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Author Topic: St. Christopher dog-headed icon?  (Read 1555 times) Average Rating: 0
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braish
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« on: September 29, 2012, 04:48:45 PM »

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Saint_christopher_cynocephalus.gif

Why have such a strange...if not worse...picture as an icon?  This appears to be taking a very strange legend and then taking it way to far.  Any explanations as to why this is accepted?
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« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2012, 06:04:54 PM »

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Saint_christopher_cynocephalus.gif

Why have such a strange...if not worse...picture as an icon?  This appears to be taking a very strange legend and then taking it way to far.  Any explanations as to why this is accepted?
This is one of my favorite legends.

How better to inform "alien and evangelism" discussions?
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« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2012, 06:28:17 AM »

I might be wrong, but isn't this the legend when the saint was good looking and asked God to remove that so that people don't idolize him?
How else can one depict that? It's only suggestive. I mean, we depict demons who are much uglier.
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« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2012, 01:56:20 PM »

It's a case where someone painted an icon based on a misunderstanding or misrepresentation. Paging LBK!
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« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2012, 07:05:55 PM »

From another thread:

Quote
The story of the strong man ferrying travellers over the river on his back is of much later origin (probably 12thC), considering St Christopher of Lycia was martyred in about AD 250 under Emperor Decius. All paintings and images of Christopher carrying the Christ-child date from the second millennium AD, and are all of Western origin. There is no iconography of this saint in this type of portrayal prior to this; rather, he is portrayed as a warrior, which fits with the earlier story of his life as a soldier. St Ambrose of Milan wrote of the many thousands of pagans who were converted to Christianity by St Christopher.

How St Christopher came about to be portrayed with a dog's head is an unfortunate misunderstanding on the part of the iconographer who first painted him: St Christopher came from a region in Thessaly (northern Greece) called Kynoskephalai. This place-name means "dog-headed". So poor St Christopher was painted with a dog's head, where the iconographer mistakenly thought the name "dog-headed" referred to what the saint looked like, not where he came from. Other iconographers, unaware of this error, simply copied this form of portrayal.

There is also the story that St Christopher disfigured himself to detract from his handsomeness, lest any vanity cause him to stray from his life in Christ. This poses some problems in Orthodox thought and teaching, as self-mutilation, or the seeking of it, is generally regarded as wrong. However, irrespective of whether this story is true, it is not proper for an iconographer to portray such disfigurement in any saint. Icons are portrayals of a saint's spiritual reality, of a saint's perfected state in the eyes of God, and not of imperfections which illustrate mankind's fallen, imperfect state.

For example, a saint who wore spectacles during his earthly life should not be wearing them in icons. Examples include St John of Shanghai and San Francisco (1896-1966), Hieromartyr Benjamin of Petrograd (+1922), and St Luke the Surgeon of Simferopol (1876-1961). Another example is St Matrona of Moscow, another 20th C saint who was born blind. There are indeed many icons of her with her eyes closed (as they were in her earthly life, there are a number of photographs of her), however, the proper iconographic portrayal of her is with her eyes open. Though physically blind all her earthly life, by her life showed herself to be a model of spiritual illumination. Her physical eyes were useless, but her spiritual eyes were wide open. Thus she should be portrayed with her eyes open, to illustrate this spiritual reality.

Depicting St Christopher with a dog's head, or with an otherwise disfigured face in an icon, therefore, is quite wrong.
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« Reply #5 on: October 02, 2012, 12:27:21 AM »

Just an intersting interpretation shared with me by an iconographer from Russia that he had been taught by a monastic  father that the "dog-faced" was a term used for people who had a hairlip.As that is often a heriditary disfigurement that at one time often meant a short life for the child due to the complications of a cleft palate a village that had many cleft palate children were known as "dog faced people". He thought that it was likely that St Christopher may have been such a person. For those who have had the struggles of life with a cleft palate he often gave an icon of St Christopher as a special patron for those who had cleft palate and their parents.

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« Reply #6 on: October 02, 2012, 12:52:06 AM »

Just an intersting interpretation shared with me by an iconographer from Russia that he had been taught by a monastic  father that the "dog-faced" was a term used for people who had a hairlip.As that is often a heriditary disfigurement that at one time often meant a short life for the child due to the complications of a cleft palate a village that had many cleft palate children were known as "dog faced people". He thought that it was likely that St Christopher may have been such a person. For those who have had the struggles of life with a cleft palate he often gave an icon of St Christopher as a special patron for those who had cleft palate and their parents.

Thomas

One would expect such excuses from iconographers when confronted with the eternal fire reserved for the painters of bad icons.
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« Reply #7 on: October 02, 2012, 12:55:19 AM »


Quote
St Christopher came from a region in Thessaly (northern Greece) called Kynoskephalai. This place-name means "dog-headed".

