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Icon of St. Nicholas #274979
01/24/08 03:22 AM
01/24/08 03:22 AM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 13
near St. Louis, MO
MarilynH Offline OP
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MarilynH  Offline OP
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Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 13
near St. Louis, MO
Can anyone explain why, in the icon of St. Nicholas, his left hand is not shown. In about 8 out of 10 icons of St. Nicholas, he is holding a Bible in his left hand, but the hand is covered. What is the significance behind this?

Re: Icon of St. Nicholas [Re: MarilynH] #275291
01/25/08 06:24 PM
01/25/08 06:24 PM
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 501
Canada
O
Orest Offline
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Orest  Offline
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Quote
Can anyone explain why, in the icon of St. Nicholas, his left hand is not shown. In about 8 out of 10 icons of St. Nicholas, he is holding a Bible in his left hand, but the hand is covered. What is the significance behind this?


In the old days, common people were not permitted to touch royalty. It was a sign of respect for royalty. This even developed into the custom of servants wearing gloves!

In the icon of St. Nicholas mentioned, the saint is holding a Gospel book in his left hand which is covered to prevent direct contact with the holy Gospel book. We can also reflect on the concept of Christ being "the Word of God."

I would be careful about saying things like "in 8 out of 10 icons."
You and I have not seen all the icons of St. Nicholas. Also so many of the earlier icons have been destroyed by the Arabs, or Turks or Tartars or by fires that were so frquent in Eastern Europe in wooden churches.

Re: Icon of St. Nicholas [Re: Orest] #275531
01/27/08 12:48 PM
01/27/08 12:48 PM
Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 13
near St. Louis, MO
MarilynH Offline OP
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MarilynH  Offline OP
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Joined: Apr 2007
Posts: 13
near St. Louis, MO
Orest, thank you for your explanation. I agree. As for my comment about 8 out of 10, it was meant to show the perecentage that I have seen, not all icons existing. I wrote to a place I found on the internet, the St. Nicholas Center, regarding my question, and this was their response:

"St. Nicholas is often depicted with his hand holding the Gospel Book with a cloth, or part of his robe, as a sign of respect for holy Scriptures. That is the tradition in some Eastern traditions, including Armenian. The idea is that one wouldn't touch such a holy object with one's bare hands. So, the hand isn't missing or hidden, really. Rather it is holding the book through fabric.

I hope you've enjoyed www.stnicholascenter.org and will visit us again!

Carol Myers
St. Nicholas Center"

So I am satisfied with the answers.
Marilyn

Re: Icon of St. Nicholas [Re: MarilynH] #275562
01/27/08 04:02 PM
01/27/08 04:02 PM
Joined: Feb 2002
Posts: 2,502
West Coast
Stephanos I Offline
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Stephanos I  Offline
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The same is true in the Latin Church, hands had to be covered to hold the mitre and the staff of the Bishop.
Stephanos I

Re: Icon of St. Nicholas [Re: Stephanos I] #275573
01/27/08 05:39 PM
01/27/08 05:39 PM
Joined: Jan 2002
Posts: 2,010
Hermitage, PA
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Chtec Offline
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There's an interesting little caption in A History of Private Life: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium:

"The left hand [in the statue of a woman] is veiled, for reasons of distinction, not modesty: in Greece it was considered elegant, even for orators, to leave the hands underneath one's clothing rather than to make grand gestures."

In the Church, we do have the idea (borrowed from Judaism, I would guess) that one does not take the sacred for granted, and thus one limits contact with sacred objects out of respect. (To my knowledge, we don't share the idea that contact with the sacred makes one ritually unclean.) Today, the general rule is that the laity do not touch or handle the chalice, Gospel, the Altar, etc.; in some locales, it is customary for icons and other holy items to be carried in processions only with a veil or "ruchnyk." But, in the Byzantine tradition, at least, this rule doesn't apply to the clergy, who need direct access to these sacred items.

When looking at ancient Greek and Roman art, I am amazed at how many things are carried over into our iconography. Poses, vesture, hand gestures, and so on can be found in these earlier arts. The above quote may shed some light on why bishops and priests in icons--and the actual bishops and priests of yesteryear--had a penchant for keeping their hands under their rather ample phelonia.

Dave

Re: Icon of St. Nicholas [Re: Chtec] #275574
01/27/08 05:49 PM
01/27/08 05:49 PM
Joined: Nov 2007
Posts: 212
New York, U.S.A.
Doubting Thomas Offline
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Doubting Thomas  Offline
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Dave,

Wow! That is a most informative and interesting post. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

God bless and keep you....

Re: Icon of St. Nicholas [Re: Chtec] #275583
01/27/08 06:57 PM
01/27/08 06:57 PM
Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 1,180
California
Elizabeth Maria Offline
Orthodox Christian
Elizabeth Maria  Offline
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Member
Joined: Dec 2003
Posts: 1,180
California
Originally Posted by Chtec
There's an interesting little caption in A History of Private Life: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium:

"The left hand [in the statue of a woman] is veiled, for reasons of distinction, not modesty: in Greece it was considered elegant, even for orators, to leave the hands underneath one's clothing rather than to make grand gestures."

In the Church, we do have the idea (borrowed from Judaism, I would guess) that one does not take the sacred for granted, and thus one limits contact with sacred objects out of respect. (To my knowledge, we don't share the idea that contact with the sacred makes one ritually unclean.) Today, the general rule is that the laity do not touch or handle the chalice, Gospel, the Altar, etc.; in some locales, it is customary for icons and other holy items to be carried in processions only with a veil or "ruchnyk." But, in the Byzantine tradition, at least, this rule doesn't apply to the clergy, who need direct access to these sacred items.

When looking at ancient Greek and Roman art, I am amazed at how many things are carried over into our iconography. Poses, vesture, hand gestures, and so on can be found in these earlier arts. The above quote may shed some light on why bishops and priests in icons--and the actual bishops and priests of yesteryear--had a penchant for keeping their hands under their rather ample phelonia.

Dave


From a linguistic point of view, gestures are now known to be very important.

I was teaching some Koreans how to distinguish the /i/ from /I/
In the IPA, /i/ is the vowel found in beet = /bit/
/I/ is the vowel found in bit = /bIt/

So this young man could not say beet, but would say bit, even though he had the /i/ sound in his native language. He apparently was overgeneralizing in the process of trying to learn the /I/ sound.

Finally, I noticed that he was sitting on his hands, because the Koreans generally have a negative view about gesturing while speaking. I told him to raise his hand and arm in a upward gesture motion while saying /bit/ and he did. He was shocked.
By raising his hands, he was able to reach the high /i/ which has a higher placement than the /I/. Also, he was now able to say sheet rather than that cuss word, which was embarrassing him.


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