About two months ago, I posted three icons of Sts Columba, Brendan and Patrick on our online bookstore, and within 24 hours we had not only sold them, but also had eight new orders. The idea is to develop a series of simple icons of the Celtic Saints which are true to Orthodox iconographic canons, while also incorporating Celtic elements and biographical details of the Saints. I feel the Monastery should find a way to provide you with beautiful, yet affordable hand-painted icons on real wood. The solution that came to mind was to be in touch with the same iconographer who painted my own icons while I lived in my monastery in Moldavia. His style is iconographically correct and heart-felt, almost peasant-like in its simplicity. He uses good quality materials and real wood, and there is a sense of spiritual health in his direct, non-sophisticated manner of painting.
After those initial icons were published, I received a great number of emails asking whether we can paint icons of Celtic saints who are less well-known or icons which depict certain scenes from the lives of the Celtic Saints. It soon became obvious that we must either abandon the plan of a complete series of Celtic icons (there simply is no time to continue the series, while also focusing on these personal requests for icons) or come up with a new solution.
After giving it a lot of thought, I decided that it is very important to continue what we started and create a complete series of icons of the Celtic Saints. By that, I imagine a number of 12-15 icons painted in the same manner, using the same dimensions and style, and preserving the same structure and composition. If you look at the three icons we created so far, you will see what I mean by that.
At the same time, I do understand the need to provide icons of lesser known Celtic Saints, as much as I understand the need to personalise even the icons of very well knows Saints. For instance, I have personally always wanted an icon of St Cuthbert praying in the sea by night, because that is the image of St Cuthbert that speaks to my heart and inspires me most.
So I eventually got in touch with Dr Mihaela Schiopu, who is one of the best friends of our Monastery (you may know her work if you have seen our booklets On Prayer and, more recently, The Voice in Confession) and have come up with a plan for a new collaboration. This way, the Monastery will be able to provide you with unique, personalised icons of the Celtic Saints, while also continuing to develop the original series of Celtic Icons.
This new blog is dedicated to our icons. I want to share with you this new adventure, step by step. To create an icon is to create a personal relationship with a certain Saint: face to face, heart to heart. Since we have received our very first commissions, I have discovered the lives of several Celtic Saints who were unknown to me, and I have fallen in love with all of them. For all of that, I am deeply grateful to those who have written to commission these icons. I pray this new blog and the icons we shall create together will provide you with at least the same happiness and spiritual joy they have given me.