The Pantocrator (παντοκράτωρ), the highest, most imposing space in a Byzantine style church is found in the centrally located dome from which the icon of Christ the Pantocrator looks down from the heavens upon those worshipping below.

“The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.” – Psalms 14: 2

Through his expression we see both the righteous judge and the lover of mankind at the same time. Even as we gaze upward his large open eyes look back, peering directly into our soul.

“The Lord reigns, He is clothed with majesty; The Lord has girded Himself with strength. Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved.” – Psalms 93:1

He holds the book of the gospel in His left hand while He imparts a blessing with His right. We see the Greek ν in his halo, “the One Who is”.

“They ( ν) are taken from Holy Scripture, and signify God’s eternal, non-temporal mode of being, which is not broken up, like ours, into past, present, and future. Thus, in the Gospel according to John, we read ‘No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, Who is ( ν) in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.” – Constantine Cavarnos, from his Guide to Byzantine Iconography, Volume 2, page 68.

While to the left and right are the abbreviations for Jesus Christ (ICXC). The Greek word pantrocrator is translated as “ruler of all”, showing God’s unrestricted power and absolute dominion. This is the Risen Christ, ascended into heaven, who is coming again in glory and power to bring the fulness of the kingdom of God.

“The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.” – Psalms 33: 13-15

The icon of the Holy Napkin, the earliest icon of Christ, is shown to the left. It is often painted on the eastern side of the lower part of the drum of the dome. In his work Apologia Against Those Who Decry Holy Images, Saint John Damascene writes about the creation of the icon: “A tradition has come down to us that Angaros, King of Edessa, was drawn vehemently to divine love by hearing of our Lord,* and that he sent envoys to ask for His likeness. If this were refused, they were ordered to have a likeness painted. Then He, who is all-knowing and all-powerful, is said to have taken a strip of cloth, and pressing it to His face, to have left His likeness upon the cloth, which it retains to this day.”

The Prophets surrounding the pantrocrator point to Christ because they are the ones who prophesized the coming of the Messiah, the Virginal Birth, and that the savior of all mankind would come from the people of Israel.

The four evangelists are depicted on the pendatives that rest just below the dome. They are shown around the heavenly throne of God and they are a reminder of how the gospel has been preached to the four corners of the world.

The deacon Prochorus is shown sitting to the right of Saint John the Theologian. Prochorus was one of the seven deacons selected in Acts 6 and later became an assistant to Saint John. The two are shown in the cave on the island of Patmos where Saint John received the vision of the Apocalypse which was later written down by Prochorus and became the Book of Revelations.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Pantrocrator.” Revelations 1: 8

Ἐγώ εἰμι τὸ Ἄλφα καὶ τὸ Ὦ, λέγει κύριος ὁ θεός, ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος, ὁ παντοκράτωρ.

Revelations 1: 8, Koine Greek

Video produced by Efstratios Papageorgiou

Written by Michael Gavalas



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