We begin a series of blog posts collecting a variety of representations of St John Chrysostom, with an emphasis on images found in churches of the Anglican Communion.
No images exist from the time of the saint himself, but a traditional way of representing him has developed through the centuries.
There are a huge number of icons of St John Chrysostom, and many follow the Eastern stereotype. At the bottom of this post you will see a variety of icons and this link goes to a Google search which illustrates the wide range, and the common features of the icons.
In iconography, ancient and modern, John is usually depicted as a patriarch, bearded, often with little hair on the top of his head, a large forehead, and wearing the vestments of the Greek rite. He holds the Scriptures and his hand is raised in blessing.
St John Chrysostom’s Church, Meeting House Lane, Peckham in south London (dating in its present form from the 1960s) recently commissioned their own fine icon of St John Chrysostom. (Illustrated left).
In some iconography, especially in the East, Chrysostom is depicted with other saints, especially teachers of the church. In the East, St Basil, St Gregory Nazianzen and St John Chrysostom form the Three Holy Hierarchs, and they are often shown together in icons.
The traditional way of depicting Chrysostom in icons has translated well to mosaics. Perhaps one of the the finest representations in mosaic is from the twelfth century and is found in the Cathedral at Cefalu, near Palermo on the northern coast of Sicily. Here he is depicted with Ss Basil and Gregory.
There is a well known mosaic of Chrysostom in Hagia Sophia in the city where he was patriarch, Constantinople, now Istanbul. Here the representation appears to be of a younger Chrysostom than many of the traditional icons. This mosaic has been reproduced in St Chrysostom’s Church, Chicago.