Books on iconography

Books on Iconography

What follows is a short guide to the wealth of books and other material available on icons, iconography and the role of icons in meditation.  It is not intended to be a comprehensive listing.


  • Baggley, John, Doors of Perception: Icons and their Spiritual Significance (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995).
  • Baggley, john, Festival Icons for the Christian Year (London: Mowbray, 2000).

These two excellent books give detailed introductions to iconography. The second work locates icons within their liturgical setting and through this brings out their rich significance.

  • Brenske, Helmut, and Brenske, Stefan, Icons: Windows on Eternity (Hannover: Albrecht, 2001).

A general introduction with many fine reproductions.

  • Castle, Tony, Gateway to the Trinity: Meditations on Rublev’s Icon (Slough: St. Paul’s, 1993).

A short and personal meditation on the significance of Rublev’s great icon ‘The Hospitality of Abraham’. A good beginner’s introduction.

  • Chittister, Joan, A Passion for Life—Fragments of the Face of God: Icons by Robert Lentz (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996).

Images and commentary on some contemporary iconographic works.

  • Collins, Gregory, The Glenstal Book of Icons (Dublin: Columba Press, 2002).

An introduction to icons through images from the icons of Glenstal Abbey.

  • Crook, Sr Bernadette Mewburn, The Ibillin Beatitude Icons: Meditations and Icons (BAI, 2010).
  • Evdokimov, Paul, The Art of the Icon: A Theology of Beauty (Redondo Beach, Calif.: Oakwood Publications, 1996).

More developed theological assessment.

  • Florensky, Pavel, Iconostasis (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1996).

An in-depth analysis of the theology of the iconostasis.

  • Forrest, Jim, Praying with Icons (New York: Orbis Books, 1997).

An excellent introduction to icons and iconography.

  • Hart, Russell M., The Icon through Western Eyes (Springfield, Ill.: Templegate Publishers, 1991).

Introduction with colour plates and commentary.

  • Jenkins, Simon, Windows into Heaven: The Icons and Spirituality of Russia (Oxford: Lion, 1998).

A simply and well illustrated introduction with Liturgical texts and prayers.

  • Kala,Tthomas, Meditations on the Icons (Slough: St. Paul’s, 1993).

A basic, good and value-for-money introduction.

  • Maguire, Henry, The Icons of their Bodies: Saints and their Images in Byzantium (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996).

More detailed and advanced examination.

  • Minto, Marilyn, Windows into Heaven: An introduction to the Russian Icon (Cardiff: Aureus, 1996).

A good introduction with colour plates and commentary.

  • Muzj, Maria Giovanna, Transfiguration: Introduction to the Contemplation of Icons (Boston: St. Paul Books and Media, 1991).

A good introduction to many different icons, each with a colour reproduction and straightforward commentary.

  • Nes, Solrunn, The Mystical Language of Icons (London: St. Paul’s, 2000).

A general presentation of the techniques and theology of iconography by a contemporary iconographer. Beautifully illustrated.

  • Nouwen, Henri, Behold the Beauty of the Lord (Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press, 1988).

Four meditations on four great icons. If you like Nouwen’s spiritual style, this is a good introduction to icons.

  • Ouspensky, Leonid, Theology of the Icon, 2 vols. (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1992).

A text-based theological introduction to the theological meaning of icons.

  • Ouspensky, Leonid, and Lossky, Vladimir, The Meaning of Icons (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1999).

A classic introduction to the theology of icons with many beautiful reproductions.

  • Pauline, Sr, with Rust, Stations of the Cross (BAI, 2010).
  • Proud, Llinda, Icons: A Sacred Art (Andover: Pitkin, 2000).

Probably the cheapest and best beginner’s introduction.

  • Quenot, Michel, The Icon: Window on the Kingdom (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1996).

General introduction with illustrations.

  • Quenot, Michel, The Resurrection and the Icon (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997).

A more detailed theological analysis of icons.

  • Ramos-poquí, Guillem, The Technique of Icon Painting (Tunbridge Wells: Search Press/Burns & Oates, 1995).

A good introduction to icon painting; includes patterns for icons and prayers for their blessing.

  • Sendler, Egon, The Icon: Image of the Invisible. Elements of Theology, Aesthetics and Technique (Redondo Beach, Calif.: Oakwood Publications, 1999).

A more advanced presentation.

  • Tataryn, Myroslaw, How to Pray with Icons: An Introduction (Canada and Leominster: Novalis/Gracewing, 1988).
  • Tataryn, Myroslaw, Praying with Icons: An Introduction for Children (Canada and Leominster: Novalis/Gracewing, 1988).

Two short books, simply written and with colourful illustrations.

  • Temple, Richard, Icons: A Sacred Art (Longmead: Element Books/The Temple Gallery, 1989).

Mainly colour plates with introductory text.

  • Temple, Richard, Icons and the Mystical Origins of Christianity (Oxford: Luzac Oriental Limited, 2001).

A good introduction to icons for the person who wants to move beyond the basic.

  • Williams, Rowan, Ponder These Things: Praying with Icons of the Virgin (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2002).

A beautifully produced spiritual introduction to icons of Mary.

  • Vrame, Anton c., The Educating Icon: Teaching Wisdom and Holiness in the Orthodox Way (Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1999).

A theological treatise.