Christ Pantocrator

Last updated
Jesus Christ Pantocrator (Detail from the deesis mosaic in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul) Christ Pantocrator mosaic from Hagia Sophia 2744 x 2900 pixels 3.1 MB.jpg
Jesus Christ Pantocrator (Detail from the deesis mosaic in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul)

In Christian iconography, Christ Pantocrator (Greek : Χριστὸς Παντοκράτωρ) [1] is a specific depiction of Christ. Pantocrator or Pantokrator, usually translated as "Almighty" or "all-powerful", is derived from one of many names of God in Judaism.

Contents

The Pantokrator, largely an Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Catholic theological conception, is less common under that name in Western (Roman) Catholicism and largely unknown to most Protestants. In the West the equivalent image in art is known as Christ in Majesty, which developed a rather different iconography. Christ Pantocrator has come to suggest Christ as a mild but stern, all-powerful judge of humanity.

When the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek as the Septuagint, Pantokrator was used both for YHWH Sabaoth "Lord of Hosts" [2] and for El Shaddai "God Almighty". [3] In the New Testament, Pantokrator is used once by Paul (2 Cor 6:18) and nine times in the Book of Revelation: 1:8, 4:8, 11:17, 15:3, 16:7, 16:14, 19:6, 19:15, and 21:22. The references to God the Father and God the Son in Revelation are at times interchangeable, Pantokrator appears to be reserved for the Father except, perhaps, in 1:8.

Meaning

Christ Pantocrator mosaic in Byzantine style from the Cefalu Cathedral, Sicily Christ Pantokrator, Cathedral of Cefalu, Sicily.jpg
Christ Pantocrator mosaic in Byzantine style from the Cefalù Cathedral, Sicily

The most common translation of Pantocrator is "Almighty" or "All-powerful". In this understanding, Pantokrator is a compound word formed from the Greek words πᾶς, pas ( GEN παντόςpantos), i.e. "all" [4] and κράτος, kratos, i.e. "strength", "might", "power". [5] This is often understood in terms of potential power; i.e., ability to do anything, omnipotence.

Another, more literal translation is "Ruler of All" or, less literally, "Sustainer of the World". In this understanding, Pantokrator is a compound word formed from the Greek for "all" and the verb meaning "To accomplish something" or "to sustain something" (κρατεῖν, kratein). This translation speaks more to God's actual power; i.e., God does everything (as opposed to God can do everything).

Iconography

The oldest known icon of Christ Pantocrator, encaustic on panel (Saint Catherine's Monastery). The two different facial expressions on either side may emphasize Christ's two natures as fully God and fully human. Spas vsederzhitel sinay.jpg
The oldest known icon of Christ Pantocrator, encaustic on panel (Saint Catherine's Monastery). The two different facial expressions on either side may emphasize Christ's two natures as fully God and fully human.
Mirror composites of the two sides of the face. Composite christ pantocrator.png
Mirror composites of the two sides of the face.

The icon of Christ Pantokrator is one of the most common religious images of Orthodox Christianity. Generally speaking, in Medieval eastern roman church art and architecture, an iconic mosaic or fresco of Christ Pantokrator occupies the space in the central dome of the church, in the half-dome of the apse, or on the nave vault. Some scholars (Latourette 1975: 572) consider the Pantocrator a Christian adaptation of images of Zeus, such as the great statue of Zeus enthroned at Olympia. The development of the earliest stages of the icon from Roman Imperial imagery is easier to trace. [8]

The image of Christ Pantocrator was one of the first images of Christ developed in the Early Christian Church and remains a central icon of the Eastern Orthodox Church. In the half-length image, Christ holds the New Testament in his left hand and makes the gesture of teaching or of blessing with his right. The typical Western Christ in Majesty is a full-length icon. In the early Middle Ages, it usually presented Christ in a mandorla or other geometric frame, surrounded by the Four Evangelists or their symbols.

