The Christ Pantocrator is a painted wooden panel dating from the 6th century from Saint Catherine's Monastery located in Sinai, Egypt. This painting is considered one of the oldest Byzantine religious icons and is the oldest known work in the Pantocrator style.
The painted panel has a height of 84 cm with a width of 45.5 cm and a depth of 1.2 cm. It is believed that the painting was originally larger, but was cut down at the top and sides at some point, for reasons unknown, to produce the current dimensions. In the work Christ is shown dressed in a purple robe. - a color commonly chosen to represent those of imperial status and royalty. This choice of color for his robe is a symbol of his status and importance. Christ is represented raising his left hand as a sign of blessing and holding a book with his right.
We can assume that this book is probably a Gospel because it is adorned with jewels in the shape of a cross. The painting is deliberately asymmetrical to symbolize the dual nature of Christ. The left side of Christ is symbolic of his human nature with his features depicted as much softer and lighter. While the right side of Christ symbolizes his divinity with his severe gaze and intense features. The eyes themselves are different in shape and size, as well as the hair on her left side being pulled back behind her shoulder.
One of the most important Christian icons is Christ Pantocrator. This image portrays Jesus as the sovereign ruler of the world. Christ Pantocrator was one of the oldest images of Jesus and appears in the most prominent places in cave churches.
The word Pantocrator means "Almighty". In the Greek version of the Old Testament (LXX), the word pantocrator is the translation of "Lord of hosts" and "Almighty God". In the book of Revelation, pantocrator appears nine times as a title emphasizing the sovereignty and power of God.
The Christ Pantocrator icon emphasizes the omnipotence of Jesus, his power to do anything. Jesus is the “Ruler of All” who upholds all things. The symbolism of Christ Pantocrator (explained below) is inspired by Roman imperial imagery to project his sovereign power. The early Christians used cultural symbols to proclaim the sovereign power of the risen Christ.
In addition, the location of Christ Pantocrator in the apse (the wall of the front sanctuary) also has a theological significance. Byzantine churches were modeled after the Roman basilica, the king's chamber for holding court. The apse was the position of authority where the ruling official sat. Jesus' position in the apse declares that he is the rightful ruler and sovereign judge over all.
Christians began to visually represent Jesus in the late 300s, once the threat of persecution no longer existed. These early images present Jesus as a stoic figure sitting on a throne with a scroll. In the 600s, Christ Pantocrator emerged as a simplification of that early image. The appearance of Christ Pantocrator has hardly changed in the last 1,500 years.
Most of the early images of Jesus were destroyed during the iconoclastic controversy.
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