Christ Pantocrator - Icon in the Monastery of St. Catherine

The Icons of St. Catherine's Monastery
In Egypt's Sinai

John Watson

Christ Pantocrator
Christ Pantocrator - Icon in the Monastery of St. Catherine

This is an early type of the Christ Pantocrator. Wearing a tunic (chiton) and a draped outer garment (himation), Christ makes the sign of blessing with the right hand and holds in the left a very thick Gospel-book with a cover adorned with jewels and precious stones. The eyes are not alike in size and shape, the mouth is asymmetrical with a melancholy expression, the rather short beard has an inward curve and the hair falls back over the left shoulder.

The exceptionally high quality of the painted icon suggests that it must have been the product of a Constantinopolitan atelier in Justinian's age. This may be further confirmed by the fact that the iconographical type it represents was created at the time when Justinian was emperor, although we cannot be absolutely certain about that. It should be remembered at this point that the Monastery of St. Catherine had been founded by Justinian and that the emperor had presumably sent various gifts to the Monastery, including perhaps this very icon.

At one time the icon was dated to the 13th century. However, its cleaning and conservation in 1962 revealed the original encaustic layer, thus pointing to a much earlier date in the 6th or 7th century. (.85 X .45 meters)

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