Deesis | Deësis | Deisis

● Meaning: “prayer” or “supplication”
Enthroned Christ, surrounded by the Mother of God and Saint John the Forerunner (the
The depiction of Christ as the high priest in the Temple of Jerusalem is rare and is not commonly
found on icons. However, beginning in the 14th century, a new iconographic theme emerged and
gained popularity in Eastern Orthodox iconography. This icon is known as the “three-shaped” or
Greek “trimorphon” composition, which features Christ attired in the full regalia of a bishop or
an archbishop, flanked by the Virgin Mary and John the Forerunner, also known as John the
Baptist in the Eastern Church. This composition is called a Deësis.
One of the key features of this icon is that it predominantly depicts the Virgin Mary as a mature
woman wearing a dark shoulder cloth, although sometimes she is depicted as a young bride with
a bridal veil. This iconographic theme originated from the Balkans and spread throughout the
Eastern Orthodox Church. It is based on a scripture from Psalms 45:10 that describes the queen
adorned with the gold of Ofir, who stands at the right hand of the king.

The purpose of this iconographic theme is to convey the Church’s message, which is rooted in
the idea that the mystery of the Church is based on the Word of God, who became flesh in the
Mother of God. While the Virgin Mary can be depicted as a youthful bride, Christ must always
be portrayed as the Lord of the Church and Mary, presented as a bishop. In the Eastern Church, a
bishop is referred to as a “ruler” or a Greek “despotes.” Through the three-shaped composition,
Christ is represented as the bishop and ruler of the Church, conveying the message that the
Church and its followers are under his guidance and protection.