The oldest known surviving example of the icon of Christ Pantocrator was painted in encaustic on panel in the sixth or seventh century, and survived the period of destruction of images during the Iconoclastic disputes that twice racked the Eastern church, 726 to 787 and 814 to 842. It was preserved in Saint Catherine's Monastery, in the remote desert of the Sinai. [9] The gessoed panel, finely painted using a wax medium on a wooden panel, had been coarsely overpainted around the face and hands at some time around the thirteenth century. When the overpainting was cleaned in 1962, the ancient image was revealed to be a very high-quality icon, probably produced in Constantinople. [10]

The icon, traditionally half-length when in a semi-dome, [11] which became adopted for panel icons also, depicts Christ fully frontal with a somewhat melancholy and stern aspect, with the right hand raised in blessing or, in the early encaustic panel at Saint Catherine's Monastery, the conventional rhetorical gesture that represents teaching. The left hand holds a closed book with a richly decorated cover featuring the Cross, representing the Gospels. An icon where Christ has an open book is called "Christ the Teacher", a variant of the Pantocrator. Christ is bearded, his brown hair centrally parted, and his head is surrounded by a halo. The icon is usually shown against a gold background comparable to the gilded grounds of mosaic depictions of the Christian emperors.

Often, the name of Christ is written on each side of the halo, as IC and XC. Christ's fingers are depicted in a pose that represents the letters IC, X and C, thereby making the Christogram ICXC (for "Jesus Christ"). The IC is composed of the Greek characters iota (Ι) and lunate sigma (C; instead of Σ, ς)—the first and last letters of 'Jesus' in Greek (Ἰησοῦς); in XC the letters are chi (Χ) and again the lunate sigma—the first and last letters of 'Christ' in Greek (Χριστός).

In many cases, Christ has a cruciform halo inscribed with the letters Ο Ω Ν, i.e. ὁ ὤν "He Who Is".

See also

Related Research Articles

<i>Theotokos</i> Title given to Mary in Eastern Christianity

Theotokos is a title of Mary, mother of Jesus, used especially in Eastern Christianity. The usual Latin translations, Dei Genetrix or Deipara, are "Mother of God" or "God-bearer".

Mosaic image made from an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials

A mosaic is an artistic picture or design made out of any materials assembled together. Mosaic are used as decoration. Architects use mosaic murals for kitchen backsplash, shower wall and entry floor art. Mosaic Craft items are used as home decor. Cities often decorate public places such as parks with mosaic murals and sculptures.

Depiction of Jesus Christian icons or images depicting Jesus

There is no useful description of the physical appearance of Jesus given in the New Testament, and the depiction of Jesus in pictorial form was controversial in the early Church. The depiction of him in art took several centuries to reach a conventional standardized form for his physical appearance, which has subsequently remained largely stable since that time. Most images of Jesus have in common a number of traits which are now almost universally associated with Jesus, although variants are seen.

Saint Catherines Monastery Greek Orthodox monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai, Egypt

Saint Catherine's Monastery, officially "Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai", is an Eastern Orthodox monastery located on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai, near the town of Saint Catherine, Egypt. The monastery is named after Catherine of Alexandria.

Daphni Monastery 11th-century Byzantine monastery in Greece

Daphni or Dafni is an eleventh-century Byzantine monastery eleven kilometers northwest of central Athens in the suburb of Chaidari, south of Athinon Avenue (GR-8A). It is situated near the forest of the same name, on the Sacred Way that led to Eleusis. The forest covers about 18 km2 (7 sq mi), and surrounds a laurel grove. "Daphni" is the modern Greek name that means "laurel grove", derived from Daphneion (Lauretum).

