time of the Passion. He was upset over the death of Jesus but that unhappiness turned to joy when Jesus joined them on their journey. In the breaking of the bread, Jesus showed that He was truly risen. (Luke 24:35)

After the Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost, Luke stayed for a time in Jerusalem. There is a story that on his way back to Antioch, he obtained the relic of the right hand of Holy Forerunner and took it with him. It is likely he met Saint Paul in Antioch and began the course of his second missionary work.

The second tradition says that Luke did not know Jesus and that he met Saint Paul while working as a physician during the reign of Claudius. Paul’s dynamic preaching convinced him of the Truth that he had sought for so long in his search for wisdom. Without hesitating, he gave up his profession to follow Paul and he became the beloved physician of souls. (Col.4:14)

It is the tradition of the Church that Saint Luke was the first iconographer. He painted an image of the Holy Mother of God in her lifetime. The Holy Virgin gave praise to him saying, “May the grace of Him who was born of me be upon this image.” Saint Luke painted other images of the Holy Virgin and the Apostles, giving birth to the tradition of venerating icons of Christ and His Saints. For this reason, Saint Luke is honored as the patron of iconographers.

In all of my days, I was never witness to the hands that could create beautiful icons. A couple of years ago our Philoptochos ladies took a trip to a local monastery about an hour’s drive away. There we met the nuns and spent the afternoon with them. They fixed us a delicious lunch and talked about Jesus. Afterwards, we were permitted to shop and purchase some of their handmade icons.

I asked one of the sisters what would be an appropriate icon for my daughter’s new home. There were so many choices and I wasn’t sure which one to pick. The sister suggested the Virgin and Jesus. I picked an icon with a white background. Ever since, my daughter has it in her hallway with a small candle next to it. It is beautiful. On other occasions, when the nuns visit our church, I’ve bought other icons for gifts or for myself. If I could, I would truly own many more.

I have a small prayer corner at the end of my hall. It includes icons, palms from Palm Sunday, and other meaningful small tokens of remembrance. I light the candle whenever I write or if I am praying for someone in distress. Having a prayer corner with icons is a wonderful and comforting way to find quiet time with God.

(Icon from the Nativity of the Theotokos Monastery, Saxonburgh, PA.)

The Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) is an official agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops. OCN offers videos, podcasts, blogs and music, to enhance Orthodox Christian life.  Our blog, The Sounding, supports the well-being of our readers by providing well-written, positive, and thought-provoking Orthodox content and fostering discussion of its application to life.


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


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.


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About author

Joanne Jamis Cain

Joanne Jamis Cain is a steward of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. She has been married to the love of her life, Jim for thirty five years. They have two beautiful children and two grandchildren. Joanne is a wedding and event planner. Visit her blog at Her first book "Ordinary Is Extraordinary" was published in spring of 2016.