Shaped like a flame rising into the sky, Saint Basil’s Cathedral is a former church located in Moscow, Russia.

It was erected 450 years ago over the grave of Saint Basil, which you can still venerate even today.

The vivid colours and details of its design are simply stunning; it followed the depiction of the Heavenly City in the Book of Revelation:

“And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.” (Rev 4:3 - 4:4)

Inside, the floor layout is a perfectly symmetrical with eight churches around the ninth core resembling a mythical citadel.  All nine churches are interconnected and richly decorated with 16th century iconography.

Click through some photos we took on our pilgrimage in late 2013.


 Natural Pigmets

Natural Pigmets

Byzantine Iconography uses traditional techniques to produce Icons and frescoes. These techniques have been passed down and have remained unchanged through the centuries. This tradition coincides with the Christian Orthodox church’s concept of Apostolic Succession. As the faith was passed down directly from Christ, to the Apostles, down through the ages, so has Iconography been passed down and has remained unchanged.

Traditionally, only natural pigments were used to create icons, however, in modern times, as in the case of certain pigments used, synthetic equivalents have been created. This has come about, due to the toxicity of certain pigments, for example; red pigment was derived from Mercury, and white pigment was derived from Lead. Many of these traditional pigments are still available, but can come at a hefty price and obvious health risks.

The pigments are combined with other natural materials such as egg yolk and vinegar to make paint called Egg Tempera which comes from the Latin word ‘tempere’, meaning ”mixing in due measure”. Wood, gold leaf and animal glue are some other natural materials used to make an icon.

The Iconographer, through prayer, fasting and using traditional techniques, begins the work of transforming these natural materials into an Icon.



 Oak Tree

Oak Tree

The first step in iconography is to select the board that the icon will be painted on. Given the icon is used as a liturgical object, it needs to be robust, stable and durable; hence why wooden boards are used rather than canvas.

There are many factors to consider when selecting the right wood for your icon board such as, is the wood prone to warping or splitting? Does it contain too many knots, natural oils, resins or moisture? Has it been well seasoned, kiln-dried? Etc.

You want your icon to last for centuries, hence why all these factors play an instrumental role, for the icon will only last as long as the surface that it is painted on.

Recommended woods include (but not limited to) oak, poplar, birch, beech and linden.

Once the icon board has been selected, the complex preparatory process begins.



 Lapis Lazuli

Lapis Lazuli

I love collecting minerals, rocks and precious stones from the around the world. Aside from their obvious beauty, they have formed over millions of years creating precious moments and memories for me when handpicked.

One of my favourite semi-precious stones is Lapis Lazuli, for so many reasons!

Aside from being a gorgeously brilliant blue, the pyrite (also known as fool's gold) within it makes it look like you have the heavens in the palm of your hands.

Lapis was worn as jewellery by the rich and ruling classes in Ancient Egypt and Greece and was popular with alchemists as it was said to have many healing properties.

When mixed with oil, it produced ultramarine which was used in the blues of the Renaissance paintings. In pigment form, Lapis was reserved to paint the Virgin Mary’s garments in iconography dating back to the Middle Ages.

Lapis comes from Afghanistan and is quite expensive in pigment form. I therefore use the medieval process of extracting the pigment from Lapis stone for our icons.