Gelati Monastery monastery in Georgia, Caucasus

Gelati is a medieval monastic complex near Kutaisi in the Imereti region of western Georgia. Built in the Georgian Golden Age, Gelati was founded in 1106 by King David IV of Georgia and is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Deesis artistic theme of Jesus flanked by the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist, sometimes with other saints

In Byzantine art, and later Eastern Orthodox art generally, the Deësis or Deisis, is a traditional iconic representation of Christ in Majesty or Christ Pantocrator: enthroned, carrying a book, and flanked by the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist, and sometimes other saints and angels. Mary and John, and any other figures, are shown facing towards Christ with their hands raised in supplication on behalf of humanity.

Pantokrator may refer to:

Eastern Orthodox church architecture type of church building

Eastern Orthodox church architecture constitutes a distinct, recognizable family of styles among church architectures. These styles share a cluster of fundamental similarities, having been influenced by the common legacy of Byzantine architecture from the Eastern Roman Empire. Some of the styles have become associated with the particular traditions of one specific autocephalous Orthodox patriarchate, whereas others are more widely used within the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Zeyrek Mosque mosque in Turkey

Zeyrek Mosque or Monastery of the Pantocrator, is a significant mosque in Istanbul, made of two former Eastern Orthodox churches and a chapel. It represents the most typical example of architecture of the Byzantine middle period in Constantinople and is, after Hagia Sophia, the second largest religious edifice built by the Byzantines still standing in Istanbul.

Christ in Majesty Christian image of Christ seated on a throne as ruler of the world, often surrounded by other Christian figures

Christ in Majesty or Christ in Glory is the Western Christian image of Christ seated on a throne as ruler of the world, always seen frontally in the centre of the composition, and often flanked by other sacred figures, whose membership changes over time and according to the context. The image develops from Early Christian art, as a depiction of the Heavenly throne as described in 1 Enoch, Daniel 7, and The Apocalypse of John. In the Byzantine world, the image developed slightly differently into the half-length Christ Pantocrator, "Christ, Ruler of All", a usually unaccompanied figure, and the Deesis, where a full-length enthroned Christ is entreated by Mary and St. John the Baptist, and often other figures. In the West, the evolving composition remains very consistent within each period until the Renaissance, and then remains important until the end of the Baroque, in which the image is ordinarily transported to the sky.

Epitaphios (liturgical) iconographic cloth depicting the dead body of Christ

The Epitaphios is a Christian religious icon, typically consisting of a large, embroidered and often richly adorned cloth, bearing an image of the dead body of Christ, often accompanied by his mother and other figures, following the Gospel account. It is used during the liturgical services of Good Friday and Holy Saturday in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, as well as those Eastern Catholic Churches, which follow the Byzantine Rite. It also exists in painted or mosaic form, on wall or panel.

Pammakaristos Church church

Pammakaristos Church, also known as the Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos, is one of the most famous Greek Orthodox Byzantine churches in Istanbul, Turkey. Adapted in 1591 into the Fethiye Mosque, it is today partly a museum, the parekklesion. The edifice serves as one of the most important examples of Constantinople's Palaiologan architecture, and the last pre-Ottoman building to house the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It also has the largest amount of Byzantine mosaics in Istanbul after the Hagia Sophia and Chora Church.

Painting of the Tarnovo Artistic School

The painting of the Tarnovo Artistic School was the mainstream of the Bulgarian fine arts between 13th and 14th centuries named after the capital and the main cultural center of the Second Bulgarian Empire, Tarnovo.

Malbis Memorial Church Church in Alabama, United States

Malbis Memorial Church, formally the Sacred Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of the Presentation of Theotokos, is a Greek Orthodox Church located in Malbis, Baldwin County, Alabama. One of roughly six Greek Orthodox churches in the state of Alabama, it is not a part of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, but is instead directly under the authority of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. It is known for its intricate and extensive mosaics and paintings. The church was officially dedicated on January 3, 1965, and the opening service for the church was conducted by Archbishop Iakovos of America. It has never had an active congregation, but religious observances, special services, and events, such as weddings, do take place. It was listed on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage on November 30, 1977. The Malbis Plantation Historic District, which includes the church, was designated by the Alabama Historical Commission in 2008, a year that also saw the death of the last of Malbis Plantation's original Greek settlers.

