Students undertaking this unit will gain an appreciation of Coptic history and the theological meaning behind the icon. Emphasis will be placed on the "writing" of icons as an important method of translating the invisible divine, into the visible image. Students will study the important role of Coptic art in Coptic culture and its role in liturgical life. Finally, students will learn iconographic techniques such as preparation, design, colouring and gilding in the writing of an icon. They will explore the meaning, theology, and symbols rooted in the holy bible.

Unit code: DL8410A

Unit status: Approved (New unit)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Foundational

Unit discipline: Liturgy

Proposing College: St Athanasius College

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Learning outcomes


Articulate the nature and aims of icons in the Coptic tradition.


Critically examine the role of the iconographer within the life of the Coptic Church.


Analyse the technical issues related to iconography.


Demonstrate fundamental practical iconographical critical skills such as panel preparation, design, gilding, and colouring.


Apply skills of critical theological understanding through iconographical depictions.

Unit sequence

no prequisites


This unit takes on a multimodal approach that combine theological and artistic inquiry through face-to-face practical, online theory and 1:1 teaching to improve, develop and refine student artistic skill in order to complete a portrait icon panel.

Indicative Bibliography

1.  Andreopoulos, Andreas. Metamorphosis: The Transfiguration in Byzantine Theology and Iconography. New York: SVS Press, 2005. 
  1. Anderson, David, trans. St. John of Damascus: On the Divine Images. New York: SVS Press, 2000.
  2. Atalla S, Nabil. Coptic Icons I. Cairo: Lehnert and Landrock, 1998.
  3. Atalla S, Nabil. Coptic Icons II. Cairo: Lehnert and Landrock, 1998.
  4. Badawy, Alexander. Coptic art and archaeology: The art of the Christian Egyptians from the Late Antique to the Middle Ages. MIT Press, 1978.
  5. Bolman, Elizabeth S. "The enigmatic Coptic Galaktotrophousa and the cult of the Virgin Mary in Egypt." In Images of the Mother of God, pp. 69-78. Routledge, 2017.
  6. Boojamra, John. Foundations for Orthodox Christian Education. New York: SVS Press, 1989.
  7. Evdokimov, Paul. The Art of the Icon: A Theology of Beauty. New York: SVS Press, 1990.
  8. Finnestad, Ragnhild. "Images as Messengers of Coptic Identity. An Example from Contemporary Egypt". Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis 16 (1996): 91-110.
  9. Margaret Jensen, Robin. Understanding Early Christian Art. USA: Routledge, 2013.
  10. Nouwen, Henri J.M. Behold the beauty of the Lord. Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1996.
  11. Ouspensky, Leonid. Theology of the Icon. Translated by Anthony Gythiel. New York: SVS Press, 1992.
  12. Ouspensky, Leonid, Vladimir Nikolaevič Losskij, and Vladimir Lossky. The Meaning of Icons. New York: SVS Press, 1982.
  13. Quenot, Michael. The Resurrection and the Icon. New York: SVS Press, 1997.
  14. Roth, Catherine, trans. Theodore the Studite: On the Holy Icons. New York: SVS Press, 1981.
  15. Sayed, Gawdat Gabra Abdel, Gawdat Gabra, and Tim Vivian. Coptic Monasteries: Egypt’s Monastic Art and Architecture. Oxford University Press, 2002.
  16. Sendler, Egon. The Icon, Image of the Invisible: Elements of Theology, Aesthetics, and Technique. Redondo Beach. CA: Oakwood Publications, 1988.
  17. Török, László. "Strzygowski's Coptic Art." Acta Historiae Artium Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 47, no. 1-4 (2006): 305-311.
  18. Tsakiridou, C. A. Icons in Time, Persons in Eternity: Orthodox Theology and the Aesthetics of the Christian Image. Ashgate Publishing, 2013.
  19. Vrame, Anton C. The Educating Icon: Teaching Wisdom and Holiness in the Orthodox Way. Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1999.
  20. Zuntz, Dora. "The Two Styles of Coptic Painting." The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 21, no. 1 (1935): 64-67.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)
Essay 3000 40.0
Skill Demonstration 0 60.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by Maggie Kappelhoff on 23 Sep, 2020

Unit record last updated: 2020-10-30 15:02:39 +1100