Reviving Traditions – Carved Icons


It has been 85 years or so since Leonid Ouspensky was challenged in art school by a fellow student to recreate an icon. While he destroyed that first attempt because he realized he had done something inappropriate, the experience changed the course of his life. It set him off on a journey that led him back to the Church. There, Ouspensky, along with a handful of like-minded artists, began a mission to revive the nearly lost tradition of hand painted icons.

Now nearly 100 years later we can say they were successful. Icon classes and workshops are flourishing across the world and amazing work is being created that in many cases eclipses the work of centuries past.

We are even beginning to get beyond the myopic view that there is only one way to create icons. The success of the painted icon has led to a revival of other iconographic art forms, such as the carved icon.

Three dimensional sculpture has never been ver popular in the Orthodox tradition but bas-relief carving in wood and stone has a rich heritage going back centuries. Some the most beautiful carved icons are being produced by a couple living in Russia, Rashid and Inessa Azbuhanov. Above and below are just a couple of examples of their work. You can find more on their website.


Another master of the craft is Jonathan Pageau. In addition to his beautiful work, he holds workshops teaching others and so contributing to the revival of this exquisite form of sacred art.


Learn more about carving icons on Jonathan’s blog at The Orthodox Art Journal


Or visit his website at to learn more about his classes and workshops.

Pontifex University has recently announced a partnership with Hexaemeron that will award college credit for taking their classes and workshops. Read the details here.


Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at


One Comment

  1. Thank you, Deacon Lawrence. These are so beautiful. I have always loved Western relief work in stone and wood, and medieval polychrome sculpture. I’m gratified to see a revival of the carved icon.


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