Christ Pantocrator

Christ Pantocrator

Overview

In Christian iconography, Christ Pantokrator refers to a specific depiction of Christ
Images of Jesus
The depiction of Jesus in art took several centuries to reach a conventional standardized form for his physical appearance, which has subsequently remained largely stable since that time...

. Pantocrator or Pantokrator (from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 Παντοκράτωρ) is a translation of one of many Names of God in Judaism
Names of God in Judaism
In Judaism, the name of God is more than a distinguishing title; it represents the Jewish conception of the divine nature, and of the relationship of God to the Jewish people and to the world. To demonstrate the sacredness of the names of God, and as a means of showing respect and reverence for...

. When the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek as the Septuagint, Pantokrator was used both for YHWH Tzevaot "Lord of Hosts" and for El Shaddai
El Shaddai
El Shaddai [shah-'dah-yy] is one of the Judaic names of God, with its etymology coming from the influence of the Ugaritic religion on modern Judaism. El Shaddai is conventionally translated as God Almighty...

"God Almighty".


The most common translation of Pantocrator is "Almighty" or "All-powerful".
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Encyclopedia

In Christian iconography, Christ Pantokrator refers to a specific depiction of Christ
Images of Jesus
The depiction of Jesus in art took several centuries to reach a conventional standardized form for his physical appearance, which has subsequently remained largely stable since that time...

. Pantocrator or Pantokrator (from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 Παντοκράτωρ) is a translation of one of many Names of God in Judaism
Names of God in Judaism
In Judaism, the name of God is more than a distinguishing title; it represents the Jewish conception of the divine nature, and of the relationship of God to the Jewish people and to the world. To demonstrate the sacredness of the names of God, and as a means of showing respect and reverence for...

. When the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek as the Septuagint, Pantokrator was used both for YHWH Tzevaot "Lord of Hosts" and for El Shaddai
El Shaddai
El Shaddai [shah-'dah-yy] is one of the Judaic names of God, with its etymology coming from the influence of the Ugaritic religion on modern Judaism. El Shaddai is conventionally translated as God Almighty...

"God Almighty".

Meaning



The most common translation of Pantocrator is "Almighty" or "All-powerful". In this understanding, Pantokrator is a compound word formed from the Greek words for "all" and the noun "strength" (κρατος). This is often understood in terms of potential power; i.e., ability to do anything, omnipotence
Omnipotence
Omnipotence is unlimited power. Monotheistic religions generally attribute omnipotence to only the deity of whichever faith is being addressed...

.

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" (κρατεω). This translation speaks more to God's actual power; i.e., God does everything (as opposed to God can do everything).

The Pantokrator, largely an Eastern Orthodox or Eastern Catholic theological conception is less common by 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
Christ in Majesty
Christ in Majesty, or Christ in Glory, in Latin Majestas Domini, 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...

, which developed a rather different iconography
Iconography
Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means "image writing", and comes from the Greek "image" and "to write". A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the...

.

Uses in the New Testament





In the New Testament, Pantokrator is used once by Saint Paul . Aside from that one occurrence, the author of the Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

 is the only New Testament author to use the word Pantokrator. The author of Revelation uses the word nine times, and while the references to God and Christ in Revelation are at times interchangeable, Pantokrator appears to be reserved for God alone.

Later development


The primary transference of the title "Pantokrator" to refer to Christ rather than the Creator was a result of the Christological shift
Christology
Christology is the field of study within Christian theology which is primarily concerned with the nature and person of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament. Primary considerations include the relationship of Jesus' nature and person with the nature...

 that occurred during the fourth century, reflected through iconography; Christ Pantocrator has come to suggest Christ as a mild but stern, all-powerful judge of humanity.

The icon of Christ Pantokrator is one of the most widely used religious images of Orthodox Christianity. Generally speaking, in Byzantine
Byzantine art
Byzantine art is the term commonly used to describe the artistic products of the Byzantine Empire from about the 5th century until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453....

 church art and architecture, an icon
Icon
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

ic mosaic or fresco of Christ Pantokrator occupies the space in the central dome of the church, in the half-dome of the apse
Apse
In architecture, the apse is a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome...

 or on the nave
Nave
In Romanesque and Gothic Christian abbey, cathedral basilica and church architecture, the nave is the central approach to the high altar, the main body of the church. "Nave" was probably suggested by the keel shape of its vaulting...

 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
Statue of Zeus at Olympia
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was made by the Greek sculptor Phidias, circa 432 BC on the site where it was erected in the Temple of Zeus, Olympia, Greece. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.-Description:...

. The development of the earliest stages of the icon from Roman Imperial imagery is easier to trace.

The icon, traditionally half-length when in a semi-dome
Semi-dome
A semi-dome, also called a "half-dome", is the term in architecture for half a dome , used to cover a semi-circular area. Similar structures occur in nature.-Architecture:...

