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  • Aidan Hart

‘Festal Icons: History and Meaning’ by Aidan Hart

OUT NOW! The long awaited book is now available.

This long-awaited book (456 pages) on the icons of the fourteen major feasts of the Orthodox Church is the most comprehensive work on the subject in the English language.

..."Festal Icons: History and Meaning takes a refreshing and welcome approach, moving from historical context to the renewal of the tradition today. Aidan Hart marshals his deep knowledge of the underlying theology of icons and their symbolic content as well as their use in liturgical and festival settings through the ages...“

Richly illustrated, it first describes how each feast developed over time, then maps how their icons evolved from the early centuries, and finishes with a detailed examination of each festal icon’s most recognizable form. This story encompasses not only panel icons, but also frescos, mosaic, metalwork, embroidery and reliefs carved in stone, ivory and wood.

Christian feasts such as Christmas and Easter form the weft of the Christian year, for Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican alike. The book reveals how festal icons are a heritage common to both western and eastern Christendom, the opening chapter charting this interrelationship between east and west in their development.

This study draws together recent scholarship and the warmth of faith. It is an invaluable reference book for all those interested in delving deeper into the world of icons, be they newcomers or scholars.

What some have said about the book:

“Festal Icons: History and Meaning takes a refreshing and welcome approach, moving from historical context to the renewal of the tradition today. Aidan Hart marshals his deep knowledge of the underlying theology of icons and their symbolic content as well as their use in liturgical and festival settings through the ages. Sumptuously illustrated with icons he created (‘prayer without ceasing’, as Hart has said of his process), as well as a veritable museum of comparative images, this new book will be an excellent addition to any sacred art bibliography or syllabus.” (Dr Kathryn R. Barush, Associate Professor of Art History and Religion Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California)

“An illuminating and richly illustrated discussion of the evolution and symbolic structure of some of the most familiar narrative icons of the Eastern Christian tradition. Written in an engaging and accessible style, Hart systematically explores the theological meanings and social history of the fourteen major icons of the liturgical year, known as Feast or Festal icons. Written by a renowned iconographer and teacher of iconography, Festal Icons: History and Meaning is alive with fresh insights, offering new layers of understanding for art historians, iconographers and iconophiles alike.” (Dr Sophie Matthiesson, Senior Curator, International Art Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki)

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The Author

Aidan Hart was born in England in 1957 and grew up in New Zealand. There he worked as a full-time sculptor for a number of years after completing a degree in English literature and a Diploma in Secondary Education teaching. In 1983 he became a member of the Orthodox Church, returned to live in England, and began to work as a professional iconographer. While continuing to work as an iconographer, from 1988 to 2000 he tested his vocation as a monk, including spending a total of two years on Mount Athos and six as a hermit in Shropshire, UK. This intense life of prayer had a profound effect on his work. He is now married with two children, his best icons yet. To meet the liturgical needs of the churches commissioning him, over the past thirty years Aidan has gained extensive experience in a wide range of media: egg tempera panel painting; fresco; mosaic; stone and wood carving; illuminated manuscript painting; church furniture design. Training others in liturgical arts has also been part of his work. In 2009 he founded and still teaches the part-time Icon Certificate programme for The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts. In 2012 Aidan was joined in his studio by the highly gifted artist, Martin Earle ( Since then, Martin has worked with Aidan on subsequent major projects, as well as on his own commissions. In 2018 the equally gifted Dr James Blackstone ( joined Aidan’s studio as an apprentice. To meet growing demand (he has over 1200 commissioned works in private and church collections in over 25 countries of the world) and to help execute his designs for church furnishings, Aidan also works with a team of highly skilled craftspeople, including cabinetmakers, blacksmiths, and foundries. In demand as a writer, lecturer and teacher, he has had numerous articles published on the subjects of iconography, ecology and Orthodox spirituality. In 2015 he was elected a Fellow of the Temenos Academy. Aidan has published three books, "Techniques of Icon and Wall Painting", the most extensive work on the subject, and “Beauty Spirit Matter”, a collection of essays and, ‘The History and Meaning of Festal Icons’, all published by Gracewing.

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