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Watch this artist create an icon of Christ

John Burger - published on 11/06/19

Stéphane René goes step by step through the completion of a Pantocrator.

The Pantocrator is an icon of Christ that often is placed in the dome of Byzantine churches. The word is Greek—meaning Ruler of All. Some Western Catholic churches have a Pantocrator as well, notably the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

This video provides an overview of the completion of one particular Pantocrator, inside St. Mary and St. Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Church in Hillsborough, New Jersey. The video greatly speeds up the process of writing the icon but shows the main steps taken by iconographer Stéphane René and his assistants.

René is a leading exponent of the Neo-Coptic School. He studied under the founder of that school, Isaac Fanous, at the Institute of Coptic Studies in Cairo. He received a doctorate from the Royal College of Art in London in 1990—the first one the RCA awarded for iconography. René teaches regular classes and leads workshops internationally. His work can be found in Coptic, Anglican and Catholic churches in Europe and the United States.

The video begins by showing René going into the church in the dark, inspecting the wall for the suitability of an icon by shining his flashlight on it. By the end, he is applying gold leaf to his icon. It seems a suitable progression and symbolism, reflecting Christ, the Light of the World.

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