Iconography: a Byzantine art born in the Holy Land
BETHLEHEM – June 2015. In the heart of the old city of Bethlehem, The Bethlehem Icon School is on a mission to revive an authentic art, which dates back to the 4th and 5th centuries in an attempt to integrate this sacred art as part of the Christian culture of Palestine.
What distinguishes the Bethlehem Icon School from other art institutes in Bethlehem is its capability to infuse humility and unselfishness in students’ comportment, because the work they are producing is first and foremost dedicated to God.
Moreover, the school takes students from an environment soaked in materialism and selfishness into an environment in which the student can form his or her mindset and spirit through the life of prayer and work that’s consecrated to God.
One of the essential qualities that an icon must incorporate is tranquility, for tranquility in the icon is crucial for eliminating distractions. And through this element, iconographers seek to enrich and inspire their faith and the faith of people who are revering the living God.
Not only does the school teach the various techniques of writing icons but it also makes sure to hold weekly seminars on the origins of iconography in order for students to have adequate knowledge on the different stages of this sacred art.
The Bethlehem Icon School is the only school in the Middle East that teaches this ancient art, which saw its birth with the arrival of monks that lived in the desert in the 4th and 5th centuries. For Palestinian monks, learning iconography was and still is considered a responsibility, joy and grace for it’s a medium to offer appreciation and respect to God.
Before the creation of the school, courses were held for a week in the Emmanuel Greek Catholic Monastery adjacent to the Separation wall near Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem.
In 2012, the school was established as a non-profit company under the patronage of the Archbishop of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and Apostolic Vicar of Jerusalem Mgr. Joseph J. Zerey with the aim of giving students professional training to become iconographers.
In December 2014, the Bethlehem Icon School had its inauguration in Hosh Abu Jarour in Star Street. The English-born director of the school who is also the main tutor, Ian Knowles, has responsibility for implementing the policies, the aims and the objectives of the learning process of the school.
Saher Kawas, one of the students at the school.