Christ Pantocrator

Hand painted icon of Christ Pantocrator

Pantocrator means Ruler of All (not just all people, but everything). In this type of icons Christ is seen holding a book or a scroll in his left hand, his right hand is raised in a gesture of blessing. Christ is shown wearing a blue outer garment – symbolising divinity, and earthy red under garment – for his humanity. Thus we are making a statement that in Christ the human and divine natures were combined. Jesus Christ is always depicted in icons with a halo, inscribed with a cross, even when he is a baby in his mother’s arms. This kind of halo is uniquely used for Christ. In the arms of the cross there are the letters. Their meaning is “The One who is”, referring to the words Moses heard out of the burning bush: “I am who I am”. The meaning they carry is that of divinity, and of Christ being the same God who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. The halo itself is not a sign of divinity, but of the light of God, of the divine radiance, reflected in the saints. Therefore the Renaissance and later practice of painting haloes (light) as discs in perspective is rather absurd, although visually attractive.

It is a matter of debate whether this is a physical likeness of Jesus of Nazareth or whether the Son of God incarnate was good looking or not. There were different ways Jesus was depicted in the first centuries of the Christian era, carrying different meanings and sometimes continuing the themes found in pre-Christian art.

In architectural iconography, the image of Christ Pantocrator occupies the central place, in the dome of the church. In the iconostasis the icon of Christ Pantocrator is on the right side of the Royal Doors, with the Mother of God occupying the corresponding place on the left.