, 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 St. Catherine's, the conventional rhetorical gesture that represents teaching. The left hand holds a closed book with a richly decorated cover featuring the Cross
Cross
A cross is a geometrical figure consisting of two lines or bars perpendicular to each other, dividing one or two of the lines in half. The lines usually run vertically and horizontally; if they run obliquely, the design is technically termed a saltire, although the arms of a saltire need not meet...

, representing the Gospel
Gospel
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

s. 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
Halo (religious iconography)
A halo is a ring of light that surrounds a person in art. They have been used in the iconography of many religions to indicate holy or sacred figures, and have at various periods also been used in images of rulers or heroes...

. The icon is usually shown against a gold background comparable to the gilded grounds of mosaic depictions of the Christian emperors.

In some variants, on each side of the halo are Greek letters: IC and XC. Christ's fingers are depicted in a pose that represents the letters IC, X and C, thereby making the Christogram
Christogram
A Christogram is a monogram or combination of letters that forms an abbreviation for the name of Jesus Christ, traditionally used as a Christian symbol. Different types of Christograms are associated with the various traditions of Christianity, e.g...

 ICXC (for "Jesus Christ"). The IC represents the Greek characters Iota (Ι) and Sigma (Σ, ς) - the first and last letters of Jesus (Ιησους). The letters XC represent Chi (Χ) and Sigma (ς) - the first and last letters of Christ (Χριστος).
The typical Western Christ in Majesty
Christ in Majesty
Christ in Majesty, or Christ in Glory, in Latin Majestas Domini, 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...

 is a full-length icon that in the early Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 usually showed Christ in a mandorla or other geometric frame, surrounded by the Four Evangelists
Four Evangelists
In Christian tradition the Four Evangelists are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the authors attributed with the creation of the four Gospel accounts in the New Testament that bear the following titles:*Gospel according to Matthew*Gospel according to Mark...

 or their symbols.

Iconography


The icon
Icon
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

ic image of Christ Pantocrator was one of the first images of Christ
Images of Jesus
The depiction of Jesus in art took several centuries to reach a conventional standardized form for his physical appearance, which has subsequently remained largely stable since that time...

  developed in the Early Christian Church and remains a central icon of the Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

. In the half-length image, Christ holds the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 in his left hand and makes the gesture of teaching or of bless
Bless
Bless may refer to:* Blessing, a religious pronouncement* Bless , hip-hop artist from Montreal* "Bless" , a 2010 single by L'Arc-en-Ciel* Bless, another name for the Swedish group Bubbles* Bless , an album by Bubbles...

ing with his right.

The oldest known surviving example of the icon of Christ Pantocrator was painted in encaustic
Encaustic painting
Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. The liquid/paste is then applied to a surface—usually prepared wood, though canvas and other materials are often used...

 on panel in the sixth or seventh century, and survived the period of destruction of images during the Iconoclastic disputes
Iconoclasm
Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually with religious or political motives. It is a frequent component of major political or religious changes...

 that twice racked the Eastern church, 726 to 787 and 814 to 842, by being preserved in the remote desert of the Sinai
Sinai Peninsula
The Sinai Peninsula or Sinai is a triangular peninsula in Egypt about in area. It is situated between the Mediterranean Sea to the north, and the Red Sea to the south, and is the only part of Egyptian territory located in Asia as opposed to Africa, effectively serving as a land bridge between two...

, in Saint Catherine's Monastery
Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai
Saint Catherine's Monastery lies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai in the city of Saint Catherine in Egypt's South Sinai Governorate. The monastery is Orthodox and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site...

. 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. It was only when the overpainting was cleaned in 1962 that the ancient image was revealed to be a very high quality icon, probably produced in Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

.

See also

  • Salvator Mundi
    Salvator Mundi
    Salvator Mundi, or Saviour of the World, is a subject in iconography depicting Christ with his right hand raised in blessing and his left hand holding an orb surmounted by a cross, known as a globus cruciger...

  • Christ the Redeemer
    Christ the Redeemer (icon)
    Christ the Redeemer is an icon discovered by accident in a dilapidated woodshed near Zvenigorod in 1919. With several other icons stored nearby, it was attributed as the work of great Andrei Rublev, painted for one of Zvenigorod cathedrals in the 1420s. It is exhibited in the Tretyakov Gallery of...

  • Images of Jesus
    Images of Jesus
    The depiction of Jesus in art took several centuries to reach a conventional standardized form for his physical appearance, which has subsequently remained largely stable since that time...

  • Transfiguration of Jesus
    Transfiguration of Jesus
    The Transfiguration of Jesus is an event reported in the New Testament in which Jesus is transfigured and becomes radiant upon a mountain. The Synoptic Gospels describe it, and 2 Peter 1:16-18 refers to it....


Further reading

  • Chatzidakis, Manolis, (Gerry Walters, tr.) "An Encaustic Icon of Christ at Sinai" The Art Bulletin 49.3 (September 1967), pp. 197–208.

External links