Local artist and friend Pat Maskow-Firem shares her love for Icons.
This icon, entitled “Saints Benedict and Hildegard”, was inspired by an icon painted by German artist Eva-Maria Steidel, a professional iconographer. She generously gave Pat Maskow-Firem permission to borrow elements of her design.
In the Christian Orthodox tradition, icons are generally held to be “windows to heaven”. In other words, they are not to be valued principally for their artistic beauty, but rather for the spiritual truths they convey, and the ability to assist the viewer in recognizing those spiritual truths. Many icons resemble folk art more than sophisticated, academically trained art. Many icons have endured mistreatment over the centuries, including burning, slashing, eyes poked out, etc., because of misunderstandings regarding the spirituality they engender in those who pray with them. Contrary to some popular beliefs, religious icons are not objects of worship in and of themselves, only a means to spiritual understanding of the Divine.
This icon tells of two major saints in Catholic hagiography. On the left is St. Benedict of Nursia, 480-547CE. Born in Italy, he is referred to as the “Father of Western Monasticism.” He wrote a Rule that is still relevant and followed by Benedictine monks and nuns today. He founded Monte Casino monastery in Italy, where he lived and died.
The figure on the right is St. Hildegard, (1098-1179 CE), a German-born Benedictine nun, who exhibited multiple talents: author, musician, composer, preacher, abbess, herbalist, visionary, mystic, and poet. She founded several monasteries in Germany, with Rupertsberg being the main one. Other monasteries are named above the tree branches in the center of the icon: Disibodenberg, Eibingen, and Rudesheim-Eibingen. St. Hildegard was a feminist ahead of her time,
unafraid to confront male clergy. She was canonized in 2010, and deemed a Doctor of the Church.