Church of Saint Euphemianos, Lysi Church in Lysi, Cyprus

The church of St. Euphemianos is a small medieval church, about 2 km to the southwest of the village of Lysi in the Famagusta district of Cyprus. It is a very small, single-dome, stone building and the interior is decorated with frescoes dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries.

Ancha icon

The Ancha Icon of the Savior, known in Georgia as Anchiskhati, is a medieval Georgian encaustic icon, traditionally considered to be the Keramidion, a "holy tile" imprinted with the face of Jesus Christ miraculously transferred by contact with the Image of Edessa (Mandylion). Dated to the 6th-7th century, it was covered with a chased silver riza and partly repainted in the following centuries. The icon derives its name from the Georgian monastery of Ancha in what is now Turkey, whence it was brought to Tbilisi in 1664. The icon is now kept at the National Art Museum of Georgia in Tbilisi.

Transfiguration of Jesus in Christian art motif in art

The Transfiguration of Jesus has been an important subject in Christian art, above all in the Eastern church, some of whose most striking icons show the scene.

Church of Hosios David church

The Church of Hosios David is a late 5th-century church in Thessaloniki, Greece. In Byzantine times, it functioned as the katholikon of the Latomos Monastery, and received rich mosaic and fresco decoration, which was renewed in the 12th–14th centuries. The surviving examples are of high artistic quality. Under Ottoman rule, the building was converted into a mosque, until it was reconsecrated as a Greek Orthodox church in 1921, receiving its present name. In 1988, included among the Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

Christ Pantocrator (Sinai)

The Christ Pantocrator of St. Catherine’s Monastery at Sinai is one of the oldest Eastern Roman religious icons, dating from the 6th century AD. It is the earliest known version of the pantocrator style that still survives today, and is regarded by historians and scholars to be one of the most important and recognizable works in the study of Byzantine art as well as Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

References

Footnotes

  1. παντοκράτωρ . Liddell, Henry George ; Scott, Robert ; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  2. 2 Kings (2 Samuel) 7:8 and Amos 3:13
  3. Job 5:17, 15:25 and 22:25
  4. πᾶς . Liddell, Henry George ; Scott, Robert ; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  5. κράτος . Liddell, Henry George ; Scott, Robert ; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project
  6. God's Human Face: The Christ-Icon by Christoph Schoenborn (1994) ISBN   0-89870-514-2 page 154
  7. Sinai and the Monastery of St. Catherine by John Galey (1986) ISBN   977-424-118-5 page 92
  8. Eduard Syndicus; Early Christian Art; p. 96–99; Burns & Oates, London, 1962. Hall pp. 78–80; James Hall, A History of Ideas and Images in Italian Art, pp. 91–97, 1983, John Murray, London, ISBN   0-7195-3971-4
  9. Manolis Chatzidakis and Gerry Walters, "An Encaustic Icon of Christ at Sinai", The Art Bulletin49.3 (September 1967) pp. 197–208.
  10. Galey, John, Forsyth, George, and Weitzmann, Kurt, Sinai and the Monastery of St. Catherine, p. 92, Doubleday, New York, 1980, ISBN   0385171102
  11. Otherwise the size of the figure would have to be greatly reduced to avoid the head appearing at the flattening top of the semi-dome.

Bibliography

  • Latourette, Kenneth Scott, 1975. A History of Christianity, Volume 1, "Beginnings to 1500". Revised edition. (San Francisco: Harper Collins)
  • Christopher Schonborn, Lothar Kraugh (tr.) 1994. God's Human Face: The Christ Icon. Originally published as Icôn du Christ: Fondements théologiques élaborés entre le Ie et IIe Conciles de Nicée (Fribourg) 1976

Further reading