Icons speak a rich visual language of Orthodox theology that is almost two millennia old. An icon illustrates in visual image what the church teaches in words, and equal value is placed on both. Once learned, recurrent symbols depicted across various icons collectively form a religious text. The fixed and conventional language of icons keep intact a unique heritage that goes back many centuries.
Iconographic symbols collected in this picture dictionary by no means exhaust the wealth of iconographic symbolism. Over centuries, some of the ancient symbols acquired multiple meanings and became subject to interpretation. But learning the symbolic language of icons, like studying a foreign tongue, opens the door to understanding the mystical art of the icon.