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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Icon of the Savior Not Made by Hands

By Barbara A. Schoeneberger

Image of Christ Not Made by Hands

A few weeks ago I began a search for an icon of the face of Christ that would speak compellingly to people in great distress since I am meeting so many of them in my life right now. I thought that if they had an image of Jesus that they could look at, perhaps their hearts would calm and they could begin to find peace. I also wanted a prayer to put on the back. After a few days devoted to this task and rejecting image after image, I found the following icon at a Russian site. It is late 19th century, held in a private collection and the writer unknown. The icon type is “Icon of the Savior Not Made by Hands”, a most intriguing title.


This is one of the oldest image types of the Eastern Church and has been written many times over the centuries. Via Wikipedia and research from other sources:

According to the legend, the fame of Jesus’s miracles had spread throughout the region and into Syria as related by Matthew 4:24.  King Abgar of Edessa, though not having seen Jesus but believing in him, desired to be cured of leprosy, according to some accounts. He could not travel into Roman territory because of a treaty with Caesar, so he sent his court painter, Ananias, to find Jesus, give him the letter, and paint His portrait. Ananias was unable to get near enough to Jesus to render an image because of the crowds, but Jesus called Him over and gave him a letter for Abgar declining his invitation but praising his faith and promising to send one of His disciples to him. Along with the letter went a likeness of Jesus said to have been formed by Our Lord wiping his face with a towel. Upon beholding it, Abgar was healed.

This legend was first recorded in the early fourth century by Eusebius of Caesarea, who said that he had transcribed and translated the actual letter in the Syriac chancery documents of the king of Edessa. The apostle “Thaddaeus“, known as “Addai” in Syriac, went to Edessa after Pentecost, was welcomed by Abgar, preached the Gospel and healed many.

Continue reading at Barbara's blog Suffering With Joy.

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