The Resurrection of Lazarus: Icons

Photogallery

The Gospel story of the Resurrection of Righteous Lazarus is one of the earliest depictions in Christian pictorial art. Most likely the iconographic tradition of the Resurrection of Lazarus formed earlier than the celebration of this Gospel event. This theme can be found in the earliest of Christian monuments that have been preserved to our days, including the wall paintings in the catacombs and bas-reliefs on sarcophaguses.

It is quite logical that the catacomb frescos and bas-reliefs are connected with the theme of the resurrection from the dead and the victory over death. The artists needed to express their faith in the deliverance from original sin, and the decay and death that goes along with it. The theme of the Resurrection of Lazarus points to the future general resurrection, and therefore it often appears in burial sites.

Resurrection of righteous Lazarus. Fresco from the catacomb of Giordani, Rome, 4th c.

Resurrection of righteous Lazarus. Fresco from the catacomb of Giordani, Rome, 4th c.

In the early monuments of Christian art the Resurrection of Righteous Lazarus is laconically presented in the form of two figures. The depictions of Christ were just beginning to form in that period; He is shown with a beard and long hair, and also as a beardless youth. In Christ’s hand is a light stick, the attribute of a miracle worker as a symbol that would have been understood by people of that time. With time the stick is transformed into a short royal staff, and then it disappears altogether. God does not need an instrument to work a miracle—His will is sufficient. Furthermore, the depictions gradually become more evangelically exact. In the text of the Gospel of John, the Savior’s words addressed to God the Father and His command to Lazarus are very precisely written: “Lazarus, come forth! (Jn. 11:41).
Miracle of the Resurrection of Lazarus, sarcophagus fragment. Pio-Christiano Museum, Vatican, 325–350.

Miracle of the Resurrection of Lazarus, sarcophagus fragment. Pio-Christiano Museum, Vatican, 325–350.

The Resurrection of Lazarus, Sarcophagus. Church of St. Vitalis, Ravenna, Italy, 4th c.

The Resurrection of Lazarus, Sarcophagus. Church of St. Vitalis, Ravenna, Italy, 4th c.

Artists from the eastern provinces of the Byzantine empire depicted the tomb as it would have looked—that is, a cave in a rocky hillside. Gradually the composition on tombs were filled in with details. Martha and Mary and the Jews, opening the tomb, and the man who removes the grave clothes from the resurrected Lazarus began to be depicted also.
The Resurrection of Lazarus, frescos in the church of Tokali Kilise, Göreme in Cappadocia, Turkey. 9th–10th c.

The Resurrection of Lazarus, frescos in the church of Tokali Kilise, Göreme in Cappadocia, Turkey. 9th–10th c.

Fresco in the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Snetogorsk Monastery, Pskov, Russia, 1313.

Fresco in the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Snetogorsk Monastery, Pskov, Russia, 1313.

The Resurrection of Lazarus, miniature from the Gospels in Rossano. Diocesano Museum, Italy. 4th c.

The Resurrection of Lazarus, miniature from the Gospels in Rossano. Diocesano Museum, Italy. 4th c.

The Resurrection of Lazarus, triptych, fragment. Monastery of St. Catherine, Sinai, 8th c.

The Resurrection of Lazarus, triptych, fragment. Monastery of St. Catherine, Sinai, 8th c.

The Resurrection of Lazarus. Fragment of an icon from the festal row on the iconostasis of the Novgorod St. Sophia Cathedral, Russia. Circa 1341.

The Resurrection of Lazarus. Fragment of an icon from the festal row on the iconostasis of the Novgorod St. Sophia Cathedral, Russia. Circa 1341.

The Resurrection of Lazarus. Miniature from the Trebizond Gospel, Byzantium, Constantinople. Mid-11th c. Walters Museum, U.S.A.

The Resurrection of Lazarus. Miniature from the Trebizond Gospel, Byzantium, Constantinople. Mid-11th c. Walters Museum, U.S.A.

The Resurrection of Lazarus, from the festal row of the iconostasis of the Dormition Church in the village of Bolotovo near Novgorod, Russia 1470–1480.

The Resurrection of Lazarus, from the festal row of the iconostasis of the Dormition Church in the village of Bolotovo near Novgorod, Russia 1470–1480.

The Resurrection of Lazarus, icon from the St. Cyril of White Lake Monastery, late 15th c. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Resurrection of Lazarus, icon from the St. Cyril of White Lake Monastery, late 15th c. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Resurrection of Lazarus, from the festal row of the iconostasis in the Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. Early 15th c. (1410–?).

The Resurrection of Lazarus, from the festal row of the iconostasis in the Annunciation Cathedral of the Moscow Kremlin. Early 15th c. (1410–?).

The Resurrection of Lazarus, Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra, Second quarter of the 15th c. Sergiev Posad Museum.

The Resurrection of Lazarus, Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra, Second quarter of the 15th c. Sergiev Posad Museum.

The Resurrection of Lazarus. From the festal row on the iconostasis of the Dormition Cathedral in the Great Tikhvin Monastery. 1560s. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Resurrection of Lazarus. From the festal row on the iconostasis of the Dormition Cathedral in the Great Tikhvin Monastery. 1560s. Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Resurrection of Lazarus. Icon from the festal row of the iconostasis in the Church of the Nativity of Christ in Yaroslavl, Russia. 1640s. The Yaroslavl historical, architectural, art museum and national park.

The Resurrection of Lazarus. Icon from the festal row of the iconostasis in the Church of the Nativity of Christ in Yaroslavl, Russia. 1640s. The Yaroslavl historical, architectural, art museum and national park.

Comments
Gary Cox5/7/2019 1:19 pm
That the early Church had representations of Christ is shown by this article. Some of these go back to the year 300 range. Something that being ex-protestant still amazes me. The Church that God worked with to give us the Bible had ICONS! I am Thankful to be a part of this Church! Gary Cox
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