Oldest depiction of Jesus and the crucifixion in St. Catherine’s Greek Orthodox Monastery, Egypt – Greek City Times


The oldest icon of the Crucifixion of Christ can be found in the Greek Orthodox Saint Catherine Monastery on Mount Sinai in Egypt and reveals the closeness to the Greco-Roman artistic heritage!

The oldest icon of Jesus Christ and the Crucifixion, Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, Egypt, 8th century.

This is a very rare and important icon that survived the so-called “dark ages” of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire).

It is the oldest representation of Jesus Christ, with a crown of thorns and the names of the two crucified robbers “Gestas” and “Dimas” are written, known from the New Testament.

As we know, the early Byzantine and post-Byzantine paintings carry on the Hellenistic and Roman tradition and style of wall painting.

The oldest icons preserved in the Saint Catherine collection in the Sinai date back to the 6th century and are directly linked to Egyptian portraits of the wooden dead (Fayum mummy portraits) and are also close to the Greco-Roman heritage, in particular with the frescoes from Pompeii.

A portrait of the Fayum.  The Fayum Mummy Portraits are a type of naturalistic portrait painted on wooden planks attached to upper class mummies from Roman Egypt.  They belong to the tradition of panel painting, one of the most popular art forms in the classical world.  The portraits of the Fayum are the only large body of art from this tradition to have survived.

The hallmarks of these idealized portraits are the large expressive eyes, elongated nose, small mouth, impressive colors and the greater volume of the figures, which also strongly resemble the Hellenistic naturalistic mosaics.

Ancient Roman mosaic of Apollo, from the archaeological site of Old Paphos, Cyprus.
Ancient Roman mosaic of Apollo, from the archaeological site of Old Paphos, Cyprus.

By Dimosthenis Vasiloudis for L’archéologue.

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Byzantine Empire, Dimosthenis Vasiloudis, Empire of East Rome, Eastern Roman Empire, Egypt, Greek Orthodox Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Monastery of Saint Catherine, Mount Sinai, Sinai

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