Orthodox-style icons finding a place in Alaska's Catholic churches
Published: February 20, 2009
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CNS) -- Wide-eyed figures, often viewed as "windows to the eternal," have long peered from rustic churches and chapels scattered across Alaska. For more than 200 years, these silent images of Jesus, Mary and the saints have filled the inside of Alaska's Russian Orthodox churches. But today a growing number are appearing in the state's Catholic churches. These haloed, somber-looking images are sacred icons, believed to be capable of reflecting the holiness of heaven on the earth. The traditional materials for creating icon images are egg tempura paint and gold leaf, applied to primed wood panels. Other forms of iconography employ watercolor and oil on canvas. Dating back to the first centuries of Christianity, icons gained increased prominence in Alaska after Russian Orthodox missionaries landed on Kodiak Island in 1794. The images spread to churches and missions across the state and then on into the western United States. While long familiar to Orthodox and Eastern Catholic traditions, the increased presence of icons in Western Christian churches, both Catholic and Protestant, is part of what Deacon Charles Rohrbacher sees as a renewed interest in sacred art.
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