Icons in the Domestic Church

[Addition at bottom of post]

Before Father and I were engaged I went to visit him where he was teaching at a Catholic boarding school. He was living in an old house of the sort typically described as having “lots of potential!!!” in real estate circles, if you know what I mean. [Note: we lived there for two years after we married and it still had a lot of potential when we left.] In the living room he had put up icons of Christ and the Theotokos and a crucifix in between. He asked my opinion. I said it looked nice but he better stop there because “you don’t want it to look like a church.”

This cracks me up now as I look up and see the dozens of icons around the house. Obviously I changed my tune. By the time we became Orthodox we had an icon corner that was considerably larger:



As we moved and accumulated icons (and changed in taste) our icon corner changed too.

 approx. 2007-2010

This is the simplest our icon corner has been in a long time. Partially because every bedroom has its own icon corner now. 

Current family icon corner

Father has his own. He’s so tall that his chest of drawers is a much more convenient height.

Notice I’m having to look up at it…

 I share Father’s and the family one. This is by my bed (notice that there are three icons of St. Anna).

This evolved as people gave me icons.

The children have icon corners in their bedrooms. When we used to have a nursery I loved to put up the icon of the guardian angel and Adam naming the animals (the elephant was so nice). Of course, the boys have the prophet Jonah (being swallowed by the fish).

The boys’ icon corner

The girls’ icon corner is a bit more feminine:

The girls’ icon corner

There are icons all over the house. The Last Supper is in the dining room, the Panagia Portaitissa (keeper of the gate) is by the front door, and other icons are here and there including in our room and the children’s rooms. I like these in the kitchen:

In the kitchen (the Hospitality of Abraham is appropriate)

 Before I was Orthodox I thought that the home should not look like a church. And, of course, in many ways it can’t and shouldn’t. But in the matter of icons we should feel surrounded by the cloud of witnesses in our homes. Our homes are our domestic churches. Our children should see that there is a seamless join between the home and the church. This is not to say that there should be “house churches” as an alternative to attending a parish and engaging in community worship. The worship in the home should complement and enhance the worship at church. Neither can exist without the other. The icons in our home serve the same purpose as the icons in our churches.

 We should be reminded at all times of our purpose in living – the attainment of salvation. I know that when I want to lie around and do nothing, to see the Theotokos looking down on me is a motivator to pull myself together. They are constant reminders to strive to live a Christian life, follow the examples of the saints and pray. This is similar to my prayer rope: if I wear it I’m much more likely to pray throughout the day than if I don’t.

[One more mention about the domestic church that doesn’t have anything to do with icons. I’ve found that cleaning the house is a much more joyful and contenting task if I remember that I’m cleaning my domestic church. You would always want your parish church to be clean and tidy and would not complain about contributing to the upkeep. The same applies to your home, your domestic church.]

Because you wanted to see an “official” icon corner, I’m sharing a picture of the icon corner belonging to an elderly baba friend of ours:

17 thoughts on “Icons in the Domestic Church

  1. I miss having icon corners in our children's rooms. Now the boys have icons above their beds and our daughter has them randomly placed in her room. As for the rest of the home, well of course there isn't an area you don't find one. I've tried keeping icons at the front door also at heights to fit all ages so venerating on our way in and out is possible- however, they REALLY needed to be secured on the wall better (if you know what I meant)so I gave that up for now. It's just as well that we can bless ourselves as we come and go.


  2. One neat idea for when children are little (down to babies/toddlers) is to put velcro on the back of a few small icons and put velcro on the wall. Babies always want to pick up the icon to kiss it but would never ever be able to hang it back up on a nail. This way they can take it off and put it back on. Care must be taken that they don't abuse the icons, of course, but they have to learn this anyway. When ours were really little we made sure to hang them low enough to the floor that they could venerate them themselves. Even now the boys' icons are fairly near the floor.


  3. It's neat to see an “official” icon corner – i.e., one belonging to a clergy family. It sounds strange to say it's “lovely,” but that's how it looks/feels/is.

    Ours has been evolving as we figured out who else was supposed to be there. With the recent addition of an icon for our family's patron saint, I think we're close to complete. Close.

    Which means we can turn our attention to other areas of the house — dining room, kitchen, entryway, etc.

    (another) Elizabeth


  4. Dear Matushka, I have been wanting my house to look more like a church for several years now. Well, actually, what I want is for my home to make others feel like I feel when I walk into an Orthodox church. Does that make sense?


  5. Elizabeth, I'm chuckling to think of us having an “official” icon corner! (: If you ever google “icon corner” and search for images, you're going to find a million different kinds. They're all good (probably…don't want to overreach here). I've been in a number of clergy houses and there is no one way for the icon corners to look. The point is what it does for your home and prayer life and one icon can accomplish that.

    Carlyn, yes, I do know exactly what you mean. I've been in houses like that. It's not so much that it looks like a church, but that you have the same feeling of peace when you walk in. (Wish I had that too…)


  6. Velcro is a great idea.. I've used poster putty for icon cards. Our icon corners are usually set up in a particular way as a guide and I've heard tell of certain ways to do so and thing's not to do but I don't think I've actually read anything particular in the matter. Curious.


  7. Thanks so much for sharing this. Like most everyone else, I love seeing people's icons. It just struck me it would be a really neat idea to do a linky for the Sunday of Orthodoxy. People could share their icon corners, or a favorite icon. Hmm, I guess I'll look into that.


  8. Been meaning to post on this for days, and finally got around to it!

    Love, love seeing other households' icon corners, with all the holy friends especially dear to them. I love that you also have little icon corners in the bedrooms–we like to do that too, and I wondered in the past if that was unusual. Another thing we do here is icons of Christ near the main doors as “doorwatcher” icons. I'm not sure if that's some regional tradition or what, but I like it. A Ladder icon on the stairs is good, and I love St. Euphrosynos for the kitchen. And how lovely to see your St. Anna icons! 😀

    I agree with Sarah–it would be so much fun to do a linky for the Sunday of Orthodoxy.


  9. Pingback: Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy  | Praying With My Feet

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