Saint Marys Jesus Christ the Pantokrator Dome
THE ICONOGRAPHY IN THE DOME OF ST. MARY CHURCH
The dome of an Orthodox Church is a hallmark of Byzantine architecture. It infuses the church with a more mystical dimension. “In a domed church, people are always conscious of the hovering hemisphere, which determines a vertical axis around which the subordinate spaces are grouped and invites symbolic iden- tification with the ‘dome’ of heaven” (Orthodox Art and Architecture). The dome at Saint Mary’s Church comes in four iconographic sections.
Jesus Christ the Pantokrator
This icon is found in the center of the dome, and it depicts the Lord, the Almighty, who upholds the en- tire universe, looking down, blessing the creation and overseeing it. The Lord is surrounded by angelic hosts, who perform the heavenly Liturgy, chanting unceasingly: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Sabbaoth; heaven and earth are filled with Your Glory.” This is the same hymn that the Orthodox Church uses in the Liturgy. Along with the angels, we see the four figures of the vision of Ezekiel (1:4–28) that deliver the heavenly Throne and Liturgy.
The Six-Winged Angels
Right below the Pantokrator are found the sixteenExapteriga (six- winged angels) that the Orthodox Lit- urgy describes in the prayer of Anaphora. They symbolize how heaven and earth are joined together in endless liturgy and thanksgiving to the Lord, the Creator.
The Prophets of the Old Testament
In our dome there are sixteen proph- ets chosen from the Old Testament. They have been chosen according to their prophecy and the encounters they had with God. In the Orthodox Bible and teaching, these prophets proclaimed the Word of God and foretold the incarnation and salvation of God with the coming of Jesus Christ. As St. Paul puts it, they suffered all kinds of persecution; they lived a very tough and monastic life; they bore witness to the Word of God in all circumstances; and they hoped to see the salvation of Jesus Christ. “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us, so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (Hebrew 11:38–40). They are the link between the Old and New Testaments.
The Four Evangelists
The four corners of the dome show the four evangelists of the New Testament, those who saw and heard the Lord, and learned directly from Him. They wrote the Gospels and gave us the Word of God in the garment of the New Testament writings inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The iconography in the dome of our church shows us how all heaven and earth, prophets, evangelists, and angels, along with us worshiping today, are all worshiping together the same God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the One Lord Jesus Christ.