Saint Cuthbert – portrait, praying in the sea

Some time ago, I announced that the Monastery would start a long-term campaign to create original icons of the Celtic Saints. We want to offer everyone who loves the Celtic Saints the opportunity to purchase unique, personal icons, hand painted on natural wood. The main difficulty has been to find a way to balance the desire to offer high quality icons while still keeping the costs as low as possible.

The solution we’ve found is to develop two different iconographic projects. First, we shall continue the ‘Series’ project which aims to create a series of 12 to 20 standard¬†icons of the Celtic Saints. We have already painted three icons in this series – St Columba, St Patrick and St Brendan – and two more are now in the process of being finalised: St Ita (Ida) and St Brigid. Because these icons are standardised (in the sense that we are not creating a new composition for each new commission, but merely painting a new copy every time) and because they are painted in a simple style, very common in the monasteries in Moldavia, we can afford to offer them at the lowest possible price for a hand painted icon.

The second project – entirely different from the ‘Series’ one – aims to offer original, creative icons of very high quality. This second project is focused on quality and originality, and allows us to create icons which are entirely personalised (such as icons depicting one particular aspect or event in a saint’s life) or icons of less known saints, for whom other icons simply do not exist. This new project requires great effort, dedication and a lot of work. One has to research the life of the Saints, look for previous iconographic representations of similar events or ideas, work through¬†multiple versions of the composition until a satisfactory one is created, then execute the actual painting. Because these are unique icons (not standardised, as the those in the ‘Series’ project), all this work is repeated for each new commission, which makes them more expensive.

It sounds extremely difficult and time-consuming, and it is indeed. But the excitement of having created an entirely new icon, the joy of taking an unknown saint’s life and finding a visual expression to it, making aspects of that saint’s life (his / her face, actions, words, values etc) visible again in an icon is immensely satisfying and an extraordinary spiritual experience both for me and for the person who commissions the icon.

I shall try to post the first commissions we have received over the next week or so. If you are interested to commission an icon, please write me an email (at [email protected]) and we shall work together through each stage of the process. Remember that the aim of this project is to focus on less known saints or to illustrate a personal relationship with one particular saint, so the more personal the icon, the more interested we shall be in the commission.

I think it is only proper to offer this icon of St Cuthbert as our first commission in this project. St Cuthbert is one the two Patron Saints of our church on the Isle of Mull, and we are extremely grateful for the opportunity we were given to create this icon which focuses on his solitary prayer at night-time, in the waters of the sea.

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