Inseparable from the liturgical tradition, religious art is seen by Orthodox Christians as a form of pictorial confession of faith and a channel of religious experience. Because the icons provide a direct personal contact with the holy persons represented on them, these images should be objects of veneration, in either a public or private setting, and were even believed to have the ability to heal.
In the main panel of this icon, three saints are represented standing, each holding a golden Bible. These saints are from left to right: Gregory the Theologian, Basil the Great, and John Chrysostomos. Together, with St. Athanasius who is depicted on the upper left border, these figures make up the four founders of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Above them, Christ Pantocrator, the awesome ruler of the universe, appears out of the parting clouds, looking down on them. Other figures painted on the side borders of the icon are Martha in the upper right and Saint Cyril, the “apostle of the Slavs” and creator of the Cyrillic alphabet, shown as a child at his mother Ulita’s side. Stylistically, much is derived from earlier Byzantine paintings and mosaics including the elongation of the human form, the linear, angular handling of the drapery, and the lack of any setting or environment aside from the flat golden background symbolizing heaven. Clearly this icon seeks to harmonize all the influential figures and founders of the Eastern Church together. They stand united, side-by-side, underneath Christ, the ruler of heaven.