BYZANTINE GREEK ICONS

​​DOMNAS ICONS

"HODIGETRIA" is a Greek Word that roughtly translate as ``Quide``.When used in the context of images of the Virgin as in the Virgin Hodegetria`` this refers to an image in which the Virgin shows the viewer the way to Christ.This was an extremely popular and the most dogmatic icon type in Byzantine art and almost shows the Virgin holding her son  Jesus  Christ as a child. She looks directly out at the viewer and gesture towards Christ thereby drawing the viewer in with eye contact and conecting the viewer to Christ by her gesture.

Panagia Soumela icon of the Virgin is exactly this icon type .

One of the most famous examples of this type of images is the Virgin Hodegitria mosaic in the upse of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.


The first representation of the Mother of God ,which tradition also dates back to the time when she lived on earth. If the icon of Christ ,

the foundation of all Christian iconography, reproduces the traits of God who became man ,the icon of the Mother of God ,on the other hand ,represents the first human being who realized the goal of incarnation : The deification of man.

The Virgin is the first of all humanity to have already attained ,

through the complete transfiguration of her being ,that to which all creatures are summoned ,and who has raised herself above the celestial hierarchy.He who is "more honourable than the Cheroubim and more glorious beyond compare than Seraphim".

The Virgin has already passed the limit of time and eternity and now finds herself in the Kingdom which the Church awaits with the second coming to Christ. She "who contained the uncontainable God" presides with Christ over the destiny of the world!


This is why the icons of the Virgin play a particularly important role. In our churches ,in our worship, they are parallel to those of Christ Himself.

In the private life of the faithfull ,these icons also play a very important role ,in the birth baptism of a child , marriage and still in ..death.


Orthodox tradition attributes the first icons of the Virgin Mary (Theotokos) to the Evangelist St. Luke.According to this tradition  ,St. Luke made after Pentecost, three icons of the Virgin two with the Child and the third without .One of this type called " Hodigitria "which means "She who leads the way  to the Christ ".Both the Virgin and the child are represented full face ,turned toward the spectator.This austere and majestic  image particularly emphasizes the divinity of the Christ -Child.

Another image is of the type Umilenie (Ελεουσα) ,our ``Lady of Tenderness`` it represents the mutual caress of the mother and Child.

But it portrays more than the natural human feeling ,the tenderness of motherly love.It is a image of a mother who suffers deeply for the anguish which awaits her Child in a silent consciousness of his inevitable suffering.

As for the icon representing the Virgin without the Child  ,the facts about it are confused.It is probable that this type of icon is connected with the composition known as `` Deisis  or  Deesis``that is the Virgin and St. John the Baptist praying to Christ.


(Leonid Uspensky,Theology of Icon ,Ed. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crest wood ,New York ,1978.)

THE  GENEALOGY OF  THE ICON " HODIGITRIA "

(Same type as Panagia Soumela).

Old  Byzantine Icons with the icon of  Hodigitria / Directress type .

1. Panagia Soumela icon painted by St. Luke the Evangelist.

2. Icons with St. Luke painting the Virgin Mary and the Child .

3 .The Triumph of Orthodoxy icon with the Hodigitria icon on  

     the centre.

4. New Byzantine rendition of Panagia Soumela icon.