Who names their region "dog-headed"?

Thanks for the explanation, LBK
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« Reply #8 on: October 02, 2012, 01:15:38 AM »


Quote
St Christopher came from a region in Thessaly (northern Greece) called Kynoskephalai. This place-name means "dog-headed".

Who names their region "dog-headed"?

Thanks for the explanation, LBK

I read it sounds similar but isn't exactly "dog-headed".
« Last Edit: October 02, 2012, 01:15:57 AM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2012, 01:39:08 AM »

Who names their region "dog-headed"?

If people's surnames (English or any other nationality) are anything to go by, you'll be surprised, if not alarmed, by the meanings of many of them.  Shocked laugh

Why would place names be any different?
« Last Edit: October 02, 2012, 01:39:32 AM by LBK » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: October 02, 2012, 01:43:22 AM »


Who names their region "dog-headed"?

I read it sounds similar but isn't exactly "dog-headed".

What a let down that would be. 

Figured you would show up in this thread, as your unwavering support of cynocephaly knows no bounds.
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« Reply #11 on: October 02, 2012, 01:46:11 AM »

Who names their region "dog-headed"?

If people's surnames (English or any other nationality) are anything to go by, you'll be surprised, if not alarmed, by the meanings of many of them.  Shocked laugh

Why would place names be any different?

Probably best that I not meet and inform these people of their terrible surnames.  At least mine only means bad things in other languages.
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« Reply #12 on: October 02, 2012, 03:00:12 AM »


Who names their region "dog-headed"?

I read it sounds similar but isn't exactly "dog-headed".

What a let down that would be. 

Figured you would show up in this thread, as your unwavering support of cynocephaly knows no bounds.
The location was named something similar sounding which led to the delightful medieval misinterpretation.
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« Reply #13 on: October 02, 2012, 03:13:24 AM »

Just an intersting interpretation shared with me by an iconographer from Russia that he had been taught by a monastic  father that the "dog-faced" was a term used for people who had a hairlip.As that is often a heriditary disfigurement that at one time often meant a short life for the child due to the complications of a cleft palate a village that had many cleft palate children were known as "dog faced people". He thought that it was likely that St Christopher may have been such a person. For those who have had the struggles of life with a cleft palate he often gave an icon of St Christopher as a special patron for those who had cleft palate and their parents.

Thomas

But the point is that a saint with a harelip should not be portrayed as having a canine's head. See post #4.
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« Reply #14 on: October 02, 2012, 08:45:32 AM »


Quote
St Christopher came from a region in Thessaly (northern Greece) called Kynoskephalai. This place-name means "dog-headed".

Who names their region "dog-headed"?

Thanks for the explanation, LBK

..famous for the battle of Cynoscephalae in 197 BC between Macedon under King Philip V and Rome under Titus Cointus Flaminius. The place was named Cynoscaphalae (Κυνός Κεφαλαὶ: Heads of Dog) 'cause its two peaks resemble a dog's head (it consists of two hilltops overlooking the valley of Skotussa, and nowadays are called Mavrovuni, i.e. black mountain).
Isn't this the canonical icon of St. Christopher?
VV


The icon depicting him with a dog's face is based on folklore and the misconception that he was a descendant of the tribe of Cynoscephaloe in Asia Minor, a tribe of anthropophagus barbarians (according to Strabo and Hesiod)   
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« Reply #15 on: October 02, 2012, 08:58:50 AM »


Isn't this the canonical icon of St. Christopher?
VV


No, it is not. The posted image is derived from post-schism western religious art, and painted in an iconographic style. There is no Orthodox tradition of a St Christopher who ferried people over a river on his shoulders, and who once carried the Christ-child, hence his name Christophoros (bearer of Christ).
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« Reply #16 on: October 02, 2012, 09:10:54 AM »


Isn't this the canonical icon of St. Christopher?
VV


No, it is not. The posted image is derived from post-schism western religious art, and painted in an iconographic style. There is no Orthodox tradition of a St Christopher who ferried people over a river on his shoulders, and who once carried the Christ-child, hence his name Christophoros (bearer of Christ).
So, the canonical icon of St. Christopher is depicting him with a dog's head?
Do you happen to know the specifics of his icon?
Thanks
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« Reply #17 on: October 02, 2012, 09:28:49 AM »


So, the canonical icon of St. Christopher is depicting him with a dog's head?
Do you happen to know the specifics of his icon?
Thanks

No, the dog-headed image is not canonical. Please read my earlier posts for a more detailed explanation. Martyr Christopher of Lycia (+250) was a warrior, and should be portrayed either as such, or as a robed martyr bearing a cross in his icons, and with a human face, not that of a dog.
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