WHR November 2001
icon images & haiku
About My Iconography
by Sonia Christina Coman
As a result of the research I have been doing for some time, I am now able to produce icons on glass or wood with a gold layer on top. The colours I use are in conformity with the dogma of the Orthodox church. In the future, I am planning to approach the field of miniature and glass-painting, in general. The techniques impose some strict rules concerning the colours used for the clothing of Jesus, Saint Mary and other saints, and there is a full range of restrictions regarding the gold layer. There are various materials which are used to fix the shades and the gold and silver layers to the glass.
Besides all this, the artist is free to choose whichever shade he wants in order to obtain the effect by s/he desires, making orthodox iconography absolutely fascinating from a technical point of view. The technique of the Japanese painting genre, sumi-e imposes some strict rules, too, and by these rules, great pictures have been created. The technique used to get the final product is very intricate. I would be happy to share with you some information about the processes undertaken to produce the icons:
First, I make a rough drawing of the subject as a linocut. I try to make it from a personal point of view.
Next, I engrave the contour with the appropriate tools (chisels).
I then try to emphasize the garments, making them deep and bold.
Paper is laid over the engraved linoleum and this is placed in a special mould in order to press it (I use an ancient device, made in Austria in 1800 and which is very good, yet). I use a special, hand-made paper, manually manufactured, resembling the American paper made of 100% cotton, or the Japanese paper made with rice straw.
By pressing the paper over the mold, a bold image of the icon is produced. I apply several layers of a special ground coating which hardens the consistency of the final product.
The tri-dimensional image of the icon is glued to a wooden prop which was previously covered with cloth and painted with layers of the ground coating.
Afterwards, I paint the sacred faces in accordance with the rules of wood painting, I try to imprint my vision of the faces.
I learned to paint icons in a special technique, which gives them the appearance of being old.
History and Stories of Romania Behind the Iconography:
I want to stress the fact that I had this icon blessed in Saint Andrews Cavern, the first apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ, and acknowledged as the apostle of the Romanian people. Dobrudja was once called Scythia Minor, an ancient province of the Roman Empire, with a Geta population and many old Greek citadels on the Black Sea Coast. Among them, is Tomis, later Constantiana, from Constantius the 2nd, the Byzantium Emperor (the Constantza of our days, where I was born).
Saint Andrew’s Cavern lies in the South of Dobrudja, in the great forest of Migilet, where there is a spring whose water never goes dry. The South of Dobrudja is made of boundless plateaus covered with wild bushes where drought and wind are at home. The thick, beautiful forest about which I’m telling you seems to be God-given, left alone as a real wonder amidst the surrounding steppe. Saint Andrew settled in Dobrudja, a little bit farther from this place, near the Saint Monastery of Dervent, neighbouring the Danube, which is the first convent which was blessed by The Sacred Steps of Saint Andrew. There, you can find the healing spring which springs out of Saint Andrew’s. Its waters flow only on the condition that the believers have their hands joined in prayer.
Saint Andrew later moved towards the Black Sea, sprinkling along the road some other miraculous sources. No modern specialist or scientist was able to find out the mystery formula of these Springs whose water, is so sweet and smooth and has an unmatched healing power when you drink with faith.
When he reached the above mentioned forest, the apostle Andrew put up at a hamlet, knelt, crossing Himself, and asked God for some water which he wanted to use in order to baptize the pagan people of The Geta into the Christian faith. Out of the four points that he touched with his cane, four springs come out of the ground, and from the middle grew out a stone font. The four sources remained unchanged until today. Tens of miles all over the rest of the territory Dobrudja is stony and dry. In the most abrupt slope of all, there is the famous cavern where the apostle Andrew led his life for 20 years.
People come to the cavern to pray, having faith in its wonder-making power. Inside, there are hundreds of candles flickering in the wall cracks, the wax dripping on the cold stone. The walls turn into oily wax, plunging icons and people in a restful, yellowish light. Left within these cracks, people insert their written prayers to God, addressed to the walls themselves, not to the priests! Inside the cavern, strange things happen: some places you are hot, some places you are cold; your feelings may change by the place you are in; you may feel peaceful, gloomy, passionate or eager to leave this cavern of wonders or of curses.
It’s all about energy exchanges which shift in a chaotic manner in the hazy atmosphere of the cavern. Seemingly, this is due to the presence of Holy Relics to which are attributed these strange things. Around 1600, there was a huge Monastery, with 183 men. Above the cavern, a wooden church was placed where Turks had incarcerated the monks, strawed the entrance and burned them alive. The Holy Relics are spread all over the place.
In the cavern, there is a stone slab which used to be Saint Andrew’s bed. Everybody who sat or prayed on his bed, was healed. Saint Andrew eventually over the Danube on a pilgrimage across the district of Arges, near Campulung, where the present Church of Namaiesti is to be found. Legend has it, that looking through the stone-carved pagan temple window and not seeing any priests around the place, he uttered: ” Nemo est,” therefore, the name “Namaiesti”. There, they built, right in the mountains, the church as an altar of poverty and simplicity. Namaiesti is like a vulture nest. Carved in the mountain of God Himself, man’s hand came only to complete the work.
The Icon of Virgin Mary brought over here by Saint Andrew and discovered by three shepherds on the Northern wall, stays untouched by the passage of time. It is a wonder-making Icon, painted by Luke, The Evangelist Saint, after the real image of the Virgin.
Sonia Christina Coman,
Ambassador of World Haiku 2000
Date of birth: 11/06/88