Icons by Ann Chapin

During Lent, 2012, St. Mary's displayed the Icons of Ann Chapin.  Many have asked to see more and we are please to be able to provide some of her work here on our website.

About Ann Chapin

Ann became Catholic in 1999 and soon after that was exposed to the iconographic tradition in the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

After doing some private study with some iconographers with the Prosopon School which teaches a traditional Russian style, Ann decided to embark on an experiment to create iconographic art that is particularly suited for the Western eye.  She’s been working on that project specifically for the past 7 or 8 years, and doesn’t expect to ever finish it.

Praying with Icons

Ann wrote an article for the Catholic Virginian (September 3, 2012 Issue), titled "Praying to God by looking at Icons".  You can read the article here.


You can visit Ann's website at http://www.annchapin.com.  There you will find even more of her Icons.




There’s a little piece of symbolism in most images of the Crucifixion which is particularly interesting.  We know that the place of the Crucifixion, Golgotha, was known as ‘skull hill’ – possibly because of the shape of the hill or because of it being a burial ground.  In many icons there will be a skull at the base of the cross, also representing Adam’s skull.

“There was a tradition current among the Jews that the skull of Adam, after having been confided by Noah to his son Shem, and by the latter to Melchisedech, was finally deposited at the place called, for that reason, Golgotha.  The Talmudists and the Fathers of the Church were aware of this tradition, and it survives in the skulls and bones placed at the foot of the crucifix. The Evangelists are not opposed to it, inasmuch as they speak of one and not of many skulls.” (Catholic Encyclopedia)

In Orthodox iconography it’s Adam’s skull to make the explicit connection between the first Adam bringing death, and the second Adam, Christ, bringing the defeat of death through His obedience unto death.  Christ not only conquers death, but takes over and transforms death so that now we can understand it as being born into eternal life.





The original of this piece was done by Fra Bartolommeo in 1516.  This Renaissance painter was influenced by Leonardo and Raphael, as can be seen in the poses and lush draperies.  The Holy Mother holds Jesus’ head and arm, John the Beloved supports His back, and Mary Magdalene embraces his feet. 

The dead Christ being laid into the tomb is a very frequently encountered image.  This one seems to capture everyone else’s pain, love, and grief at His death.  The crown of thorns was added into this image in the bottom left of the image.


Face of Christ


Shroud Face of Christ

This canvas is a sort of exploration of the image on the Shroud of Turin.  The entire image on the shroud is ‘negative’ in that the contours of the face appear correct when looking at a negative of a photo taken of the image.  There’s constant ongoing research to figure out how the image was made, to prove it fake or genuine, but this piece was done more as the first one – as an object for contemplation.  Here Christ has passed through death and is entering the realm of the glorified body; still physically real (not a ghost, He ate fish with the disciples).   So this is to reveal what the shroud covering His face was still hiding.  This is intended to be a piece where you just sit and let Him gaze at you.



Last Supper


Last Supper - John the Beloved and Christ

This piece represents that moment in the Last Supper, when it says that John reclined on the bosom of Christ to ask him who would betray him. (John 13:21-26).  Jesus is holding the bread from which he will take a morsel and dip it before giving it to Judas. 

However, some spiritual authors have suggested that during Lent we can imagine ourselves as John the Beloved is here, just resting there on the bosom of Christ, remembering what Jesus prays later in the gospel: “I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.  Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:23-24)






This was based upon a fresco in the Chora Church in Istanbul done in the early 1300s.  Christ has descended to the dead, and on the left side He is pulling up Adam from the grave, and Eve on the right.  On the left side are the kings David and Solomon, along with John the Baptist.  Behind Eve on the right side is the first martyr, Abel, and some of the prophets.

Underneath Christ’s feet are the doors of hell, which He stands over, and in the general darkness below are an array of chains and such representing the instruments of bondage.  It’s a bit hard to see there, but there’s also a dark figure bound in the middle of the darkness, which represents Death which has now been conquered.

The halo surrounding Christ is known as a ‘mandorla’, for its almond shape.  It’s used to represent the holiness of God which, because it’s beyond our comprehension, gets darker as it gets closer to Christ.