The Beheading of John the Forerunner and Baptist

Усекновение главы святого Иоанна Предтечи

Sunday (September 11) is the commemoration of the Beheading of John the Forerunner in the churches which follow the old calendar. The icon above is late 19th century of Russian origin, carrying the inscription: Усекновение главы святого Иоанна Предтечи.

In the top-left corner St John is shown imprisoned, whilst in the centre John is shown bowed over ready for the executioner’s sword, standing above his already decapitated body; above them an angel flies in to gift a crown of martyrdom to St John. To the right the executioner is shown giving St John’s head to Herodias’ daughter, Salome. The combination of chronological events all shown “at once” is a common feature of icons.

Above them all is the Ancient of Days, God, identifiable by the inscription, white hair, and eight-pointed star within His halo.

The buildings depicted are contemporary to the painting of the icon, rather than the time of St John’s execution. This icon is not alone among Russian images in showing St John imprisoned behind a wooden palisade, common to prison-camps of Russia, but much more unlikely in the 1st century Holy Lands. Compare the image with a photo of St Nicholas the Holy-Royal Martyr and his son in a Siberian prison camp in the early part of the 20th century.

The glorious beheading of the Forerunner was a certain divine dispensation, that the coming of the Savior might also be preached to those in Hades. Let Herodias lament, then, that she demanded a wicked murder; for she loved not the Law of God, nor eternal life, but one false and fleeting.

Story of the Beheading of St John the Forerunner

This entry was posted in History, Icons of the Incarnation, The Saints and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Beheading of John the Forerunner and Baptist

  1. Pingback: The Life of St John the Baptist in Iconography | A Reader's Guide to Orthodox Icons

  2. Ann Chapin says:

    Hi – I am putting together my own website of my work, and sometimes I want to display an ancient icon – for the things you display, do you have to take your own pictures, or get permission, or are there images just generally available for use – where?

    • iconreader says:

      Hello Ann:

      I think for commercial websites it is always best to use your own photographs of icons. On the whole I don’t, and just search for large images of icons: often searching in Russian or Greek, rather than in English. Searching in Russian especially tends to bring up a lot of good results for specific icons. The sources tend to be blogs and forums, where the image will already be at least second-hand, so it’s difficult to ask for permission.

      As I don’t earn anything from the website, nor am I using it to advertise anything, I just trust that people will be forgiving when I use other people’s pictures to illustrate the articles I write. If anyone requested that I take down a particular image then I would.

      I think the best place for un-copyrighted photos of icons would be Wikipedia. You can click on any of the images in Wikipedia and be taken to a page which gives full details of what the picture is, where and when it was taken, as well as whether the image is in the public domain or not.

      Hope this helps.

  3. Pingback: Why does John the Baptist have wings in Orthodox icons? | A Reader's Guide to Orthodox Icons

  4. allen993 says:

    I Think That John The Baptist Was Beheaded By The Romans Because Of Condemning Herod
    For His Brother’s Wife Philip And The Preaching Of John Demands Repent For The Lustful Sins
    Of King Herod And The Reason Of Condemning Herod Is Severely Punishable By Death Of John!

  5. Pingback: The Life and Ministry of St John the Baptist through Iconography « ORTHODOX CITY HERMIT

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