A Visual Sermon

 In MOA Features

Guest Post by Alisse Frandsen, MOA Marketing Intern

Giving advice to the bishop of a mostly illiterate convert congregation, Pope Gregory I wrote, “What Scripture is to the educated, images are to the ignorant, who see through them what they must accept; they read in them what they cannot read in books.” Filling a church with art, he said, was important “so that [the congregation] might understand the stories and so learn what occurred.”

Centuries later, even in a society with widespread literacy, we can still read in art what we often cannot read in books. A well-crafted piece of religious art can pack a thousand-word sermon within four square feet. This 17th century Russian icon may even be worth several thousand words.



In the Russian Orthodox Church, icons provide spiritual paths to enlightenment by telling a story or teaching a principle. This icon, “Nativity and Adoration of the Magi,” tells several stories at once, encapsulating a few chapters of the Gospel of Luke into one visual lesson.

Another powerful visual sermon tool used in many Christian churches is the altarpiece.


This altarpiece was displayed in the chapel at London

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