Painting an Icon - Medieval Europe Projects
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Painting an Icon

Byzantine icon
Byzantine icon of St. Catherine
(1300s AD)

In the Middle Ages, many people believed that a painting or statue of the Christian God, or Jesus, or Mary, or one of the saints, could really serve as a sort of mailbox so God or a saint would hear your prayer and help you get better from being sick, or make you lucky before an exam, or protect you on a trip you were making.

So people (especially monks) made a lot of these elaborate holy pictures, which we call icons.

Maybe you'd like to paint your own icons. Study what icons look like on the Internet, or in an art history book of medieval painting. Then try to paint a sacred or lucky image of your own - it doesn't have to be Jesus or Mary, it might be of your lucky planet, or anything that has special meaning for you. It might be your own mother or father or teacher. Think about how the medieval artists made the saint seem special, with the gold background, and the halo. What will you do to make your picture special?

More about medieval icons

Bibliography and further reading about icons:

Other activities:

Making icons
Building a castle
Making chain mail bracelets
Growing herbs

Medieval Islam projects
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More about the Middle Ages home

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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Study Guides, . Web. 27 April, 2017